#156: Ukraine demos, Hermannplatz, Kazakh oil, northern lights
More hurdles to becoming German
Northern lights were visible in Brandenburg Sunday night.
Hey 20 Percent,
Strange sights in the Brandenburg skies — stranger things in Berlin’s coalition talks: still-mayor Franziska Giffey has said she could see a path to a continuation of her SPD-Grüne-Linke (red-green-red) coalition following the February do-over election.
According to the official count, Giffey’s SPD received 53 more votes than the Greens, which would give her the mayor’s seat, if the coalition were continued.
Die Linke has made turning the result of the “expropriate Deutsche Wohnen” referendum into policy a condition of continuing the coalition. 20% Berlin readers will remember that Berliners voted in favour of a forced state takeover of most of the Berlin assets of large private housing firms back in September 2021.
Amazingly, Giffey, who has always opposed a state buy-back of thousands of flats, said Monday, “a path has been worked out that we believe can be a viable path.”
This would be a radical departure from Giffey’s generally centrist instincts. Will she adopt a controversial, slightly anti-capitalist policy to keep the top job? Or will she accept a demotion and a less sexy post in a grand coalition with Kai Wegner’s CDU (which actually won the most votes)? The plot thickens.
More news below.
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Two Ukraine demos
On Friday, an estimated 12,000 people showed up for a “Stand with Ukraine” march between Karl-Marx-Allee and Brandenburg Gate. Then on Saturday a demo opposing weapons deliveries to Ukraine, organised by Die Linke politician Sahra Wagenknecht and feminist publisher Alice Schwarzer drew about 10,000 people. Wagenknecht and Schwarzer have been widely criticised for allegedly naively playing into Putin’s hands - and on Monday Wagenknecht came under massive fire for saying during a TV chat show that the rape of Ukrainian women was just part of war. According to a poll by YouGov, 40 percent of Germans say Germany is providing too much military aid to Ukraine.
Borough mayors want you to be German
Several borough heads complained to Tagesspiegel about a call to stop processing new citizenship applications until a new centralized office opens next year. The politicians say the idea asks them to not do their jobs, which include processing citizenship applications. The city has a backlog of 21,725 applications with just 5,000 expected to be processed this year — they’re currently handled by individual borough offices. A group working to establish the new naturalization office at the Ausländerbehörde next year said boroughs should not only stop processing new applications but should also not offer initial consultations on the process. A speaker for Berlin’s interior department said it hadn’t called on boroughs to stop processing new applications but to instead focus on dealing with those already submitted. Despite their supposed interest in processing applications, several boroughs say on their web sites that they aren’t offering consultations, at least temporarily, and will only accept applications by mail.
Oil from Kazakhstan
To keep the PCK refinery in the Brandenburg town of Schwedt up and running despite a ban on Russian crude oil, oil from Kazakhstan is now supplying the plant via the Druzhba pipeline. The pipeline crosses vast amounts of Russian territory, meaning Russia still earns transit fees on the oil. PCK is also receiving oil from non-Russian sources via the ports of Rostock and Gdansk. The Berlin region is highly dependent on PCK, which supplies us with most of our gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.
Will the Hermannplatz redevelopment happen?
According to taz, Austrian property developer Signa’s big plans to remodel and expand the Karstadt department store on Hermannplatz in Neukölln could be derailed by a suggestion coming out of the city’s office for historical preservation: listing the current 1950s version of the store as historical architecture worthy of preservation. Signa wants to re-vamp the building in the Art Deco style of the original 1929 store that was destroyed in the war. The plan is opposed by activists and politicians who say the refurbishment would trigger a massive wave of gentrification around Hermannplatz. Signa has countered criticism with an updated plan that promises to take into account the needs of local people.
Monday was the 90th anniversary of the infamous Reichstag fire on February 27, 1933. The blaze presented a golden opportunity for Hitler, who had been made chancellor four weeks earlier. When the Dutch communist Marinus van der Lubbe confessed to the arson attack, the way was paved for legislation that gave Hitler dictatorial powers and allowed him to begin his brutal crackdown on communists and other political opponents. A body believed to be that of van der Lubbe was exhumed from a Leipzig cemetery in January in hopes of proving the body’s identity and also hoping to help answer the question of whether the Reichstag fire was a false flag by Hitler sympathizers to curry support or a deliberate act of terrorism.
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