Berlin News in English: October 29 – November 4

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. Angela Merkel Gives Up the Claim for Being Chairmanship of the CDU

After significant losses for the Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU) in the Hessen state elections, Angela Merkel announced that she won’t be running for the chairmanship of the CDU again. Although, she still wants to continue as Chancellor until her term ends in 2021. Afterward, Merkel will cease to take up any new political positions.

Merkel has been acting as the chairman of the CDU for the last 18 years. In the past, she had always stressed the importance of keeping the chairmanship and Chancellor position united with one person. Merkel’s potential successor might already be nominated by the party during the CDU party conference, beginning this December. One likely candidate is former CDU Parliamentary Party Leader Friedrich Merz. Merz is part of the conservative wing in the party and has never ruled out the possibility of going back into politics. Other possible candidates are Minister of Health Jens Spahn and CDU General Secretary Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.

The government coalition partner, Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), has not yet commented on Merkel’s decision and SPD head Andrea Nahles has outwardly refused to comment. The head of the Free Democratic Party faction, Marco Buschmann, however, has been throwing out the question that if Merkel doesn’t see herself as the right candidate for the chairmanship, then is she still the right person for the Chancellor position.

As a matter of fact, political experts have voiced the possibility that Merkel would not last until 2021. Some believe that by giving up the chairmanship she will eventually lose the power over the party and would be replaced.

Source: Die Zeit

2. EU Countries Vote for a Ban on Plastic

After the Yes of the European Parliament and the Commission over the last few months, the EU member countries have voted in favor of banning disposable plastic products. This will include straws, plastic plates, and q-tips. Starting next week, these three EU institutions will start negotiating the law to be put in place. All EU member countries are informed and in accordance with the suggestions made by the Commission on how to proceed.

For more background, the Commission had proposed to ban certain disposable products after a yet to be defined transition period. This ban would help keep the oceans cleaner, as 80% of the trash polluting the oceans is plastic. Furthermore, the law should help cut carbon dioxide emissions by 3.4 Million tons. Plus, according to calculations – this cutting back will reduce environmental damages worth 22 Billion Euro by 2030.

The suggestion by the Commission is an EU guideline. The member countries will have two years after the approval of the law to adapt the guidelines to their own national legislation.

Source: Die Zeit

3. Special Police Force Make Alexanderplatz Safer

The increased police presence at Alexanderplatz seems to be working. Since establishing the specialized investigation team “EG Alex” in November 2017, the number of criminal offenses has decreased. The numbers have gone down from 5,400 offenses in 2017 to 4,900 in 2018. The decline has been very significant in the amount of serious physical offenses, decreasing from 556 (in 2017) to 375 in 2018. The number of robberies has decreased by 50% as well.

The EG Alex works by having six police members on location around the clock. Since December, the federal and national police force is assisting with a stationary “combination watch”. From March 2018, the force has been assigned its own public prosecutor, focusing solemnly on Alexanderplatz cases.

The increased police presence comes from the authorities reacting to a high number of criminal offenses. Amongst these offenses are reported on personal injuries, robberies, and cases in which people have been beaten to death.

Source: Berliner Morgenpost

4. Increased Hartz IV Abuse in Berlin

Even though the number of Hartz IV (financial support for the unemployed) recipients are decreasing, the number of abuses have been rising since 2015. Last year the authorities counted 18,162 cases, an increase from 2016 (17,685) and 2015 (14,836).

The authorities detail fraudulent claims and abuse of the system from applicants who don’t hand in their proof of income on time or completed. Fraud is also committed in the case of hiding assets and forging certificates.

By the end of 2017, there were 180,000 recipients of Hartz IV in Berlin and Brandenburg. That is 52,000 less than two years ago.

Source: Berliner Morgenpost

5. High Turnout for the Opening of East Side Mall

On October 31st (Happy Halloween!), the new shopping center East Side Mall close to Warschauer Brücke opened its doors for the first time. The opening was well attended, even if it didn’t go by without a few glitches. There is no direct pedestrian connection from the bridge to the mall, and at some point during the day, the building had to be evacuated due to a false fire alarm.

East Side Mall is home to around 100 shops and opens from Monday to Sunday between 10 am and 9 pm. The investor of the mall, Freo Group, was certain of a high demand for this place. 90,000 people pass through the U-Bahn and S-Bahn stop Warschauer Straße on a daily basis, and 3.2 Million visitors come to see the East Side Gallery, located close to the new mall.

Source: Berliner Woche

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