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IMMIGRATION

More Greeks, Spanish moving to Germany

Immigration to Germany rose by 15 percent in the first half of the year, thanks to an influx of people from European countries hit hard by the eurozone crisis, official figures showed on Thursday.

More Greeks, Spanish moving to Germany
Photo: DPA

Germany registered about 500,000 new arrivals between January and June, while 318,000 people left, preliminary figures from the federal statistics office Destatis showed.

Most – about 306,000 – of the immigrants came from other European Union member states marking a 24-percent increase of newcomers from the bloc.

“The most interesting aspect during the first half of 2012 is the sharp rise in immigration from EU countries particularly affected by the financial crisis,” Destatis said in a statement.

The number of people migrating to Germany from Greece was up by 78 percent, with 6,900 more arriving than during the same period last year. The increase was 53 percent for both Spain and Portugal.

However, most of the people arriving came from central Europe, with Poland, which although an EU member, does not belong to the eurozone, in the top spot with 89,000 people.

As the number of new arrivals to Germany increases, adult education centres and Goethe Institute facilities across the country have been faced with a flood of well-educated people from southern and eastern Europe seeking to learn German.

Many analysts feel the trend is a positive development, particularly in light of the demographic challenges facing Germany.

The German economy, which has fared relatively well during three years of crisis in Europe, recorded a 20-percent jump in immigration in 2011 compared to the year before, leading its population to grow for the first time in eight years despite a low birthrate.

Steffen Kröhnert, a social scientist at the Berlin Institute for Population and Development, said the number of people living in Germany actually fell by about 800,000 people between 2002 and 2010. He also pointed to the lack of qualified young Germans entering the workforce, against the backdrop of an ageing population.

“Immigrants fill these gaps,” he said, adding that many sectors are in need of people to take on apprenticeships. “Young people from Spain and Greece can be specifically recruited for that.”

Gunilla Fincke, who has served as the chairwoman of the Expert Council of German Foundations on Integration and Migration (SVR), said workers from crisis-hit European countries had taken advantage of the open labour market to find work in countries with better economic conditions.

“Everyone benefits from it: Germany can help reduce the shortage of skilled personnel in certain sectors, and EU citizens find work and take the pressure off the labour market in their homeland,” she said.

Other experts said there was little reason to fear that German workers would be displaced by new arrivals from Greece and elsewhere. “We are well equipped to absorb these workers,” said Herbert Brücker from the Institute for Employment Research (IAB) in Nuremberg.

Germany, Europe’s top economy, fully opened up its labour market to other EU members in 2011.

AFP/DPA/The Local/arp

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TRAVEL NEWS

What we know so far about Berlin’s follow-up to the €9 ticket

After weeks of debate, Berlin has settled on a new budget ticket to replace the €9 ticket for a limited time. Here's what know about the travel deal so far.

What we know so far about Berlin's follow-up to the €9 ticket

So Berlin’s getting a new €9 ticket? Cool!

Kind of. Last Thursday, the Berlin Senate agreed to implement a €29 monthly ticket from October 1st until December 31st this year. 

It’s designed to bridge the gap between the end of the €9 ticket deal and the introduction of a new national transport deal that’s due to come into force by January 2023.

The Senate still hasn’t fleshed out the details in a written decision yet, so some aspects of the ticket aren’t clear, but we do know a few things about how it’ll work. For €29 a month, people can get unlimited travel on all modes of public transport in Berlin transport zones A and B. That means buses, trains and trams are all covered – but things like taxis aren’t. 

Wait – just zones A and B. Why’s that?

One of the sticking points in planning the new ticket was the fact that neighbouring state Brandenburg was reluctant to support the idea. Franziska Giffey (SPD), the governing mayor of Berlin, had annoyed her neighbours and surprised her own coalition partners by suddenly pitching the idea at the end of August – shortly before the €9 ticket was due to expire.

At the time, the disgruntled Brandenburg state premier Dietmar Woidke (SPD) complained about the lack of advance notice for a proper debate. He had previously ruled out a successor to the €9 ticket in the state. Meanwhile, the CDU – who are part of the governing coalition in Brandenburg – slammed the idea for a new cheap ticket as a “waste of money” and an attempt to “buy votes” for the SPD.

The blockade meant that plans for a Berlin-Brandenburg ticket run by transport operator VBB had to be scrapped, and the monthly ticket has instead been restricted to the two transport zones solely operated by Berlin’s BVG. Since zone C stretches into Brandenburg, Berlin couldn’t include this zone in the ticket unilaterally. 

Berlin transport zones explained

Source: S-Bahn Berlin

The good news is that zones A and B cover everything within the city’s borders, taking you as far as Spandau in the west and Grunau in the southeast. So unless you plan regular trips out to the Brandenburg, you should be fine.

However, keep in mind that the Berlin-Brandenburg BER airport is in zone C, so you’ll need an ‘add-on’ ticket to travel to and from there. It’s also not great for the many people who live in Potsdam in Brandenburg and commute into Berlin regularly. 

READ ALSO: Berlin gets green light to launch €29 transport ticket

How can people get hold of it? 

Unlike the €9 ticket, you won’t be able to buy it at stations on a monthly basis. Instead, the €29 ticket is only for people who take out a monthly ‘Abo’ (subscription) for zones A and B. If you’ve already got a monthly subscription, the lower price will be deducted automatically, while yearly Abo-holders will likely get a refund. 

You can take out a monthly subscription on the BVG website here – though, at the time of writing, the price of the ticket hadn’t been updated yet. According to Giffey, people will be able to terminate their subscription at the end of December without facing a penalty. 

What types of ‘Abos’ are eligible for the deal? 

According to Berlin transport operator BVG, people with the following subscriptions are set to benefit from the reduced price from October to December: 

  • VBB-Umweltkarten with monthly and annual direct debit
  • 10 o’clock tickets with monthly and yearly direct debit
  • VBB-Firmentickets with monthly and yearly direct debit 
  • Trainee subscriptions with monthly direct debit

People who already have reduced-price subscriptions, such as over-65s and benefits claimants, aren’t set to see any further reductions. That’s because many of these subscriptions already work out at under €29 per month for zones A and B. 

Passengers exit an U-Bahn train in Berlin

Passengers exit an U-Bahn train at Zoologischer Garten. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jörg Carstensen

Can students with a Semesterticket get it as well?

That’s one of the things that still needs to be clarified. It’s possible that universities will choose to refund part of the Semesterticket price like they did with the €9 ticket. The Local has contacted BVG for more information. 

Can I take my bike/dog/significant other along for the ride? 

Once again, this doesn’t appear to have been ironed out yet – but we can assume that the usual rules of your monthly or yearly subscription will apply. So, as with the €9 ticket, if your bike is included in your subscription, you can continue to take it with you. If not, you’ll probably have to pay for a bike ticket.

In most cases, monthly BVG subscriptions allow you to take one dog with you for free, and also bring one adult and up to three children (under 14) with you on the train on evenings and weekends. These rules are likely to stay the same, but we’ll update you as soon as we know more. 

How much is this all going to cost?

According to regional radio station RBB24, around €105 million is set to be put aside in order to subsidise the temporary ticket. However, this still needs to be formalised in a supplementary budget and given the green light in the Senate. 

An S-Bahn train leaves Grünewald station

An S-Bahn train leaves Grünewald station. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christophe Gateau

OK. And what happens after the €29 ticket?

That’s the million – or, rather, billion – euro question right now. In its latest package of inflation relief measures, the federal government said it would be making €1.5 billion available for a follow-up to the €9 ticket.

The ticket is set to be introduced by January 2023 and will rely on Germany’s 16 states matching or exceeding the federal government’s €1.5 billion cash injection. So far, it looks set to be a monthly ticket that can be used on public transport nationally, with the price set somewhere between €49 and €69.

However, the Greens continue to push for a two-tier model that would give passengers the option of buying either a regional or national ticket. Under their proposals, the regional tickets would cost €29 and the national tickets would cost €69.

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