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Germans have right to squeeze sand between their toes for free, court rules

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Germans have right to squeeze sand between their toes for free, court rules
Wangerland residents protesting against a beach fence in 2012. Photo: DPA.
11:17 CEST+02:00
The Federal Administrative Court ruled on Wednesday that charging entrance fees for two German North Sea beaches was illegal, a ruling which is set to have change the rules of the game all along the German coastlines.

It all several started years ago when two locals in the district of Wangerland in Friesland began a “Free Beach for Free Citizens” campaign, arguing against the payment of fees to visit beaches along the North Sea coast in Lower Saxony.

The pair had pushed for a law against these fees on three previous occasions, according to Die Welt.

In their local area, the tourist office in Wangerland had been charging a fee of €3 for entering two of its beaches over a length of around nine kilometres.

In previous years, residents had also protested against the setting up of a fence which enclosed the beaches.

After a long deliberation, judges at the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig ruled against the fees on Wednesday.

The fact that the local authorities keep the beach clean and well-maintained by regularly pouring sand onto it are not strong enough reasons to charge an entrance fee on a portion of the coastline, they argued.

A fee may only be charged, for instance, in areas where high-quality changing rooms, toilets and kiosks are provided.

The Leipzig judges based their verdict on Article 2 of the Grundgesetz (German constitution), which highlights an individual’s general freedom of expression.

While this may be a good reason for beach-goers to celebrate, other districts along Germany’s extensive coast are likely to be less happy about the ruling.

As the ruling was made by the highest administrative court in the land, other beach towns along the Baltic Sea and North Sea coast are now obliged to examine their fees and, if necessary, make changes so that they aren’t violating the law.

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