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News from Berlin and German, 17 June 2022

Weekly news round-up from Berlin and Germany



Berlin administration begins conversion to digital files

Only a quarter of the administrative procedures in Berlin can be done online. Now Interior Senator Spranger (SPD) wants to bring more digitisation to the city in the next one and a half years. The “digital file” is planned to be available in 2024 for about 70,000 PC workstations in about 80 authorities nationwide. The district office of Mitte is the first to use the new system. This means it will also be possible to access the file regardless of location, for example in the home office, and to share it with colleagues, said Spranger. Source: rbb.

Criticism from the grassroots in “Kotti”

According to current plans, the prestige project of Interior Senator Iris Spranger (SPD) in “Kotti” will cost 3.5 million euros. Starting in 2023, three officers per shift will record reports, do paperwork, and conduct interrogations in the 200-square-meter-room on Adalbertstraße. “With this size, the police station will basically only be occupied with itself. The police officers will not be able to go outside,” believes Norbert Sommerfeld, the police officer responsible for the neighbourhood. In his opinion, what is needed is more contact officers to improve the relationship between citizens and police in hotspot areas and to keep order on the streets. Source: taz.



IG Metall demands “strong wage increase”

IG Metall wants to demand a wage increase of more than six per cent in the upcoming collective bargaining round in autumn. “We need a strong wage increase,” affirmed the union leader Jörg Hofmann. “The wage settlement must cover two years, 2022 and 2023. If the negotiations go well, we will have a result in November.” Contracts for some 3.7 million workers in the core sectors of German industry expire at the end of September. At national meetings of the regional bargaining commissions, the unions are currently discussing the level of their demands for the new round of collective bargaining. Source: Tagesschau.

Votes against the AfD

This is not how the AfD had imagined it. In the district council elections in Saxony, the AfD had the goal of achieving district council posts and thus government offices for the first time – and thus show the world it can at least still be successful in eastern Germany. But the extreme right-wing party missed its target. It did not receive the most votes in any of the eight districts where it has put up candidates. In three districts it even ended up in third place. The Secretary General of the Saxon CDU, Alexander Dierks said: “The CDU has clearly won the local elections.” Source: taz.

A motorway for Frau Holle

The A44, the most expensive motorway in Germany is only 17 kilometres long so far. In the domain of the fairy tale character “Frau Holle”, with the Hohe Meißner in sight, the project has already swallowed up over 2.7 billion euros. Supporters of the motorway repeatedly chide conservationists that they are responsible for the fact the whole construction is taking so long and becoming expensive. Anyway, pricey “surprises” can never be completely ruled out there such as the fact the Hirschhagen tunnel needs safety measures once it runs under the site of a former Nazi explosives factory. In 2015 an expert opinion concluded the A44 was even unnecessary. Source: taz.

Aid programme for the East demanded

Eastern German states are facing huge problems resulting from the embargo on Russian oil and natural gas. Because of the embargo, the Left Party (“die Linke”) is calling for a “guarantee plan for eastern Germany” to secure supply security, locations, jobs and prices. Meanwhile, the task force headed by Robert Habeck’s Parliamentary State Secretary Michael Kellner (“die Grünen”), who has his constituency in the Uckermark, expressed the expectation the Brandenburg state government would support the federal government’s “Ukraine course”. He accused government of Potsdam of having been “close to the policy of Russian President” Vladimir Putin in the past. Source: nd.

War in Ukraine: ver.di supports refugees

On March 4, the Council of the EU cleared the way for people fleeing the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine to be granted residence and work permits in EU countries without individual asylum procedures. In Germany, these permits are valid for 24 months. Once the focus is still on providing accommodation and good care for the refugees, ver.di demands more efforts and better funding for the municipalities and unbureaucratic solutions for the employment of pedagogical experts from Ukraine who have fled in order to cope with this task. For ver.di, one thing is clear: there is no need for quick placement in precarious jobs. Source: ver.di.


News from Berlin and Germany, 9 June 2022

Weekly news round-up from Berlin and Germany



Up with the rents!

Because of inflation, Germany’s largest housing company Vonovia has announced housing prices will now have to rise as well. And, as a tenant, one must be able to put up with that. People are ranting and raving against the landlords. What could be done? Well, there was a referendum to expropriate the big housing corporations. But then there is Franziska Giffey as mayor of Berlin – an inconsistency, but she cannot be blamed for not implementing the referendum. The renting population should come to terms with the circumstances. It is the only dignified way. Source: nd.


More minimum wage, more mini-jobs

On Friday, the Bundestag decided to raise the statutory minimum wage to twelve euros per hour as of 1 October. For six million people, this is “possibly the biggest wage jump in their lives”, said Labour Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD). This is actually an expansion of precarious, unsecured employment. Mini-jobbers have neither protection against dismissal nor entitlement to sickness, unemployment or short-time working benefits. Pension insurance is optional. “A sure ticket to poverty in old age,” said Anja Piel from the DGB executive board on Friday. “It hits women, mostly.” Source: jW.

A different approach to transport – the 9-Euro-Ticket

The 9-Euro-Ticket is “a huge opportunity: never has travelling by train been so cheap”. The local transport ticket is “a real hit”; seven million have already been sold and counting. These were the words of Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) and the Federal Government Commissioner for Rail Transport, Michael Theurer (FDP). But that is all that can be said positive about the 9-Euro-Ticket. Criticism of the concrete form of this promotion outweighs the positive. The balance sheet in September will certainly show the system deficiencies, and the problems are already evident. Source: nd.

Republic with brown stains

Even 77 years after the end of the Second World War, there can be no conclusion to the Nazi era. That is why it is justified that the criminals of that time continue to be brought to justice. Currently, a former secretary from the Stutthof concentration camp and a former SS guard from the Sachsenhausen concentration camp are being tried. Of course, one cannot expect much from these trials. Nevertheless, such trials are of great symbolic importance for the victims. They bring to the public’s attention former perpetrators were able to live unchallenged in the Federal Republic for a long time. A Republic with brown stains. Source: nd.

Municipalities demand permanently cheaper local transport services

German municipalities are already demanding for permanent cheaper tickets for public transport. “We don’t need a short public transport during the summer, but a nationwide public transport country,” stated Gerd Landsberg, chief executive of the Association of Towns and Municipalities. The Federation of German Consumer Organisations (vzbv) also called for “consistently low ticket prices” to strengthen local public transport and retain passengers. SPD transport expert Dorothee Martin also mentioned it was clear “we need more money for public transport in the long term”. However, economists such as Veronika Grimm are cautious about a comprehensive cheap ticket. Source: Zeit.

Anti-Semitism report shows its regularity in Germany

Anti-Semitism is an everyday occurrence in Germany. In the context of the Ukraine war, anti-Semitic narratives have become normalised and can be connected to all social classes and political camps. This is the conclusion of the ninth situation report on anti-Semitism published by the Amadeu Antonio Foundation (AAS) on Wednesday. Moreover, anti-Semitism is a multi-layered phenomenon, which makes more difficult to combat it. In addition to more visibility for the different facets of anti-Semitism, the representatives of the AAS believe that a lot of creativity and, in the context of the war in Ukraine, especially Russian- and Ukrainian-language educational offers are needed. Source: taz.

News from Berlin and Germany, 2 June 2022

Weekly news round-up from Berlin and Germany



Faster acquisition of German

Next Monday, Senator of the Interior Iris Spranger, Berlin parliamentary group leader Raed Saleh, MP Sebahat Atli and the state spokesperson for integration Orkan Özdemir (all SPD) will visit the State Office for Immigration (Lea). A central naturalisation office is to be attached to it in 2023. Around 6,000 people are naturalised in Berlin every year. Many of them have waited for years for the certificate, in some cases it takes a year and a half just to get to the first counselling appointment. And the senate administration assumes that there is a large backlog of applications. Source: nd. 



The way is clear for a special fund for the Bundeswehr

The federal government has reached an agreement with the opposition CDU/CSU parliamentary group on a special fund of 100 billion euros for better equipping the Bundeswehr. The talks had been “successfully concluded”. Therefore, measures such as demanded by the Greens to protect against digital attacks will be financed from the federal budget. The coalition promised that the economic plan with the concrete procurement projects for the Bundeswehr would be decided upon with the establishment of the fund. With the anchoring in the Basic Law, the billion-euro fund will be exempt from the debt brake. Source: DW.

“I don’t trust the assurances”

In an interview with Bernd Drücke, a sociologist who works at the Archive for Alternative Writing (afas) in Duisburg, about the Census, he seems to be quite skeptical about data protection. This year, around 10.3 million people will be asked about their place of residence, occupation, age, education or marital status. Participation is compulsory for them; refusal to do so could result in fines of up to 5,000 euros. In addition, the number of dwellings and residential buildings in Germany is also determined. About 23 million owners are obliged to provide information. Source: nd.

How is the company Gorillas?

Gorillas has attracted a lot of criticism in recent months. First, its riders went on strike after many colleagues were unfairly dismissed, which led to workers attempting to form a workers´ council (“Betriebsrat”). To sabotage this attempt, management engaged in a few underhand maneuvers, even dressing up as riders, in order to infiltrate the picket line. After that, it still looks like Gorillas might become an “endangered species”. These layoffs follow information leaked to TechCrunch stating that Gorillas haemorrhages $50-75 million a month. With $300 million left in the bank, they might be running out of time, and even considering new strategies for its business. Source: ExBerliner.

Only a short pleasure

Preparations for the launch of the 9-Euro-Ticket are in full swing. So far, the railway has sold 2.7 million of the promotional tickets. This weekend might be the first test for the transport companies, because then the first rush on the local trains is expected. With the 9-Euro-Ticket introduced by Berlin’s traffic light coalition, passengers can use local buses and trains throughout Germany throughout the summer. This is intended to relieve commuters in view of high energy prices. However, any relief in view of the increased energy costs will probably not be permanent in local transport. Source: nd.

Largest real estate company announces significant rent increases

Germany’s largest real estate company Vonovia has announced significant rent increases. The alleged reason for this is the high inflation rates. Vonovia owns about 565,000 flats, most of them in Germany. The average rent rose to 7.40 euros per square metre in the first three months of this year – 3.1 per cent more than a year earlier. This is still well below the current inflation rate of just under eight per cent. However, the company mentioned it would continue to stick to its promise that rents in Berlin would not increase by more than 1 per cent on average for the next three years. Source: Zeit.

Union blocks voting

In a surprise move, the CDU/CSU blocked a vote in the responsible committees – budget and defence. CDU and CSU refused to approve the economic plan of the so-called Bundeswehr Special Fund. There were still some ambiguities to be cleared up, said the committee’s deputy chairman, Henning Otte. Also, the defence policy spokesman of the CDU/CSU, Florian Hahn, pointed out the corresponding procurement list for the 100 billion package had only been presented on last Tuesday afternoon. According to the plans, the air force is to get the largest share of the windfall, a total of almost 41 billion euros. Source: Tagesschau.

News from Berlin and Germany, 26 May 2022

Weekly news round-up from Berlin and Germany



Protest against education cuts in Berlin’s budget gets louder

More and more education stakeholders demand the planned cuts to be reversed. Some are even holding vigils in front of the Berlin House of Representatives. They come with an urgent plea, to correct the “wrong decisions in the current budget draft. Without this correction, the education sector is facing a caesura and will have to face blatant cuts in times of greatest shortage, which will make it impossible to combat the shortage.” The petition was signed, among others, by Carola Cypra-Ehrlich (“die Grünen”), Philipp Dehne (“die Linke”), and Maja Lasić (SPD). Source: Berliner Zeitung.

State Protection raided “half-naked” climate activist in 2019

Janika Pondorf (“Fridays for Future”), who was a 15-year-old teenager at the time, was investigated by the police in Augsburg for an alleged political offense. “At first I was still half naked in front of the police officers,” Janika said. She was then searched in front of her neighbours and taken to a police car. The reason for the unusual intervention is said to have been an incident during a Greenpeace action against the Black Friday shopping promotion. Activists allegedly painted shops and the pedestrian zone with washable chalk at the end of November 2019. Janina denies having taken part in it. Source: Berlin Kurier.



Hundreds of police officers and soldiers suspected of right-wing extremism

327 employees of the federal and state security authorities have come to light because of suspected or proven links to right-wing extremists, so-called Reich citizens and self-governors. This is the result of a new situation report presented by Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) and the President of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Thomas Haldenwang (CDU). There were 138 cases at the federal level and 189 cases at the state level. According to the data, 38 per cent of the 860 cases examined contained evidence of efforts against the free democratic basic order. Source: Migazin.

Ultrafine dust partly responsible for weather extremes

There is evidence extreme weather events such as heavy rain or long-lasting droughts are increasing worldwide. According to researchers from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), this could be influenced by ultrafine particles in the atmosphere. Such ultrafine particles are mainly produced by the combustion of fossil fuels with exhaust gas cleaning systems, for example in power plants and refineries. Although exhaust gas purification reduces coarse particulate matter and ammonia, which has been used since the 1990s, prevents the formation of nitrogen oxides (NOx) in exhaust gases from industrial plants, huge amounts of nanoparticles enter the atmosphere. These nanoparticles, in turn, cause smaller raindrops to collect in a cloud. Source: dw.

On hold instead of consulting room

Investors want to make high profits for their stakes in clinics, practices and nursing homes, at the expense of patients and staff. The President of the German Medical Association, Klaus Reinhardt, warned on Tuesday against such increasing economic pressure on patient care. Price competition, and the quest for profit are increasingly determining everyday life in medicine, he said in Bremen. Doctors were increasingly being urged by hospital owners and financial investors in medical care centres to act according to commercial guidelines. “We must not allow our health system to be transformed into a profit-oriented franchise system. Nor do we want industry-like processes in inpatient care,” said Reinhardt. Source: jW.

News from Berlin and Germany, 19 May 2022

Weekly news round-up from Berlin and Germany



Car ban in Berlin put on the brakes

The initiative “Volksentscheid Berlin Autofrei” (Berlin Car Free Referendum), which seeks for a ban on cars within Berlin’s S-Bahn ring, seems to have lost its current round: the way to a referendum was blocked by the Senate for the time being. For one thing, Berlin’s interior administration considers the draft law submitted for review to be inadmissible. Besides, the transport administration under Senator Bettina Jarasch (Greens) reflects it as politically unsocial. “We need car-free neighbourhoods and green oases, but not a car-free inner city,” Jarasch stressed. Source: nd.

The street that doesn’t interest anyone

For a long time, drawings and old telephones as audio guides about GDR times could be admired in the “Café Sibylle”, on Karl-Marx-Allee. But what can be seen there today since its reopening in 2018 has little to do with that. Achim Bahr, the chairman of the non-profit association Stalinbauten campaigns for the preservation of the cultural heritage along Karl-Marx-Allee, is more than disappointed with the current situation. For the Corbusier House and the Hansa Quarter, which also apply for cultural heritage status, there are rooms for exhibitions and information. On Karl-Marx-Allee, however, there is nothing similar to this. Source: nd.



Baerbock speaks out in favour of NATO expansion

The 30 NATO foreign ministers are in Berlin to discuss the Ukraine war and the admission of new members. Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (“die Grünen”) has held out the prospect of Sweden and Finland quickly joining NATO. The German government has already held talks with “all democratic parties”. According to Baerbock, numerous other NATO countries have also promised a rapid ratification process, too. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on the other hand, has said Scandinavian countries were virtually “guest houses for terrorist organisations”. As expected, the enlargement plans have been met with rejection in Moscow. Source: DW.

Prosecutor demands five years in prison for 101-year-old defendant

In the trial of an alleged former guard of Sachsenhausen concentration camp, the prosecution demanded a five-year prison sentence for the 101-year-old accused. There is no doubt that Josef S. worked as an SS man in Sachsenhausen, said prosecutor Cyrill Klement. The accused had not only put up with the conditions in the camp, but had even made a career there, Klement added. He did not take the opportunity to be transferred to the front, either. The prosecution accuses Josef S. of aiding and abetting cruel and insidious murder in more than 3,500 cases. Source: rbb.

Former chancellor to be given up

The office of former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder is to be officially given up. This is what the budget committee of the Bundestag wants to decide in its session on Thursday. Although terms like “Putin”, “Russia” or “Gazprom” do not come up, Schröder has been criticised for his closeness to Russian President. Instead, the liquidation is justified by the fact that “former Chancellor Schröder no longer has any continuing obligations from office.” The staff remaining in the office should wind up the office. The posts would not be filled after 19 May, and the holders would take on other duties outside the office. Source: taz.

Meat consumption is the problem

The German government wants to reduce the use of biofuels, which is long overdue. At a time when food shortages are looming worldwide, it is not justifiable to ferment grain into biofuel instead of feeding people with it. However, such debate ignores the place where the most food is wasted: the trough. Of the grain grown in Germany, about 20 per cent ends up directly on the plate, just under 10 per cent becomes fuel, and almost 60 per cent is used as animal feed. In the end, the animals fed with it also serve human nutrition. But direct use would feed many more people. Source: taz