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#72: Car-free flop, Victory Day, oil problem, Tesla
A commission starts to look into that property referendum
Dear 20 Percent!
Me (a recovering ex-car owner) and The Guardian were salivating at the prospect of a car-free Berlin tantalisingly held under our noses by Volksentscheid Berlin autofrei, a citizens’ initiative to rid the inner city of most private automobiles via referendum.
Not gonna happen. Not in Autoland Deutschland.
The city administration says the planned petition (the first step towards getting a referendum on the ballot) for a virtually car-free zone within the dog’s head-shaped S-Bahn ring is legally inadmissible, reports public broadcaster RBB. It allegedly violates the Grundgesetz (the German constitution) as well as the constitution of Berlin, according to a statement by the interior department. Green transport minister Bettina Jarasch was also opposed, saying it would simply make traffic in outer areas worse. She added that combustion engines would be banned from within the ring by 2030 anyway.
Oh well. Even though I moved to the city in 1999 and should know better, the idea is still stuck in my head that Berlin is this “radical” place where fantastical, grand transformations can occur.
Another such project was the referendum to force corporate landlords to sell thousands of flats back to the city. This has now been delegated to a commission but I wouldn’t bet on its success. More on that and other news below.
Have a good week!
P.S. For the first time in months, the official corona traffic light signalling the Covid hospitalization rate has turned green (scroll down). 👏👏👏
The Berlin corona stats for Tuesday, May 10
Received booster: 60.8% (60.7% Friday)
New cases in one day: 2,797 (2,187 Friday)
Total deaths: 4,525 (+16 over Friday)
🔴 7-day Covid-19 incidence (cases per 100,000): 350.0 (369.9 Friday)
🔴 7-day hospitalization incidence (also per 100,000): 10.3 (10.3 Friday)
🟢 Covid-19 ICU patient occupancy: 4.7% (5.5% Friday)
Source: Berlin’s corona page
Victory Day demos, scuffles
Hundreds of Russians, many holding pictures of relatives who fought in World War II, gathered at the Brandenburg Gate Monday for the Red Army remembrance march. Victory in Europe Day, the day Nazi Germany capitulated in 1945, is commemorated on May 8 in Western Europe, but it is celebrated on May 9 in former Soviet countries. Due to the war in Ukraine, tensions were high at the Soviet Memorial in Tiergarten. Police had to break up several fights between Russians and Ukrainians, according to Berliner Zeitung. A Berlin court had banned Soviet, Russian and Ukrainian flags and military songs at the events, though a judge permitted a three-person demonstration to display Ukrainian symbols outside the Karlshorst Museum, the site where the Wehrmacht surrendered 77 years ago.
Property commission convenes
Seven months after the successful Disappropriate Deutsche Wohnen & Co. referendum, a 13-member expert commission met for the first time Friday. Ten members were chosen by the Berlin administration — the Senat — and three by the Disappropriate Deutsche Wohnen & Co. initiative. According to the referendum, which was supported by 59.1 percent of voters last September, Berlin must consider forcing large corporate landlords to sell large swaths of their residential properties to the city. The referendum is non-binding and the mayor, Fransiska Giffey (SPD), opposes the policy but set up the commission to assess its feasibility. Commission chair Herta Däubler-Gmelin (SPD) said they were making their own website (imagine, their very own website!) and planning a public hearing for June 9. We’ll keep you up to speed (not difficult at the speed they’re moving).
Habeck visits Russian-owned refinery
Speaking before workers at the PCK oil refinery in Schwedt to the northeast of Berlin, German economy minister Robert Habeck (Die Grüne), outlined the government’s plan to keep the facility running and protect jobs despite the coming EU phase-out of Russian oil. The refinery would stop sourcing its oil via a Russian pipeline and would be supplied by oil from elsewhere in the world via tanker ships docking at German ports. The government was also trying to come up with legal ways of taking control of the plant which is owned by Rosneft and supplies the Berlin-Brandenburg region with 90 percent of its petrol, diesel, jet fuel and heating oil. Rosneft is owned by the Russian state and, awkwardly, the company’s board is headed by former German chancellor and Putin-pal Gerhard Schröder (SPD).
Tesla wants to expand - and cut down more trees
The electric car factory in Brandenburg is hoping to build a cargo rail station and warehouses on its premises, which would require buying and clearcutting a further 100 hectares of neighbouring forest. Environmentalists are not amused. Christiane Schröder, head of the local chapter of NGO Nabu, called the plan a “catastrophe” for the ecology of what is actually an official water protection area. Michael Ganschow, of another NGO, Grüne Liga, believes the regional water utility will object to the expansion. Critics says the factory already uses too much groundwater in one of Germany’s dryest regions.
Take your pet to church
Once upon a time, there was the Neukölln Pet Parade. A weird and wonderful event which last took place in 2008. This Sunday, however, you can bring your pooch to church at an open air service in Alt-Staaken, a village-like neighbourhood of Spandau. Sounds pretty dog-centric, but all species are welcome.
In April, just 69.1 percent of long-distance ICE and Intercity trains were “on time”, according to Deutsche Bahn. That’s the worst they’ve been since 2015. Lateness is defined as being more than 6 minutes behind schedule. A spokesperson blamed track work and corona-related border checks.
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