News from Berlin and Germany, 14th February 2024

Weekly news round-up from Berlin and Germany



Berlinale management disinvites AfD politicians from opening gala

Following criticism for inviting AfD politicians to the Berlinale opening, the festival management has once again disinvited the party representatives. Particularly in view of the revelations of anti-democratic positions in recent weeks, it was considered important to take an unequivocal stand in favour of democracy, the Berlinale management announced. “We have therefore today disinvited all previously invited AfD politicians,” said the management duo Mariette Rissenbeek and Carlo Chatrian in a statement. In the last days, there have been numerous calls for the invitations’ withdrawal. Among others, around 200 filmmakers expressed their criticisms in an open letter. Source: rbb24

What’s going on at the BVG?

The new head of Berlin’s public transport company (BVG) faces a Herculean task. Henrik Falk must make sure that punctuality and reliability increase again. Passengers’ perception is now confirmed by objective data from the Senate: transport politician Tino Schopf (SPD) requested official data on delays and train cancellations for 2023, that the situation for the state-owned company and its passengers has declined. The proportion of delayed journeys rose to a record high in 2023, as did the number of cancelled kilometres. But there will be no strikes at BVG for the time being – at least not until next Thursday. Source: berliner zeitung

On Sonnenallee, unregistered pro-Palestine demo gathers to protest against Rafah bombing

On Monday evening, demonstrators came out onto the streets of Neukölln for an unregistered protest after the Israeli army launched an attack on the area of Rafah. Since the protest was unregistered, police came to break it up, which led to scuffles in which stones and bottles were reportedly thrown at officers. Among the various slogans chanted by protestors, there were some which have been subject to bans by the German state such as “Stop the Genocide.” However, two courts in Germany (Cologne and Munster) recently ruled that these slogans were not illegal and should be protected under the right to freedom of expression. Source: exberliner

Berlin repeat-election results: a slight defeat for Germany’s ruling coalition

Last Sunday saw Berlin repeat its 2021 federal election in a fifth of the city’s electoral districts, and while there were slight losses for Germany’s ruling coalition, there was no change in the twelve direct mandates. More worryingly, though, the far-right AfD party increased its vote share by one per cent. In fact, all the major parties of opposition saw some gains, with the CDU gaining 1.3% and Die Linke growing 0.1% compared to the 2021 outcomes. Those figures came at the expense of the ruling “traffic light” coalition of the SPD (-1.2%), the Greens (-0.3%), and the FDP (-0.9%). Source: exberliner


Largest NATO exercise since the end of the Cold War

A massive manoeuvre threatens a continent-wide escalation of the conflict. According to reports, more than 90,000 soldiers, 50 warships and several squadrons of fighter jets from 31 member states and Sweden are taking part in Steadfast Defender 2024, which began on 22 January. The German government doubled its arms donations to Kiev this year to almost eight billion euros, while cuts are being made in the areas of education, health and pensions. The manoeuvre is scheduled to last until 31 May 2024. Under the banner of the NATO exercise, Germany also tries to increase its military presence in Scandinavia and Eastern Europe. Source: internationale friedensfabrik

“Millions of people we can’t do without”

According to the head of the Federal Employment Agency (BA), Andrea Nahles, the German labour market is in urgent need of workers. “We now have 5.3 million people working in Germany without a German passport, and we couldn’t do without them,” she said in an interview on SWR’s Interview of the Week. The German labour market cannot afford a policy that relies on so-called remigration. Right-wing extremists use the term “remigration” to trivialise expulsions and forced departures. According to BA figures, people from outside the European Union were the largest group who came into employment in Germany in 2023. Despite this, there are still almost 700,000 unfilled vacancies. Source: tagesschau

Willingness to donate declines in Germany

The German Donations Council “Balance of Help” is concerned about the declining number of donors. Last year shows the lowest level since the survey began in 2005. On average, each donation was around 40.30 euros. According to the survey, the most generous donors are in the over-60 age group. However, the proportion of donors aged between 30 and 39 has also increased. Donations for emergency and disaster relief summed up to 929 million euros. The “Balance of Help” researcher Bianca Corcoran-Schliemann spoke nevertheless of a “super result” when weighing up inflation and the increasing willingness of Germans to save money. Source: tagesschau

Commemoration and vigils on the anniversary of the attack in Hanau

On the next February 19, the fourth anniversary of the racist attack in Hanau that left nine people dead, the victims will be remembered with a memorial service at Hanau’s main cemetery. Hesse’s Deputy Prime Minister Kaweh Mansoori, Mayor Claus Kaminsky and Federal Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser (all SPD) plan to lay wreaths at the memorial plaque in the cemetery. An imam will pray for the victims at the cemetery at 10.30 am. At 11:00 am, there will be a silent moment, at which there will reportedly be no political speeches “at the express wish of the victims’ relatives,” and which will be open to the public. Source: islamiq

Right-wing disinformation against trans people in Germany

“Under the current government, there is no money for pensioners, schools and the railway. But they now want to introduce nationwide counselling centres for everyone who doesn’t know whether they are male or female,” said Beatrix von Storch (AfD) in the German Bundestag last November. Such attacks are “deliberate strategic decisions” by the far right according to Sascha Krahnke, an expert on transphobia and the far right at the Amadeu Antonio Foundation in Berlin. The problem is also getting worse because hate speech and disinformation from social media are increasingly being taken up by the mainstream media. Source: dw

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