Germany’s News in English: February 18 – 24
Welcome to the latest edition of MyExpatCommunity news feature for Germany! That’s right, we’ve expanded our scope, following up on the feedback we got from you!
Our goal is to provide you with the most important news of the last two weeks from Germany – so you can stay up to date.
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1. EU mitigates Brexit risks for flights
The EU Commission has suggested strict guidelines for handling air traffic for the next six months for the UK’s Brexit transition. This means that flights between the EU and the UK can take off even after a hard Brexit. Additionally, British flight companies will, therefore, be able to continue offering flights on European soil. Flight companies that are majority-owned by British shareholders will be subject to a transition period to be able to offer flights in the future. This will affect holiday travel companies like TUI and Thomas Cook, TUI Fly and Condor. In order to be eligible for the Brexit transition period, the companies have to present a strategy to fulfill EU regulations again within a two-week deadline after the transition period takes effect.
These regulations are an improvement over those the Commission had suggested only a year earlier. In that scenario, the companies would have had to present a plan on the day of Brexit itself, the 29th of March. The travel companies might have been prepared with an action plan but wouldn’t have had the time to restructure their business. The consequence would have been flight cancellations, even on routes that neither start or end in the UK. The Commission has nevertheless stressed the fact that this is only a temporary solution.
2. German Bundestag votes for reform of paragraph 219a
The Bundestag has voted to reform the “advertisement ban” for abortions, summarized in paragraph 219a of the German Criminal Law. 371 representatives voted in favor for this ban, while 277 were against, and four abstained. The much-discussed compromise put forward by the CDU-SPD coalition states that doctors are allowed to publicly announce that they perform abortions. Further information on the procedure of abortions, however, has to be gathered at the authorities, information centers or medical associations. The reform also includes a list by the federal medical association that states all the doctors who perform abortions, as well as a study on the psychological effects of abortions.
The ban on German doctors from offering any service information about abortion has been a debate for quite a while (see our earlier report). The reform was triggered by the case of doctor Kristina Hänel, who had been sentenced to a penalty after stating on her website that she was performing abortions. While the regulation now decriminalizes this info, there has been criticism that this is only a half-baked solution, as further information is still restricted.
Source: Die Zeit
3. 95 percent less emission by 2050?
Minister of the Environment Svenja Schulze (SPD) has presented her first draft for a new German Climate Protection Law. All sectors of the economy (ie: transport, industry or agriculture) would receive fixed climate goals, with the respective Ministry being responsible for meeting the ends. The goal is to reduce greenhouse emissions by 2050 by at least 95 percent, making the amount lower than the one in 1990.
The project is also causing much disruption in the coalition. The CDU has asked to postpone the vote. Schulze, however, has already handed in the proposal for a vote amongst the government. The cause of these conflicts results from several sections in the draft demanding very strict targets. The current emission of 170 million tons of carbon dioxide, for example, should be reduced to 95 million tons by 2030. If the Ministries can’t fulfill these goals, there would be financial consequences, such as the state would have to buy surplus emission certificates by other EU states. Plus, the government would further be obliged to create an immediate program to address missing its target goal that would need to be implemented within six months.
The CDU criticizes that the plan sounds too much like a planned economy. The Green Party and the environmentalists, however, have welcomed the initiative.
Source: Die Sueddeutsche
4. Reform of voting rights for handicapped people
People who have been dependent on care on all levels due to disabilities have so far been excluded from voting in elections. According to the Federal Constitutional Court, disabled people having no right to vote is unconstitutional. Exclusion from an active voting right may be justified legally in some cases, for example when the person in question is incapable of participating in the communication between the citizens and the government body, but the current regulations in the Federal Electoral Act are too generalized and affect all the disabled people equally, regardless of the severity of their disability.
The court states that people, who are dependent on intensive care, can’t be excluded from elections. The same goes for criminal offenders, who – due to being declared legally insane – are placed in a psychiatric institution. The current voting regulation, therefore, violates the principle of the commonality of voting, as well as the ban of discrimination due to a disability. The voting rights, therefore, have to be overhauled.
Eight citizens had filed a lawsuit against their exclusion from parliament elections in 2013. According to the court, 81,220 people had been excluded during that election due to the same reason. During the European Election on May 26, a change in the law should already be in effect.
Source: Die Sueddeutsche
5. Ai Weiwei accuses Berlinale of censorship
The Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has stated that his segment in the episodic film “Berlin, I Love You” has been cut due to fear of political consequences by the Chinese government. He accuses the Berlinale team of having put pressure on the production company. The organizers have stated that participation of Weiwei has never been a criterion of taking the movie into program or not.
“Berlin, I Love You“ is the latest in a series of episodic films after “Paris, je t´aime” (2006), “New York, I Love You” (2009) and “Rio, Eu Te Amo” (2014). But even without the Weiwei segment, the movie was not part of the festival’s lineup. The Berlinale took place from February 7-17. The movie is supposed to hit theatres in May this year.
Source: Die Sueddeutsche
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