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ELECTION

The Dane who wants to be mayor of a German city – and how he plans to modernize it

46-year-old Dane Claus Ruhe Madsen has won the first round of the election to become lord mayor of the city of Rostock in northern Germany.

The Dane who wants to be mayor of a German city – and how he plans to modernize it
Dane Claus Ruhe Madsen won almost 35 percent of votes in the first round of the election for lord mayor in Rostock. Photo: Bernd Wüstneck / Picture Alliance / Ritzau Scanpix

Local elections held on Sunday alongside municipal elections in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern show that Madsen is in with a strong chance of becoming mayor of the city.

With no candidate having received more than half of votes, a second round of voting to decide the winning candidate will be held on June 16th.

Madsen, who is running on a platform of environmentalism and modernization in the city, said he was delighted with the result of the first vote and hopeful about his chances of being elected.

“This is really great. I had no idea how this was going to go. It’s great that so many Rostockers think this is a good idea,” Madsen, who is running as an independent, said to Ritzau.

The Dane received 34.6 percent of votes in Sunday’s first round, with his nearest rival Steffen Bockhahn of Die Linke (the Left Party) on 18.9 percent.

Should the Dane win on June 16th, he will be the first person from north of the border to be elected as Rostock’s mayor.

“It’s really interesting that this will be the first time ever that a foreigner has won the mayoral election in a larger German city. I’m very surprised by this,” he said.

The Dane said he planned to continue campaigning prior to the second vote by going out to meet voters.

“I am going to go out on my bicycle and speak to as many people as possible and listen to the issues that are important to them. It is very important to me to be on the ground and out amongst the public. More so than (being at) political debates,” he said.

Madsen has turned down a number of parties who wished to recruit him as a candidate.

“I find it difficult to fit into a party box,” he told Ritzau.

His political platform is based on modernizing Rostock, a harbour city on the Baltic Sea coast which, according to Madsen, is “stuck in the past”.

He wants to make the city more attractive for companies in other countries around the Baltic Sea, including Denmark and Sweden.

That will be achieved through renovation of the harbour, improving public transport and bicycle lanes, and making the city a climate frontrunner through a series of environmentalist initiatives, according to the Danish candidate’s platform.

Madsen also wants to build a new theatre in Rostock.

His ideas appear to have gained traction in the German city, with the Dane now a clear favourite to come out on top in the second voting round in the mayoral election next month.

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ENVIRONMENT

Young activists take German states to court over climate inaction

Campaigners began a legal challenge against five German regions on Monday to force them to take stronger action on climate change, emboldened by a landmark recent court ruling in favour of environmental protection.

Young activists take German states to court over climate inaction
Demonstrators from the Fridays for Future movement protest in Gießen, Hesse, with a sign saying "No wishy-washy, no climate lashing". Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Frank Rumpenhorst

The plaintiffs are basing their case on a sensational verdict by Germany’s constitutional court in April which found that Germany’s plans to curb CO2 emissions were insufficient to meet the targets of the Paris climate agreement and placed an unfair burden on future generations.

In a major win for activists, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s federal government then brought forward its date for carbon neutrality by five years to 2045, and raised its 2030 target for greenhouse gas reductions.

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On Monday, 16 children and young adults began proceedings against the regions of Hesse, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Saarland, with support of environmental NGO Environmental Action Germany (DUH).

They are charging that none of the states targeted by the legal action have passed sufficiently strong climate legislation at the local level, according to DUH.

“The federal government can’t succeed on its own,” lead lawyer Remo Klinger said in a press conference, highlighting state competence in the area of transport.

DUH worked closely together with the youth climate movement Fridays For Future to find activists willing to front the challenges, the group said.

Seventeen-year-old plaintiff Alena Hochstadt said the western state of Hesse, known for its Frankfurt banking hub, had always been her home but she feared having “no future here”.

Concern about the risk of “floods, storms and droughts” led her and other campaigners to seek “a legal basis for binding climate protection”.

READ ALSO: Climate change made German floods ‘more likely and more intense’

Hesse’s ministers for climate and the economy said they were “surprised” by the announcement.

“DUH clearly has not yet understood that we in Hesse are well ahead,” Priska Hinz and Tarek Al-Wazir said in a joint statement, drawing attention to an energy future law from 2012, before the Paris climate agreement.

In July, DUH-supported activists took the states of Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia and Brandenburg to court on similar grounds.

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