News from Berlin and Germany, 20th March 2024

Weekly news round-up from Berlin and Germany



Police investigate fire at Tegel refugee accommodation

A fire broke out last Tuesday at the refugee accommodation on the site of Berlin’s former Tegel airport. Luckily, no one was injured, but most of the refugees living in the destroyed accommodation have lost all their belongings. Alternative accommodation for the affected refugees, most of whom are from Ukraine, has been organised. While police investigate the possibility of arson, some officials believe the cause of the fire could simply be down to the camp being overcrowded and unsuitable for long-term accommodation. “We have always warned that Tegel is not suitable for accommodating so many people.” said Jian Omar (the Greens), migration expert. Source: exberliner

Techno clubs as cultural heritage: Club commission hopes for more support

Following the decision to declare Berlin’s techno culture an intangible cultural heritage, club operators in the capital hope now for financial support from the state. The chairman of the Berlin Club Commission, Marcel Weber, complained on the rbb24 evening programme on Saturday that the existing club culture in the city is under increasing threat. “Due to the coronavirus pandemic, we now have a completely different situation once again. There is hardly any space left in this city. There is a huge distribution battle for the few spaces that are still available,” said Weber. He is also hoping for the support of the state on the search for suitable properties. Source: rbb



Welfare state reform: more penalties, less money

On Monday, the CDU decided what the return to the dark days of Hartz IV should look like. The party’s board unanimously approved a concept for the reorganisation of the benefit system. The proposed reforms mean a removal of state support completely in extreme cases if recipients refuse “reasonable work”. The CDU would also like to see a change in the name: instead of the SPD’s new branding “citizen’s income”, they would rename the ‘streamlined’ welfare state benefit “new basic security”. “The term ‘citizen’s income’ is misleading,” said CDU Secretary General Carsten Linnemann. “It suggests that every citizen is entitled to it.” Source: nd-aktuell

SPD rejects welfare state reform

SPD leader Lars Klingbeil has rejected CDU demands for extensive changes to the welfare state and the so-called “citizens’ income”. Speaking in Berlin, Klingbeil said: “The amount of citizens’ income is determined by a constitutional court ruling. This has now been implemented, incidentally with the support of the CDU/CSU.” The citizen’s income replaced the Hartz IV system (unemployment benefit II) at the beginning of 2023 following a reform by the current coalition government. It is intended to secure the livelihood of people who can work but whose income is not enough to live on. Source: tagesschau

Cracks in the AfD ‘firewall’

A study by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation titled “Will the firewall hold?” shows that political cooperation with suspected or proven right-wing extremist parties in Germany is common. Between 2019 and 2023, political scientist Anika Taschke and her colleague Steven Hummel recorded 121 cases in eastern German municipalities where such cooperation took place. For example, in October 2019, the CDU in the Berlin district of Reinickendorf applied for a “headscarf ban for schoolgirls up to and including 6th grade”. After discussions that dragged on for months, the motion was passed with the votes of the CDU and AfD in 2020. Source: dw

German government appeals against climate judgement

The German government violated the requirements of current law in the transport and buildings sectors in 2021 and 2022. The Federal Government also never adopted a programme proposed by Construction Minister Klara Geywitz (SPD) for the sector. She argued a new climate protection law is in the works, planned to give the sectors more room for manoeuvre, but it has not yet been passed by the Bundestag. Environmental Action Germany condemned the revision as “irresponsible and scandalous behaviour”, with which the coalition government is breaking its election promises. Source: handelsblatt

Fight against right-wing extremism

The Democracy Promotion Act is a law aimed at ‘promoting democracy’ and tackling far-right extremism which is causing divisions in the current coalition government. But the FDP has been blocking the law, calling for an additional controversial extremism clause to be reintroduced and warning that the law could promote initiatives that “combat” legitimate criticism of feminism. Federal Minister for Family Affairs Lisa Paus (Greens) emphasised in Berlin at a conference of the “Live Democracy!” programme, that the promotion of democracy is based on Basic Law and that it is more important than ever. Recent times have shown “that our basic values are being attacked by enemies of democracy”, said Paus. She notes that hate is not an opinion. She mentioned too that the initiatives to be supported by the law are “often the last bulwark on the ground” – even more reason for them to be able to rely on the state. The Green Party therefore demanded: “The Democracy Promotion Act must now be passed quickly in the Bundestag.” Source: taz

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