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ELECTION

Hamburg vote could forge ‘black-green’ alliance

The convoluted results of Sunday's state elections in Hamburg could alter Germany's political landscape with the country's first ever conservative-Greens coalition.

Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrat party (CDU) may be willing to create a “black-green” coalition with the left-leaning Green party in Hamburg. Sunday’s election yielded a victory for the CDU, but the party lost its parliamentary majority. Meanwhile the party’s traditional coalition partner, the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP), didn’t win enough votes to earn any parliamentary seats.

After his victory at the polls on Sunday, Hamburg Mayor Ole von Beust (CDU) discussed a new party openness to a partnership at a party meeting in Berlin on Monday. Beust said Chancellor Merkel and other party leaders had given him their approval.

Some Greens were optimistic about the possibility at a Monday committee meeting in Berlin. “It’s not about gaining governmental oversight at any price, but achieving political change,” said party leader Claudia Roth at the meeting. “We aren’t majority leaders, but we want our fundamental ideas to take hold in the government.”

But another Green party leader, Reinhard Bütikofer, was more skeptical during an interview on German public radio station Deutschlandfunk, citing controversial public school policies as an example of the many differences a coalition would need to overcome.

A “black-green” alliance, a nickname which refers to the party colors of the CDU and the Greens, would be the first of its kind for German state-level politics. The two parties are traditional adversaries, but in Hamburg it appears they may be able to find common ground now that the FDP is no longer a possible CDU partner. A coalition between The Greens and the CDU is the next best option for both parties as they face the growing popularity of The Left party, a development that complicates traditional party boundaries across the German political landscape.

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POLITICS

How successful was Germany’s latest ‘Warning Day’?

For Germany's second emergency 'Warning Day' Thursday, all cell phones were set to sound off at 11am, but many stayed silent. Here's the verdict from the country's latest attempt to check its emergency systems.

How successful was Germany's latest 'Warning Day'?

Using so-called cell broadcast technology for the first time, all cell phone users in Germany with a German phone number were to receive a blaring emergency notification for the second Warntag (warning day). This was to test how well they would be alerted to an actual urgent situation, such as flash flooding or a blackout.

The technology sends out alerts regardless of the phone provider or if a person is signed up for them. Even if their phone is switched to silent mode, phone users receive a loud buzzing notification that’s hard to ignore.

READ ALSO: All cell phone users in Germany to be part of disaster ‘warning day’

But on Thursday at 11 am that was not the case for everyone.

According to initial information from the BKK, many Telekom customers in particular did not receive the warnings.

Another warning day is already planned for September of next year, in what will now be an annual test.

Deactivated test warnings in the phones’ system settings could also be a reason for the phones remaining silent. Many older models, such as the iPhone 6 or devices with Android 10, are also unable to use cell broadcast.

But the day was still deemed a “success”, according to BKK President Ralph Tiesler in a statement.

“According to preliminary findings, the nationwide Warning Day 2022 was a success!” said Tiesler. “The interaction of the individual systems has worked and people have become aware of the important topic of warnings. It is still too early for conclusive results. 

“We will now evaluate the feedback and thus be able to further optimize the systems. There’s still room for improvement.”

Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) called the test “an important step” in improving how well people in Germany are protected in an emergency. 

People around Germany can also chime in with how well the test worked – or didn’t – using an official survey: https://warntag-umfrage.de/

Other warnings 

Even the warning apps Katwarn or NINA didn’t show an alert for all users, or only did 20 minutes past the 11am deadline.

Around Germany sirens sounded off, billboards flashed warnings at train stations and, in some communities, emergency vehicles drove through the streets broadcasting the test warning.

But some cities – including larger ones like Berlin – stayed particularly silent as they are not yet connected to a Modular Warning System. 

Berlin was also set to have 400 sirens installed by the end of 2022, although only 20 of them had been installed by August, according to the Tagesspiegel.

The importance of reliable warning systems was highlighted by the flood disaster in Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia in July 2021, when people were not informed in time of the impending danger. Afterwards, a broad debate arose on how this could be improved.

Amid an energy crisis and war within Europe, many people are also hypervigilant about what Germany would do in the event of a wide-reaching emergency.

For previous emergencies, local authorities have relied upon sirens, loudspeaker announcements or radio and TV bulletins to warn residents of acute danger or issue evacuation orders.

There are also smartphone apps to keep users up to date on extreme weather in their area.

But Bild newspaper condemned the “failure” to take early action during the mass flooding in 2021.

“The sirens stayed quiet in plenty of places, very few alerts were issued,” it wrote, labelling the deadly flooding that followed “a disaster for civil protection, one of the state’s most essential jobs”.

The first countywide Warning Day took place in September 2020, without cell broadcast notifications, and was widely considered an abject failure. In the aftermath of the test, authorities were criticised for failing to learn from the issues they had experienced in time for the floods in 2021. 

READ ALSO: Germany questions warning system after flood catastrophe

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