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#157: CDU/SPD, New Years in court, Oder report
Who's this Ernst Thälmann guy?
Hey 20 Percent!
A former boss of mine once said journalists are the first historians because we write the first take on history. Granted, he was a Boomer and prone to Boomer narcissm but it at least explains why us journalists get so excited when something historic happens — like the center-left SPD losing the Berlin mayor slot after nearly 22 years.
Both the conservative CDU and the SPD Thursday agreed to enter talks to form Berlin’s next government — as predicted by this newsletter. Since the CDU got more votes in February’s Re-election©, they’ll be the senior partner and get to anoint their big cheese, Kai Wegner, as our next mayor. The only other CDU mayor of a post-Wall Berlin was Eberhard Diepgen, who resigned in 2001 amid a banking scandal that left then-struggling Berlin deeply indebted.
The new coalition, which Germans love to call a “Grand Coalition” because it has Germany’s two traditionally largest parties, would end the six-year reign of a three-way coalition between the SPD, the leftist Die Linke and the environmental Die Grüne. The trio had enough votes to continue their work but the SPD now says it hated working with Die Grüne, who just got in the way. Die Grüne are surprised by the accusations and Berlin media seem to have all but forgotten Die Linke.
Current mayor Franziska Giffey (SPD) will supposedly become a Super Senator of traffic and urban development. That’s important because it likely means an almost immediate end to car-free Friedrichstraße and the death of the Deutsche Wohnen Enteignen initiative, which would have forced major corporate landlords to sell all of their portfolios above 3,000 Berlin apartments to the city-state.
Giffey always hated it and the CDU, well, there’s not words to describe their disdain for it. SPD members still have to approve the coalition. If the coalition happens, it will also affect the SPD-led national government because it will give the CDU an even larger blocking vote in Germany’s upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat, which is made up of the leaders of this country’s 16 states.
A Grand Coalition governing Berlin isn’t new — we had one from 1991 to 2001 and then again from 2011 to 2016. However, they were usually led by the SPD, not the CDU.
But enough geeking out about Berlin politics. Have a nice weekend y’all!
What the CDU wants
So what is the CDU going to do as senior partner? The CDU wants Berlin police officers to use bodycams and for the city-state to continue offering a €29 monthly ticket for AB, according to the Tagesspiegel. It also wants to reinstitute the last year of daycare as Vorschule, or preschool, where kids begin getting used to the school regimen — it was done away with over a decade ago because kids were arriving at school with different levels of preparedness, making the first year of school more difficult. The party says it also wants to continue transitioning to more environmentally friendly traffic, but including — rather than de-emphasizing — the car (😢). The party also made a nod to the Deutsche Wohnen & Co. Enteignen initiative, saying it had to take the concerns of renters seriously and would introduce a rent register to increase transparency. Also, it’s promising to modernize Berlin bureaucracy.
The New Years that won’t end
The first two cases of New Years Eve violence have finally reached the courts, according to RBB24, with both a 16- and a 22-year old accused of attacking police in Prenzlauer Berg and Gesundbrunnen, respectively. About another 130 cases are still being reviewed, either by prosecutors or police. Cops actually expect a total of 150 charges to be lodged from the chaos, which included launching fireworks at emergency vehicles and the arson of at least one bus. The violence sparked a debate about racism when members of Berlin’s CDU asked for the first names of the suspects to determine their ethnicity and, well, that’s pretty much the definition of racism. Since I happened to be at the intersection as the 16-year-old was arrested, I can attest to the fact that he looked — and behaved — like someone who would be the son of a Berlin CDU member.
What killed the fish in the Oder?
A massive fish die-off last summer caused by a concentration of salt in the Oder River east of Berlin (basically the border with Poland) was caused by coal miners near the Polish city of Katowice, Tagesschau reported citing a Greenpeace study. The extra salt led to an algae bloom that killed off most of the fish and other aquatic life in the river, which empties into the Baltic Sea. Scientists discovered that the amount of salt in the river was much lower before tributaries that drain the mines spilled into the Oder. Mines on both sides of the border are a large water source as groundwater is pumped out alongside the extraction of coal and other minerals.
Former German Communist leader and World War I veteran Ernst Thälmann was arrested on this day in 1933 after Adolf Hitler ascended to the top of the German government. Thälmann was imprisoned for 11 years until he was shot in 1944 in the Buchenwald concentration camp. He is remembered in Berlin by the towering statue in the Prenzlauer Berg park named after him.
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