This is what 2017 has in store for Germany

From the expansion of medical marijuana to a national election, next year will hold a lot of big moments for the Bundesrepublik.

This is what 2017 has in store for Germany
Photo: DPA

1. Merkel seeking a fourth term as Chancellor

The election set for September 2017 will determine the make-up of the Bundestag (German parliament) which will then elect the next Chancellor.

Merkel has officially been picked to lead her conservative CDU party as candidate for Chancellor in a run to secure a fourth term. Her popularity has waned since the last election, but she and her party will still be the biggest force in parliament, according to current polling.

2. The AfD seeking their first seats in the Bundestag

The biggest concern this year within Merkel’s and other traditional parties has been the rise of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party. It began in 2013 as a eurosceptic party, opposed to the European single currency, and failed to reach the minimum five percent benchmark to make it into the Bundestag in the national election that year.

But since then, the party has shifted ever more to the right, toppling its leader and former co-founder, economist Bernd Lucke, and focusing more on its opposition to taking in refugees. Its anti-immigrant rhetoric fed off of disappointment with Merkel’s liberal asylum policies, and helped the party secure seats in state parliaments across the country, including in typically liberal Berlin.

While their popularity has also been on the decline in recent months nationwide, they are still far above the necessary five percent needed to make it into the Bundestag.

3. Merkel to meet President Trump

Merkel and US president-elect Donald Trump have had their differences – mostly voiced by the real estate mogul on Twitter. But next year they will finally come face-to-face after Trump is sworn in as president on January 20th.

The pair will meet at the latest in July for the G20 summit in Hamburg.

During his campaign, Trump condemned the Chancellor’s refugee policies, tweeting that she was “ruining Germany”.

Upon the Republican politician’s election victory, Merkel gave him a subtle yet strong reminder of how she hoped to work with him going forward.

“Germany and America share the values of democracy, freedom, respect for the rule of law and human dignity, regardless of origin, skin colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political belief,” she said in November.

4. Medical marijuana legalization

German Health Minister Hermann Gröhe declared in May that he aimed to pass a bill next year that would officially legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes. Currently only certain people with serious medical conditions may be granted permission to use the drug for self therapy, and the bar is set fairly high. Only around 1,000 people in the whole country currently have permission to use the drug.

Gröhe’s plan would expand this and eventually allow cannabis products to be grown under state supervision. Until such plantations can be developed, medical marijuana would be imported.

5. Germany to get new president

Photo: DPA

A new German president will be elected on February 12th by members of the Bundestag and the 16 state parliaments. Current President Joachim Gauck, 76, announced in June that he would not seek a second term, due to his advancing age.

Social Democrat and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier seems to be the likely choice, backed as well by Merkel’s conservative Union, though opposition parties like Die Linke (Left Party) and the AfD have also put forth their own candidates.

6. Electricity bills to increase

A study released in November showed that 250 German electricity providers will be increasing their prices by an average of 3.5 percent on January 1st, due to renewable energy subsidies as well as higher costs for infrastructure driving up the costs.

But have no fear: There are ways to avoid the New Year electricity bill hike.

7. Breitbart coming to Germany

The leading voice of the American alt-right movement – a loose alliance of people with anti-immigration, white-nationalist and anti-Semitic views – told Reuters in November that the outlet was interviewing journalists to start up a German news site.

Members of the AfD welcomed the news, but an expert told The Local at the time that Breitbart would have a difficult time establishing itself in Germany, and would not be so relevant during the 2017 election.

“Even if Breitbart manages to quickly achieve a certain standing in Germany, it is not likely to have a decisive effect on the election – and that goes for all the right-wing media,” said media expert Dr. Lutz Frühbrodt of the University of Applied Sciences Würzburg-Schweinfurt. “Much more important is the extent to which the mainstream parties respond to the concerns and needs of citizens.”

8. Minimum wage increases to €8.84 per hour

Germany only implemented a minimum wage in 2015, and now two years later it is set to increase from €8.50 to €8.84. This goes for all workers, Germans and non-Germans, though certain exceptions are made for interns working less than three months, or people doing compulsory training.

Even with the increase though, Germany will continue to lag behind other Western European countries, according to a study by the Institute of Economic and Social Research (WSI) in February.

In a separate study in January, the WSI called the minimum wage “socially and economically very successful” a year after its implementation, noting that there had been increases in typical low-wage sectors. The institute also said that collective bargaining had benefited from the minimum wage.

9. One extra national holiday

For 2017 only, residents of Germany will get Tuesday October 31st off to celebrate 500 years since Martin Luther published his 95 Theses protesting Catholic Church practices in 1517, sparking the Protestant Reformation.

In fact, the year is set to have hundreds of events to commemorate the reformer.

Photo: DPA

10. BER airport could – maybe – finally open (emphasis on the maybe)

The official opening of the long-awaited Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER) is still set for the second half of 2017, but if history is any indicator, this may still be pushed back. It’s already six years behind schedule, set back by corruption scandals and planning blunders that have made it into a running joke in the capital city and beyond.

On Thursday Karsten Mühlenfeld, boss of BER gave a frank interview to Tagesspiegel, saying the chances of a 2017 opening were “very limited.” But he added that as long as this was still the target “we won't give up.”

But if this current projection comes true, we may finally be able to lay our eyes on what is supposed to be a new, “modern” travel hub that has racked up billions in taxpayer dollars.

11. Tour de France starts in Düsseldorf

The most famous bicycle race in the world is kicking off this year in the western city of Düsseldorf – the first time since 1987 that the Grand Depart is to begin in Germany.

July 1st is the big day, so set your calendars if you’re passionate about pedalling.

12. World's first hydrogen passenger train to go into service

The world's first hydrogen passenger train to go into regular service is set to debut in Lower Saxony in December of 2017. It offers zero emissions and is said to be much quieter than regular trains.

Take a ride on the ‘hydrail’ technology when it runs along the Buxtehude-Bremervörde-Bremerhaven-Cuxhaven line

13. Netflix’s first original German series to debut

The show “Dark” is set to debut in 2017, becoming the streaming site’s first German original series.

“A missing child sets four families on a frantic hunt for answers,” Netflix writes. “Their search for a culprit unearths a small town’s sins and secrets.”

As of yet there’s still no trailer.

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