Berlin News in English: December 10 – 16

Welcome to the latest edition of MyExpatCommunity news feature for Berlin! Our goal is to provide you with the most important news of the last two weeks from the German capital – so you can stay up to date.

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1. Government reaches agreement on the existing ban of abortion advertising

The government has reached an agreement over further steps concerning paragraph 219a of the criminal code. This paragraph concludes what doctors can communicate to their patients about abortion: what is to be considered “neutral information” and what crosses the line into (illegal) advertisement.

Currently, the law states that it is prohibited to “offer and promote abortion” if this is happening in an “indecent manner” or out of commercial interests. Violations of this law can result in imprisonment of up to two years or a financial penalty. While the SPD wanted to get rid of the ban altogether, the Union parties (CDU/CSU) wanted to keep it.

The compromise between the Union parties and SPD won’t lift the ban on advertising for abortions. However, better information will be provided on which doctors and clinics provide these services. The German Medical Association and the Federal Centre for Health Education will produce the necessary informational material, in order to establish a legal framing. It will also be explicitly allowed for doctors and hospitals to publicly state that they provide abortions – currently, the mere statement would fall under the advertising ban. The parties have also agreed to a study on the emotional effects of abortion.

Reason for the recent debate was the case of doctor Kristina Hänel of Gießen. At the end of November 2017, she was found guilty of putting abortion information on her website and sentenced to a fine of 6,000 Euro. The website was linking to further reading material on abortion. The fact that Hänel receives a fee for the procedure was interpreted as a “commercial interest”.

Hänel herself has shown little sympathy for the compromise between SPD and the Union parties for changes. She believes that the paragraph and its legal consequences still exist, the rest of the actions proposed are already possible today.

Source: Die Zeit

2. Fewer attacks on Muslims in Germany

The number of attacks on Muslims and Muslim institutions has decreased. From January to September the authorities have registered 578 Islamophobic offenses, down from 780 in the first nine months of the previous year.

The number of injured victims increased though. 40 people have been injured in attacks this year. Last year, the count was at 27 in September, concluding with 32 altogether in December. In many more cases, there have been incidents of insults and verbal abuse, and some cases of coercion. The authorities also registered damage of property and graffiti.

Source: Die Zeit

3. Special needs children obtain more access to schools

Amongst the school law changes decided by the Berlin House of Representatives is a notion to strengthen the rights of disabled kids. These kids may now choose to visit a regular school instead of a special needs school. The law doesn’t include the right to a specific school. If the school of interest, however, cannot meet the demands due to personal or environmental boundaries, an alternative needs to be offered.

There have been concerns from some politicians though that children with learning disabilities who enter a “Gymnasium” (a secondary school with a strong emphasis on academic learning and providing advanced secondary education) might undermine these schools.

Source: Berliner Zeitung

4. Christmas markets increase security after Strasbourg

After an attack at a Strasbourg Christmas Market, the police has increased the security level. In Berlin, the police increased their presence at the Berlin markets, including technical security measurements and covert operations. This includes police officers patrolling the streets carrying submachine guns. The security measures take many scenarios into account, including trucks driving into the markets like the tragic incident on December 19, 2016.

Not only the police are on alert, but the Christmas market operators have also increased private security. The vendors are also careful to look out for any suspicious patrons or situations. The city is also testing new transit barriers and bollards.

Source: Berliner Zeitung

5. Federal Court of Justice deems “Uber Black” illegal

The Federal Court of Justice (BGH) ruled that a limousine service can’t offer rides like a taxi, therefore declaring the service offered by “Uber Black” illegal. The verdict comes at the end of a lawsuit filed by the Berlin taxi company Richard Leipold, which Uber contested up to the BGH. Uber is in violation of the Public Transport Act, which requires that any rides offered with rental cars have to be hired through the rental car company headquarters. Furthermore, the rental car has to return there after business is concluded, except if a new ride is directly taking place afterward.

„Uber Black“ had offered customers to rent high-end rental cars via an app. A free driver in the area would be notified of the job and Uber would take care of the formalities and payment. The verdict will not affect the general business of Uber in Germany since the company had already adapted its business model back in 2014 when the original lawsuit was filed. Since then, the service “UberX” honors the Public Transport Act by assigning the rides, not to individual drivers, but rental car companies. Still, Berlin taxi drivers claim that those rules are not always respected.

Source: Berliner Zeitung

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