• Germany edition
 
Interview with The Local
'Berlin is change, Berlin is the place to be'
Photo: DPA

'Berlin is change, Berlin is the place to be'

Published: 13 Sep 2011 17:06 GMT+02:00
Updated: 13 Sep 2011 17:06 GMT+02:00

In charge of Germany's largest city for the past ten years, Wowereit's centre-left Social Democrats appear unlikely to continue their alliance with the socialist party The Left (Die Linke).

Though the affable politician has often faced criticism for how he has governed the heavily-indebted city, he still has a commanding lead over his closest rivals - the conservative Christian Democrats and environmentalist Greens - and looks set to be able to take his pick of coalition partners after the vote on Sunday.

In an exclusive interview with The Local, Wowereit discussed the challenges facing Berlin and why he thinks he deserves a third term.

Which important questions are facing Berlin at the moment, what is the most important challenge and which answers can you suggest?

The central themes are the further development of the city as an economic centre, and social cohesion. The strategy of concentrating on promoting the cooperation of science and research on the one hand with business and companies on the other, as in the Berlin-Adlershof technology park, has proven itself even during the economic and financial crisis.

That is the way to bring value creation into the city, to create new and lasting jobs and finally, to increase the income for the city’s coffers. The biggest project in our region, the new airport BBI, is well on its way – we will open it in 2012 and it will create around 40,000 jobs.

When you meet Berliners what are the most frequent requests they make to you?

At the moment safety plays a particular role. We are putting more police officers on the streets and particularly at the moment, in underground and (commuter train) S-Bahn stations currently seen as problematic.

Berliners very often justifiably complain about the S-Bahn, which has lost much of its former legendary capacity due to the policies of Deutsche Bahn, which are oriented towards privatising the railway. I also want to say that many people who I meet on the street are in total satisfied with our policies.

How can Berlin’s unique character be best unified with its future – do they not clash with each other?

There is no clash – just the opposite! Variety is the trademark and the attraction of our city. The whole city profits from the mix of people who come from all countries, from young and creative people who feel comfortable here with us, and for whom Berlin is the place to be.

Think of factors which are relevant to the economy such as the young fashion exhibitions associated with the Bread & Butter, or the design and art scene. Apart from that, tourism is ever more important for our city. And it is exactly for the unique character of the city which radiates internationally, and which is why people come here to us.

How can a poor city like Berlin afford to keep green empty spaces, large development projects and transport improvements such as getting the S-Bahn back on track?

What you are referring to are examples of the changes taking place in the city. Some things disappear because it is developing anew. Berlin is a city of change. That is inevitable if the people in our city are to have a secure livelihood in the future and if we want to effect social justice.

We need investment and modern infrastructure for this. For this is it sometimes necessary to consolidate at the cost of green spaces but generally this is compensated for elsewhere. Berlin still needs change, it cannot stagnate. I stand for that.

If you could implement something without taking notice of cost or the necessary political support, what would it be?

I would immediately, and with one stroke of the pen, eliminate our debt mountain of more than €60 billion.

What does it say about Germany that the city government in Berlin is a completely different colour as that of the federal government? What kind of tensions between the capital city and the federal government does this give rise to?

It says that we have efficient federalism and that we are developing sensible policies for Berlin. The federal and Berlin governments have a good working relationship.

Tourism in Berlin is an important economic factor – do you see the danger is that the city could in the future be branded as anti-tourist?

I think that is a temporary apparition, perhaps down to the election campaigns of our Berlin parties. I consider what the Greens have been doing is completely stupid and dangerous, although I don’t deny there have been excesses here and there. But one can deal with those individually, and that is happening. Most Berliners are cosmopolitan and welcoming to guests. Xenophobia has no place in Berlin.

Do you see a danger that as Berlin develops into a more normal city by international standards, it will be unable to avoid also developing the typical problems of a big city such as violence, muggings and poverty? What can you do against this?

We have sinking crime figures overall – one must keep that in mind, also if the subjective feeling of individuals can suggest a very different impression. I take that seriously and we are doing something about it.

How important do you think the introduction of a possible dual citizenship is in relation to the promotion of integration and as a draw for foreign workers?

It is no accident that we have not been having a debate about dual citizenship for a long time. The German job market is now open for workers from nearly all European Union states. The citizenship of an EU state endows very wide-reaching equality. One must add to that a comprehensive minimum wage and unified social standards across the EU. Apart from that, I am in favour of Turkey’s entry to the EU in the long term.

Why are the Greens doing so well in the polls? Could you imagine a Red-Green or even a Green-Red state government after the vote on Sunday?

These are snapshots, which are very much affected by federal political developments. When Berliners stand in the polling booths they will decide for dependability and continuity. I am sure of that. My aim is that a strong SPD takes on the leadership of the city.

Where are the Greens in your opinion, in relation to the state politics of Berlin?

Well behind the social democrats.

Hannah Cleaver (hannah.cleaver@thelocal.de)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

20:17 September 13, 2011 by ovalle3.14
Bielefeld is the place to be.
22:36 September 13, 2011 by AbhilashD
I lived in Berlin for 9 months. One of the best cities ever. I lived in Munich for a year. One of the best cities ever. Berlin trumps Munich for me though, for an adventure. Munich trumps Berlin for wholesome life and quality.

I will be moving to Bielefeld this October, ovalle3.14. LOL. That should be quite a contrast, eh?
07:14 September 14, 2011 by _JD
What a light-weight interview!

This could have been a big chance for 'The Local' to do some real journalism and not just summarize stories.

Why no mention of rising rents and the accompanying displacement - the #1 issue for everyone I know?
22:45 September 14, 2011 by puisoh
He's so cool and confident, so inconventional as a politician. Would be great if he would run for Chancellor. Wish he isn't gay but he is a damn good one at it, love the way he bitched about the Pope's visit in previous report.
14:15 September 15, 2011 by MrJones321
what a lightweight interview. This sounds like conservative Fox News:

"How can a poor city like Berlin afford to keep green empty spaces, large development projects and transport improvements such as getting the S-Bahn back on track?"

first the developer-speak: "afford to keep green empty spaces" - what?! Where is the problem here in having green spaces -- that is what the city is famous for and it doesn't cost.

then "large development projects" as if this is equal to green, empty spaces in discussion points? You mean, speculation projects that don't rent out afterwards for correct prices, or what.

finally "transport improvements" regarding the S-Bahn - these are not improvements, these are repairs that HIS administration did not oversee the upkeep of. Any real city woudl have gotten rid of him. IF he was a real mayor, with a real staff, there would have been correct oversight and REPAIRS done (this is Germany after all, only this is Berlin so its opposite land) or a warning that this isn't going to work. All he did was dismissed haughtily as he always does with "so what, people can walk".
15:27 September 17, 2011 by ChuChu
In the gutter I hope! Bielefeld?? Yes THAT is what Berlin is famous for...so sad...we already have Turkey in Berlin so what is he talking about..he would welcome Turkey into the EU in THE FUTURE? hahahahaha what little people have to say for themselves ...oh welllllll he does not have future generations from his personal line that will have to live in a future Berlin...for him it is just the present but people with future generations that they have to think about...we will see what the Berliners give us this time...Piep Piep
Today's headlines
Lufthansa to resume Tel Aviv flights
A Lufthansa flight at Ben Gurion International Airport. Photo: DPA

Lufthansa to resume Tel Aviv flights

UPDATE: German flag carrier Lufthansa said Friday evening it would resume flights to and from Tel Aviv on Saturday after a four-day suspension due to the conflict in the Gaza strip. READ  

Pro-Gaza, Israel marches choke city centres
Protesters gather in Berlin on Friday. Photo: DPA

Pro-Gaza, Israel marches choke city centres

UPDATE: Pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli demonstrators marched in Berlin and other cities on Friday's International Quds Day, as thousands of police stood ready to deal with excesses, including anti-Semitism that had marred earlier protests. READ  

Finders, keepers for Berlin cash hunt
Money will be hidden around Berlin. Photo: @HiddenCash/Twitter

Finders, keepers for Berlin cash hunt

A California millionaire, who became an internet phenomenon by hiding cash and tweeting hints about its location, is bringing the frenzy to Germany this weekend. READ  

'Police killer' confesses to shooting officer
Officers searching a field on Thursday near the scene of the killing. Photo: DPA

'Police killer' confesses to shooting officer

UPDATE: A suspect has been arrested following the killing of an off-duty police officer in western Germany on Wednesday night. The shooting sparked a large manhunt near Frankfurt on Thursday. READ  

German tourist shot dead in Kenya
Two foreign tourists were murdered in Mombasa this month. Photo: DPA

German tourist shot dead in Kenya

Kenyan police said on Friday a female tourist shot dead in the coastal city of Mombasa was from Germany, the second such killing of a foreign visitor by gunmen there this month. READ  

Firms would back Russia sanctions '100 percent'
Flowers laid to the victims of the MH17 plane crash at the Korporaal van Oudheusdenkazerne army barracks in Hilversum, The Netherlands. Photo: EPA/JERRY LAMPEN

Firms would back Russia sanctions '100 percent'

German industry would support "100 percent" tougher sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine crisis, the chairman of a major business lobby said on Friday. READ  

Expat Dispatches
What do you love about Germany?
Photo: DPA

What do you love about Germany?

This week's Expat Dispatches is gathering a lengthy list of everything we love about Germany. Blogger and writer Liv Hambrett starts with her reasons why she loves the country. READ  

BSkyB to launch pan-European pay-TV giant
The Murdoch media empire is rolling out a vast new pay-TV network through Europe. Photo: DPA

BSkyB to launch pan-European pay-TV giant

UPDATE: Rupert Murdoch's media empire 21st Century Fox has struck a mega deal with British satellite television group BSkyB to create a pan-European pay-TV giant, both companies said on Friday. READ  

German of the Week
Should we all get €12,000 a year?
Martin Bohmeyer has not worked for money in six months. Photo: DPA

Should we all get €12,000 a year?

What would happen if everyone was suddenly paid €1,000 a month with no strings attached? "Let's try it," says Michael Bohmeyer, who raised the money through crowdfunding and will now experiment with the idea of a basic income for one year. READ  

Robber fails because he can't speak German
Communication is key for cops and robbers alike: Photo: DPA

Robber fails because he can't speak German

An armed robber fled a Berlin supermarket empty-handed in frustration over his lack of German language skills. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
instagram.com/gotzemario
Gallery
Germany's World Cup stars share their holiday photos
Travel
Plans unveiled for bike trail along former Iron Curtain
Photo: DPA
Sport
Yoga helped Jogi's boys bring World Cup home
Photo: DPA
National
Pressure on police over anti-Semitic protests
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The Local List: 12 best words in German
Photo: DPA
Politics
View from Germany: 'Nobody will win in an economic war with Russia'
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
Jobtalk: How innovative is Germany?
Photo: DPA
Gallery
German Bucket List: How many of these can you tick off?
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Germany's week in pictures: July 12th - July 18th
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
Which workers is Germany short of?
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Ten best expat jobs in Germany: Which one would you choose?
Photo: Europeana.de 1914 - 1918
Gallery
A German soldier's life behind WWI lines
Photo: Shutterstock
Features
Some of the most embarrassing mistakes you can make in German
Education
Raising the bar for law & business in Germany
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
Photo: DPA
Features
The Local List Archive - Your guide to all things German
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Sponsored Article
CurrencyFair: Why it pays when making overseas transfers
Sponsored Article
Bilingual school turning education on its head
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,295
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd