On January 18, the German interior ministry announces the lift of the 2012 moratorium on the deportation of refugees convicted of serious crimes from Germany back to Syria, which remains a conflict zone. Refugees fear that deportations will not remain limited to criminals.
Armin Laschet becomes head of the Christian Democratic Party with 521 votes. Though Laschet will most likely continue Merkel’s centrist political course as the new CDU chairman, there is no guarantee that he will secure the Party’s nomination for chancellor at the September elections.
Omid Nouripour, Frankfurt Green Party and Bundestag member, proposes on January 22 that the Green Party is a contender for the conservative Christian-Democratic vote in the upcoming federal election. His self-confidence demonstrates that the Greens and their environmental agenda have achieved mainstream status.
In the trial on the 2019 assassination of Walter Lübcke, who had served for ten years as the regional governor (Regierungspräsident im Regierungsbezirk) of Kassel in Hesse, a verdict is reached on January 28: the Higher Regional Court in Frankfurt sentences neo-Nazi Stephan Ernst to the maximum penalty of life imprisonment. The CDU politician Lübcke was targeted as a scapegoat of the far right in Hesse due to his outspoken support of Merkel’s asylum policy. Though this is not Ernst’s first politically motivated crime, it is the first assassination of a public official since World War II.
Controversy mounts at the end of January as Germany recommends against administering the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine to those over the age of 65, citing insufficient data. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) contradicts the draft recommendation of the German Standing Commission on Vaccination (STIKO), approving the vaccine for everyone aged 18 and older, including the elderly. The CDU/CSU agrees with the recommendation of STIKO, while the FDP sharply criticizes the decision to side with that of EMA. These disagreements between authorities contribute to rising uncertainty and public resentment toward vaccines in Germany.
In protest of Putin’s detention of opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Moscow on February 1,
France calls on Germany to abandon its Russian natural gas pipeline project. In Washington, Biden considers sanctioning the Russia-to-Germany pipeline and emphasizes the over-dependence of Europe on Russian energy.
On February 1, the WDR (West German Broadcasting) talk show “The Last Instance” (“Die letzte Instanz”) earns strong public backlash [aka a “ social media shitstorm”] following a racist segment in which host Steffan Hallaschka engaged an all-white panel of celebrity guests, including Micky Beisenherz, entertainer Thomas Gottschalk, actress Janine Kunze and pop singer Jürgen Milski, in a debate over whether or not a German barbecue sauce bearing thepejorative name “Zigeunersoße” (literally “gypsy sauce”) should be renamed. The WDR subsequently released an apology on Twitter, acknowledging that minority voices affected by the discussion’s content should have been included. The show aired just two days after International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which commemorates the 500,000 Sinti and Roma murdered in Europe.
On February 10, Die Welt journalist Ulf Poschardt tweets an article about Merkel extending the pandemic lockdown until March 14, and takes aim at Baden-Württemberg’s Green Minister-President Winfried Kretschmann, who cautioned against expectations of an “Öffnungsorgie” [“opening orgy”]. Kretschmann’s choice of words is viewed critically. Poschardt writes: ““Das Wort „Öffnungsorgie“ bringt Freiheitsverachtung, Lustfeindlichkeit und Autoritätsfetisch zusammen. Es ist das ekelhafteste Wort der aktuellen Debatten. (Dass ausgerechnet der einst ökolibertäre Kretschmann es benutzt: bitter)”. [“The word “opening orgy” brings together contempt for freedom, hostility to pleasure and a fetish for authority. It is the most disgusting word in the current debates. (That the once ecolibertarian Kretschmann, of all people, uses it: bitter)”].
A debate about Nazi history and its legacy in Germany ignites in February. The artists Moshtari Hilal and Sinthujan Varatharajah discuss continuities of Nazi-era capital on Instagram and coin the term “Deutsche mit Nazihintergrund” (“Germans with a Nazi background”). This term has since provoked some defensive reflexes in the press and on social media. Die Zeit reports that Hilal and Varatharajah seem to have hit a sore spot. They address the rarely noticed topic of Nazi heritage in Germany – and the question of how today’s cultural elite still profits from capital generated by their families during National Socialism.
At the end of 2020, the conference of interior ministers decided to lift the ban on deportations to Syria that had been in place since 2012 due to the ongoing civil war in Syria. From January 1, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) was to examine each individual case in detail and attempt to facilitate expulsion. The press reports that now, three months after the decision, nothing happened and the announcement of the deportation of criminals was pure rhetoric.
On March 3, AfD successfully appeals the Verfassungschutz’s designation of the party as a Prüffall (test case). The domestic security agency, the Verfassungsschutz (Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution) will monitor a group that is labeled a test case within the limits of publicly available information, and upgrade them to Verdachtsfall (suspicious case) to designate them a legitimate threat to national security. Thus, it is a legal designation that functions as censorship and also justifies full investigation and monitoring of the group including surveillance that would otherwise be a violation of their civil liberties. The Verfassungsschutz previously had designated both the most far-right caucus and the youth wing of the Alternative for Germany as a Verdachtsfall, and had expanded that to target the entire party.
In Baden-Württemberg, a police operation against refugees is conducted in a refugee shelter in Ellwangen. Experts declare this operation illegal.
Also in March: A 19-year-old collapsed in a cell at the Delmenhorst police station and later dies in hospital. Qosay K. had previously been arrested by police in a park after being stopped. Comments in social media raise questions about the police’s portrayal of the incident as a “tragic accident.”
The German government’s ambivalent approach to AstraZeneca seems to be boosting vaccine hesitancy. Germany and a number other European countries move to reimpose lockdowns they had begun lifting in part due the confusion around the AstraZeneca vaccine including the idea that it causes blood clots and that it has a sub-optimal effectiveness rate. Merkel announces Germany’s toughest lockdown to date and then reverses course following backlash.
Members of the Bundestag from Angela Merkel’s CDU resign after claims of corruption and profiteering in securing mask procurement contracts for their firms. Union members of the Bundestag collected six-figure sums from the federal government’s mask procurement program.The current crisis was caused by business deals of the members of parliament Georg Nüßlein (CSU) and Nikolas Löbel (CDU). Consequently, Löbel has resigned his seat in the Bundestag with immediate effect and Nüßlein does not intend to run for the Bundestag again. The so-called “mask affair” involving Nüßlein and Löbel damages the Union deeply.
Following investigations by the Munich General Prosecutor’s Office on initial suspicion of bribery, the German Bundestag lifted Axel Fischer’s (CDU) political immunity on March 4, 2021.
In the same month, CSU member of the Bundestag Tobias Zech also resigns from his post because of possible “conflicts of interest” and accusations that he had linked his mandate and entrepreneurial activities. The corruption scanalds harm CDU’s reputation ahead of key election in September.
Debate and discontent regarding COVID policies in Germany continues. German politicians are continuously spreading confusing messages, change rules and are not handling the pandemic well.
In April, the appearance of Bavarian cabaret artist Helmut Schleich performing in blackface on his show “SchleichFernsehen” sparks outrage on social media. The sketch involved the white cabaret artist dressed up as a fictional Black dictator.
At the beginning of April, so-called “Querdenker” (“lateral thinkers”) gather in Stuttgart, aiming to defend themselves against the politically initiated Covid measures.The authorities initially expect about 2,500 participants. More than 10,000 people turn up. The Querdenker demonstrations primarily bring together people who have abandoned all established media and, according to the press, have retreated into a parallel universe.
In April, the Federal Constitutional Court decides to overturn Berlin’s rent cap. In concrete terms, this means that rent caps are a matter for the federal government, not the states. Journalist Deborah Cole reports: “Germany’s highest court said Thursday that a policy to freeze rents in Berlin for five years to combat soaring housing costs was unlawful, in a ruling slammed by tenants’ rights groups. The capital’s “Mietendeckel” law or rent cap “violates the Basic Law and is thus ruled void”, said the Federal Constitutional Court in the southwestern city of Karlsruhe”. The rent cap for more than 1.5 million apartments passed by Berlin’s House of Representatives in January 2020 was a key concern of the governing coalition of center-left Social Democrats, Greens and Left Party.
The New York Times reports on the potential political landscape as of September, after Merkel and her government leave office. According to journalist Steven Erlanger, the Green Party will fill the vacuum Merkel will leave behind. It also reports that the Greens are no longer the party known in Cold War times, but rather, “The Greens are now centrist, eager for power, with a surprisingly gimlet-eyed view of international affairs and of how Germany needs to change without alienating big business.” By electing the Greens as the leading party, Erlanger says Germany could send a signal of change throughout Europe. It would also be a sign of a more determined foreign policy, especially in view of relations with China and Russia.
On April 19, For the first time in history, the Greens have named a candidate for the chancellorship. The Green party chose Annalena Baerbock as the party’s first chancellor candidate in its 41-year history. Senior party members at an internal meeting of the CDU federal executive committee back Armin Laschet for chancellor. The CDU’s Laschet is challenged by the more conservative Bavarian CSU’s Söder, who leads in polls but lost the binding Kreisvorsitzendenkonferenz vote 31-9. Merkel’s conservatives choose the wildly unpopular Armin Laschet to run for chancellor in the fall.
At the end of April, a video in which 50 German-speaking actors and two directors criticized the government’s COVID policy and media coverage of the issue with seemingly satirically intended comments caused quite a stir. Under the hashtag #allesdichtmachen, which translates as “close down everything,” or “make everything tight,” is garnering much criticism. Accusations include that the videos are anything but clever protest against disproportionate lockdown measures, but are instead unhelpful cynicism. In addition, an affinity to the conspiracy scene was obvious, according to the newspaper Neues Deutschland. Well-known participants in this campaign are Jan Josef Liefers, Heike Makkatsch and Volker Bruch.
Former Borussia Dortmund and Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann prompted backlash outrage with a racist message to former professional soccer player Dennis Aogo and subsequently lost his position as a member of the supervisory board at Berlin Bundesliga club Hertha BSC. Lehmann wrote via WhatsApp to Aogo “Is Dennis actually your token Black guy?” and provided the sentence with a laughing smiley. The WhatsApp message was published by Aogo on Instagram. Lehmann’s contract with Hertha BSC was terminated as a result. Following this incident, the Green Party overwhelmingly vote to remove Boris Palmer, mayor of the Southern German city Tübingen, due to racist comments against Aogo. Palmer called Aogo a “bad racist” in a Facebook post and used a racial slur.
The CDU mask scandal grows and is said to have an even greater scope than previously assumed. Markus Söder must justify whether he still has his party under control, because the corruption scandal surrounding the procurement of medical masks continues. The focus is now onAndrea Tandler, the daughter of Gerold Tandler, from 1971 to 1978 Secretary General under Franz Josef Strauß. The Federal Minister of Health, Jens Spahn, is under criticism because, according to Der Spiegel, he is said to have been in personal contact with Andrea Tandler. Tandler is said to have raked in over 30 million Euros in commission. The press speaks of clan criminality and corruption.
During the holy month of Ramadan, the Israel-Palestine conflict continues to escalate as Israeli forces raid and shut down Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City, which includes sacred religious sites for Jews, Muslims and Christians, prompting retaliation with rockets by Hamas in the besieged Gaza Strip and an 11-day war that leaves 232 Palestinians and 12 Israelis dead. A live Deutsche Welle interview with Ali Abunimah, a well-known Palestinian-American journalist, is roundly condemned in the major German media. After the interview, the journalist sharply criticized Deutsche Welle. He emphasizes that, through its military, financial, and diplomatic support, Germany bears responsibility for Israel’s “crimes” against the Palestinian people. Deutsche Welle apologizes shortly afterwards for what they refer to as Abunimah’s “anti-Semitism” and “support for terrorism.”
In mid-May, the newspaper Die Welt published a report on the discussion about gender-equitable language in Germany. The article clarifies that the rejection of gender neutral language is growing in Germany. According to a poll conducted by Infratest Dimap in mid-May, the majority of Germans reject the consideration of different genders in language. In German, a present participle construction (“Zuhörende”), gender asterisks or a pause in speech is used to signal gender neutrality. Political parties in Germany also show different attitudes toward gender-equal language: the Greens, who are particularly committed to political correctness, are opposed to gender language by a slim majority (48 percent). Criticism prevails among supporters of all other parties: 57 percent of SPD supporters are against it, 68 percent of CDU/CSU supporters; they are followed by the Left with 72 percent, the FDP with 77 and the AfD with 83 percent disapproval. Gender-equitable language is part of a heated debate in Germany that splits politics as well as citizens.
Germany recognizes the colonial crimes in Namibia as genocide and also announces its willingnis to pay reparations. The German Empire was the colonial power in what was then German Southwest Africa from 1884 to 1915 and brutally put down rebellions. During the Herero and Nama War of 1904 to 1908, mass murder occurred in what is considered the first genocide of the 20th century. Historians estimate that 65,000 of 80,000 Herero and at least 10,000 of 20,000 Nama were killed. Since 2015, the German Foreign Ministry has used the term genocide in reference to these massacres. Now the atrocities are also officially referred to as genocide. In mid-May, the Federal Republic reached an agreement with Namibia that provides for an apology and reparations for the genocide of the Herero and Nama people. At the end of May, the press reports that the planned reparation is rejected by some ethnic groups. Namibia’s biggest daily newspaper The Namibian slams discourse of “reconciliation” as belated and disingenuous, echoes the response of opposition parties in Namibia to the German declaration in its headline on May 28: “German genocide offer ‘an insult’”.
On June 23 Merkel gives her last address to the Bundestag before the final Sommerpause of her tenure, continuing to push for a common asylum policy within the EU, including the Joint European Asylum Agency and increased cooperation between the EU and Turkey as a country of transit for Middle Eastern refugees. She also calls for increased military spending under Germany’s obligations to NATO. Her legacy is heralded in the press as that of an exemplary Krisenmanager.
Bloomberg reports that “Berlin’s local government faces the prospect of being forced to buy out large landlords such as Vonovia SE after activists said they collected enough signatures to get a referendum on the ballot in September”. The initiative “Volksbegehren Deutsche Wohnen & Co” (petition for a referendum) would like to stop a further increase in rents. The movement gained momentum in April when Berlin’s rent freeze was overturned by Germany’s highest court, forcing thousands of tenants to repay rent reduction.
On July 16, the same day Nordrhein-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate and the neighboring nations of Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands suffer from catastrophic flooding, Merkel makes her first state visit to the US under President Biden. At the press conference, Merkel addresses the flooding, Germany and America’s shared geopolitical objectives regarding global vaccinations and climate change, and areas of disagreement including relations with Russia and China. Theseflood disaster are of new proportions. About 100 to 150 liters of rain per square meter fell in parts of the two states within 24 hours. The majority of the water masses pelted down in a short time window of ten to 18 hours. The district of Ahrweiler is particularly affected. The number of dead is assumed to be 180. The disaster triggers discussions about the future of Germany in view of climate change as well as how to deal with risks. In addition, the district administrator of the Ahrweiler district is suspected of negligent homicide. After the flood disaster, the public prosecutor’s office in Koblenz investigates the district administrator because, according to several sources, he had been warned about the flood. According to crisis researchers, Germans have lost the ability to deal with risks and it is essential to think preventively because for the first time it is becoming clear to the majority of Germans that climate change has hit home.
In August, the shortlist for the Leipzig Book Fair Literature Prize is announced. Critics point to the absence of people of color among the nominees. According to author Sibel Schick, it is no longer acceptable for a literature list to categorically exclude the perspectives of minorities, whether intentionally or not. There are extremely talented voices in Germany, especially in recent years: Novels like Identitti by Mithu Sanyal, Adas Raum by Sharon Dodua Otoo, or Asal Dardan’s Reflections of a Barbarian are currently generating a lot of attention and gaining high sales figures.
With the withdrawal of the last U.S. soldiers from Kabul Airport in August 2021, the U.S. and its European allies ended the military mission in Afghanistan after almost 20 years. While Germans are being evacuated because of the rapidly deteriorating situation, Afghans who supported the German military are being left behind. In view of the dire situation of the population in Afghanistan after the Taliban took power, German politicians appeal to Germany’s shared responsibility for NATO’s 2001 invasion and subsequent occupation of Afghanistan. German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, for example, calls the events a “human tragedy” and stresses that the images of despair from Kabul are shameful for the West and also for Germany. Angela Merkel takes a self-critical look at the international military mission in Afghanistan. She says the fight against terrorism “has not succeeded as we set out to do…That is a bitter realization.”
On 10 September President Frank-Walter Steinmeier honors “guest workers of the first generation” in a ceremony to commemorate 60 years of the German-Turkish Recruitment Treaty, speaking against hate, citing the Turkish song Özdemir Erdoğan: “Gurbet” by Özdemir Erdoğan, and officially acknowledging that homeland can be conceived as plural affiliations: “Heimat gibt es im Plural.” He emphasizes that Turkish immigrants have deeply shaped and transformed German society and that Germany is a country with an “immigrant background” – a highly controversial term used to refer to people that immigrated to Germany.
On the electoral lists for the Bundestag, several people identifying as transgender or non-binary are running. Among them is also Tessa Ganserer, she is the first politician in Germany who has come out as a transgender woman during her term of office. On the ballot, however, is still her old name “Markus”, which she discarded more than three years ago. This is painful and hurtful for her, she states in an interview. Ganserer represents the visibility of the transgender and non-binary community and is a role model for the still underrepresented LGBTQ* community in Germany.
Jürgen Habermas reflects on the debate on fundamental rights in the current pandemic situation and asks what duties the principles of a liberal constitution impose on the government during a pandemic and what room for maneuver do they have towards their citizens. Time and again since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been questions in Germany and other democratic countries about encroachment on civil liberties on the one hand and protection against the virus on the other. Habermas discusses the controversies in the debate about the right course of action to combat the pandemic between “defenders of strict preventive measures and advocates of a libertarian course of openness.”
In September, the young journalist Nemi El-Hassan was to broadcast the science format Quarks from Westdeutscher Rundfunk. This announcement then triggered a debate in the German media, in which El-Hassan was accused of anti-Semitism in a pattern that has become more recognizable since the Bundestag voted to ban the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions or BDS movement. In particular, it parallels the witch-hunt against Cameroonian postcolonial theorist Achille Mbembe led by Merkel’s ant-Semitism commissioner Felix Klein in March 2021. The case of El-Hassan had also been set in motion by conservative media and politicians, this time by a report in the Bild newspaper, which reported that the journalist had been at an pro-Palestinian Al-Quds Day demonstration in Berlin several years prior. As a result, El-Hassan had distanced herself from the demonstration in 2014. Subsequently, further accusations were made against El-Hassan regarding statements on the Israel-Palestine conflict, participation in demonstrations, visits to the Imam Ali mosque in Hamburg and activities on social media. The Central Council of Jews in Germany expressed doubts as to whether El-Hassan was suitable as a presenter for WDR and called for the incidents to be investigated more closely. On the other hand, as in the case of Mbembe, numerous personalities from culture, science and the media expressed solidarity with El-Hassan in an open letter. As a result, WDR does not want El-Hassan to host “Quarks”.
On September 22, the Humboldt Forum in Berlin was officially inaugurated with a formal ceremony. Located in the rebuilt Berlin Palace, the Humboldt Forum is a cultural forum and universal museum that is home to the Ethnological Museum Berlin (formerly in Dahlem), the Museum of Asian Art of the State Museums, and the Berlin Exhibition of the City Museum as well as the Humboldt Laboratory of the University. Some art historians, ethnologists and historians have criticized the concept of the Humboldt Forum for years. A major point of criticism is that the ethnographic museum stores and displays stolen objects that originate from the colonial era. It is repeatedly emphasized that looted art must be returned. According to critics, the Humboldt Forum’s failure to address Germany’s colonial history and its responsibility to deprived nations, led to the prominent resignation by Bénédicte Savoy from its advisory board. German Bundespräsident Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie spoke at the opening ceremony. Both speakers pleaded for an honest view of history and the indispensability that the Humboldt Forum actually becomes a forum where debates are held and Germany’s forgotten colonial history is dealt with.
Maria Speth’s documentary Herr Bachmann und seine Klasse was awarded the Berlin Film Festival’s Silver Bear and has been nominated several times for the German Film Award. In the three-and-a-half-hour documentary, the teacher Mr. Bachmann, who is about to retire, and his students are accompanied in their everyday school life. The location of the film is a Hessian Gesamtschule (comprehensive school) in the small town of Stadtallendorf. One of the special features of the film is the interpersonal interactions between students and their teacher. Mr. Bachmann says: “These grades don’t show anything about you at all. They are just snapshots. What’s more important is that you’re all great kids. Great teenagers.”
Also, the cultural makeup of the class is intriguing. Seventy percent of Stadtallendorf’s population has a history of immigration, and nearly 5,000 are of the Muslims faith. Most students come from working-class families. They have, for example, Turkish, Greek, Italian, Bulgarian, Russian or German roots. This diversity is also represented in Mr. Bachmann’s classroom and offers a lot of potential for conflict on the one hand, which is shown again and again in the film, and a sense of shared history and sense of communal experience on the other. The film demonstrates the central role of the teacher in the success of learning and motivation, and the importance of personal interaction, especially with the backdrop of the experience of lockdown and homeschooling during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On October 8, satirist Jan Böhmermann comments on the fact that the AfD is now legally entitled to millions of euros in taxpayer money for its in-house foundation after its second successful Bundestag election result. In his show “ZDF Magazin Royale, Jan Böhmermann dissects the AfD and its Desiderius Erasmus Foundation.
Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn is sticking to his idea of allowing the so-called COVID state of emergency to end on November 25. While he wants to end the state of emergency after 19 months since March 28, 2020, he stresses that the end of the pandemic situation does not mean the end of all measures and a state of special caution is still needed. He says Germany is moving from a state of emergency to a state of special caution.
On October 17, 2021, US journalist Ben Smith writes in the New York Times an investigative and comprehensive report on how Bild editor-in-chief Julian Reichelt created a climate at Bild that mixed sex, journalism and corporate money. The New York Times report voices strong accusations against Reichelt. The allegations include abuse of power, bullying, the exploitation of dependency relationships, sexual misconduct and his relationships with young female employees of the editorial office. The article creates a worldwide stir and media giant Axel Springer is under pressure. One day after the New York Times publication, Springer announces its separation from Reichelt.
On the morning of November 1, 25-year-old Giorgos Zantiotis died in police custody in Wuppertal. He had previously been brutally arrested by several police officers. His sister has reportedly published a video on social media showing him being violently subdued by police while calling out for help. Giorgos Zantiotis is a young Greek worker with German citizenship. His death ignited anger on social media and the streets. Shortly after the announcement of Zantiotis’ death, demonstrations are held against police violence.
Austria imposes a new nationwide lockdown on people not fully vaccinated against the coronavirus or recently recovered from the disease. The decision comes as the country deals with its highest rates of infection since the pandemic began. Also fighting with high infection rates, Germany considers full lockdown and imposes new restrictions for the unvaccinated.
In his column in the conservative weekly Focus, Ahmad Mansour, executive director of the Mansour-Initiative für Demokratieförderung und Extremismusprävention, an organization that purports to prevent the spread of fundamentalist Islam in Germany, discusses racism as a universal problem, which he claims has been hijacked by “fringe groups.” He explores the power structures in the discourse on racism in Germany. He argues that so-called “identity politics” represents a dualistic worldview, which divides the population into minorities and majorities. According to Mansour, this framework infantilizes minorities and claims interpretive sovereignty over the discourse of racism. The problem, he says, is that it faces little resistance from established institutions, such as the Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung or federal government policy. He laments that the cabinet committee for combating right-wing extremism and racism is developing extensive measures at the expense of the fight against Islamism and racism among minorities, which in his opinion follows precisely this identity politics logic. His article is one of the more nuanced examples of the backlash to the perceived excesses of cultural liberalism among the media establishment and general population in Germany, including the concern that a new, politically correct form of intolerance against the majority can arise in the name of tolerance.
Citizens of Berlin have voted in favor of expropriating large housing corporations, but Berlin’s governing “red-red-green” coalition of Social Democrats, Greens, and the Left Party is hesitating. According to Die Zeit, the initiators of the initiative see a failure to implement the demands of the most successful referendum in Berlin’s history as an attack on direct democracy. There is still a great controversy about the referendum on the expropriation of large real estate companies. Berlin’s top Left Party candidate Klaus Lederer has announced another referendum if a law for the expropriation of large housing companies is not passed under the new coalition. According to Lederer, the Left Party is the only party that is seriously fighting for the socialization of housing. He stresses that his party will not simply abandon this project. 59.1 percent of voters had voted for expropriation in the referendum on September 26. During the coalition negotiations, the SPD, the Greens and the Left agreed to first appoint a commission of experts to examine the implementation and to give it one year to do so. The initiative “Deutsche Wohnen und Co enteignen” had recently made demands for the composition of this expert commission. Thus, exactly 59.1 percent of the members should represent the urban society. Representatives of the real estate and finance industry should not belong to the commission, according to the activists. Overall, the project is controversial among the SPD and the Greens, while the Left Party was the only one of the three parties to speak out in favor of expropriation.
Angela Merkel leaves office with Großer Zapfenstreich on Dezember 2. Her choice of songs played by Stabsmusikkorps includes punk singer Nina Hagen’s 1974 “Du hast den Farbfilm vergessen”. Her song choice was widely covered in the inernatonal press.
Olaf Scholz is the ninth Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany. President Steinmeier appointed the SPD politician as Angela Merkel’s successor.
During his inaugural visit to Poland in mid-December, Chancellor Olaf Scholz stressed the importance of good neighborly relations. Olaf Scholz and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki discuss the political treatment of refugees at the Polish-Belarusian border. Der Spiegel reports that Scholz also assured the Polish government of support in the dispute over refugees in the border region with Belarus. Scholz says the actions of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko are “inhumane.” The EU accuses Lukashenko of deliberately smuggling refugees to the Polish-Belarusian border and using people who have fled as human shields. Neither Der Spiegel nor other media report on the devastating conditions at the Polish-Belarusian border. Still, refugees are stuck and suffering from harsh weather conditions.
According to media reports, former Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz will work for German-American technology investor Peter Thiel in the future. The 35-year-old has confirmed that he will work as a “global strategist” for Thiel Capital in California from the first quarter, Austrian news outlets Kronenzeitung and Heute reported on Thursday, citing Kurz. A native of Frankfurt, Thiel was one of the founders of online payment service PayPal and the first outside investor in Facebook (now Meta). He is considered politically conservative and is among the supporters of former U.S. President Donald Trump. Kurz had resigned as Austria’s chancellor in early October over persistent allegations of corruption and had withdrawn from all political posts in early December.
In late December, Deutsche Welle reports that some anti-vaxxers are taking drastic steps to escape vaccination, with vaccine-hesitant Germans emigrating to far-right colonies in North and South America. For example, more than 1000 Germans emigrated to Paraguay in 2021.