Welcome to our English-language news magazine about Germany.
In partnership with Hochhaus, we will provide you with snippets of the most important news that happened last week in Germany.
Here’s a news roundup from last week brought to you by the leading English-language newsletter on German news and current affairs, Hochhaus.
News events from this past week that you may have missed:
[November 2 – November 8, 2020]
The news this week has been all about the US-election. But lots has been going on in Germany as well.
German reactions to the US election
Berlin has kept quiet about the US election so far, although it’s perfectly clear where its preference lies. One of the few senior politicians to comment was Elisabeth Motschmann (CDU), a member of the Bundestag’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, who condemned Donald Trump’s premature claim to have won the election as “unlawful and dangerous, an attack on the essence of democracy”. Armin Laschet and Friedrich Merz, contenders for the CDU leadership, have kept their council.
Food for thought came from Alexander Graf Lambsdorff of the FDP, who admitted that the German press and political elite had misread the election – the Democratic landslide they’d been prophesying never materialized. Lambsdorff said that Germany no longer understands the USA and suggested opening a consulate in the Midwest.
Nuclear waste transport
Only in Germany is the transportation of nuclear waste through the country reported on with daily updates. The waste, which is German but was being processed in the UK, is the first that has been taken back in nine years due to protesters blocking the rail tracks during previous transportations. One campaigner complained that “it’s being sent on its dangerous journey without other travellers being informed.” Just in case there’s any confusion, the barrels haven’t been given first class tickets on the ICE.
Competition for the Greens
The Green party were dreading it, but now it’s happened. The “Friday’s for Future” movement has set up an alternative party. Winfried Kretschmann, Germany’s first Green governor, has moved to the right since winning in Baden-Württemberg. Hence it comes as little surprise that “Friday’s for Future” have chosen his state to start their environmental insurgency. The newly formed “Klimaliste Baden-Württemberg” not only risks damaging Mr. Kretschmann in state elections next March, it also creates a predicament for the Greens ahead of the national election in the autumn – how can they combine the demands of their radical base with a platform that appeals to disenchanted CDU voters?
Corona and the lockdown
Public support for the lockdown is high (70 percent according to a poll by der Spiegel) but legal challenges from owners of tattoo parlours, restaurants or yoga studios are “increasing by the hour” according to Berlin’s Administrative Court. While most of the challenges have been dismissed, judges argue that a more solid legal foundation for the lockdown is needed if courts are to accept it. Currently, the restrictions imposed by federal- and state governments are justified with the Infektionsschutzgesetz. Legal experts are demanding that the Bundstag amends the law and spells out what type of restrictions can and cannot be imposed by the executive branch.
Speaking from his home on the last day of a two-week quarantine, health minister Jens Spahn made clear just how hard it will be for Germany to continue with the policy that brought it success in the springtime – tracing chains of infections and informing all contacts to self-isolate. Mr Spahn presumably keeps a fairly rigorous calendar, but health authorities weren’t able to trace where he had picked up his infection, despite comprehensive testing of his professional and private contacts. The same goes for 75 percent of all positive cases. This is the main reason the government has brought in a new lockdown – the sledgehammer tactic is an admission that contact tracing has stopped working.
As we’ve reported in previous newsletters, an Islamist stabbed two men in central Dresden last month, a horrific incident that mirrors the brutal crimes currently being perpetrated in France. There is a disturbing twist in the story though: authorities have concealed a possible homophobic motive for the attack, which killed one man and severely injured the other. The victims were a couple and, according to eyewitnesses, had hugged shortly beforehand. “I’m more than confused that authorities have covered up an important motive. That wouldn’t have happened if the victim were Jewish or a person of colour,” said LGBT campaigner Jörg Litwinschuh-Barthel. You can read further details on Zeit Online.
If the French way of dealing with Islamist intimidation is to double down on their commitment to freedom of expression, the German way is to avoid talking about the subject or play down its threat. Angela Merkel has stayed silent as Erdogan has used the beheading of a French school teacher to accuse Emmanuel Macron of needing psychological help. German quietism might be a safe short-term strategy, but with history teachers in Berlin telling the Tagesspeigel that there are subjects school directors want them to avoid in order to keep the peace with Muslim pupils, one wonders what long-term risk it entails.
Germanians on Netflix
Have you been watching the new Netflix show Barbarians? It tells the story of the battle of Teutoburg Forest, where Germanic tribes ambushed and slaughtered three Roman legions. It was one of the greatest humiliations in Roman military history (“Quintilius Varus, give me back my legions!”) and was used by German conservatives in the 19th century to create a founding myth for a pan-German nationalism. The New York Times described how the makers of the series tried to avoid playing into the hands of the modern far-right, who apparently still pilgrim to the site of the battle. Did they succeed? Our thoughts on the first three episodes are that it turns the Romans into comic villains while portraying the German tribes as plucky upstarts. This might be a device Asterix gets away with, but a TV series for adults can surely do better.
Startup stock options
The Finance Ministry is on the point of publishing a draft law that will make it easier for startups to offer employees share options as part of their salary package. Germany has been rated as one of the toughest countries in Europe for startups to pay employees in shares, something founders and CEOs say is necessary if Europe wants to take on Silicon Valley. Finance Ministry state secretary Jörg Kukies has said that an announcement is imminent.
Who are the editors behind Hochhaus?
This news roundup was brought to you by the leading English-language newsletter on German news and current affairs, Hochhaus.
Journalist based in Berlin since 2014. His work has been published by German and English outlets including der Spiegel, die Welt, the Daily Telegraph and the Times. Formerly in the Middle East.
Axel Bard Bringéus:
Started his career as a journalist for the leading Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet and has spent the last decade in senior roles at Spotify and as a venture capital investor. In Berlin since 2011.
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