Everything that changes in Germany in December 2019

Everything that changes in Germany in December 2019
An antique clock in Cologne
From new train timetables to better labour laws, here's everything that's going into effect as November becomes December on Sunday.

Deutsche Bahn gets on track with new changes

On December 15th, Deutsche Bahn will be releasing its new timetable for the winter of 2019/2020. Among other things, more ICEs and Sprinter high-speed trains will come into use.

For the first time, an ICE will also travel from Germany to Switzerland. Some further connections to neighbouring countries will also be expanded.

READ ALSO: How travelling by train in Germany is set to improve

Connections will also be improved domestically. Trains traveling between Hamburg and North Rhine-Westphalia will be increased by 15 percent. 

Photo: DPA

ICE trains will travel between the existing routes Berlin-Erfurt-Munich and Berlin-Braunschweig-Frankfurt/Main without making any other stops. 

For the first time in several years, Deutsche Bahn has refrained from increasing its rail prices, as is usually the norm with timetable changes, a company spokesman told Bild.

The step is connected with the reduction of the railway prices decided by the German government in the course of the climate package.

READ ALSO: What does Germany's planned climate protection package mean for you?

New EU Commission lead

The new EU Commission, run under the leadership of Ursula von der Leyen, will officially begin on December 1st.

The EU Parliament has just given the green light for Ursula von der Leyen's new EU Commission. On Wednesday in Strasbourg, 461 MEPs voted for the team of the new Commission President on Wednesday in Strasbourg, 157 voted against it and and 89 abstained. 

READ ALSO: Who is Ursula von der Leyen, the surprise candidate set to take the EU's top job?

Von der Leyen replaces Jean-Claude Juncker after five years (one term) as Commission President.

WhatsApp cuts back

For a long time WhatsApp has been one of the most popular messaging apps in Germany, with an ever-expanding range of uses. But now one of the uses is being taken away. 

READ ALSO: These are the essential smartphone apps for living in Germany

Starting on December 7th, the messaging service will no longer be permitted to send mass messages such as newsletters. In principle, such sending already violates the usage guidelines, WhatsApp explains in its FAQs. 

Photo: DPA

Yet up until now, the sending of newsletters, which is mainly used by companies, has been tolerated. From December, however, the messenger service says it plans to take legal action against those who continue to send mass messages. 

WhatsApp is taking this step to sharpen its profile as the original intention of the service was direct communication between friends, family, and acquaintances.

READ ALSO: Don't use new WhatsApp sick note service, German doctors advise 

Plant-ing ahead

The European Commission is revising its “phytosanitary legislation” that has been in force for more than 40 years. As part of a new EU plant health regulation, potted plants or seeds, for example, must be labelled with an official label (a so-called EU-Pflanzenpass, or EU plant passport) starting on December 14th.

The EU wants to improve traceability and prevent pests from being introduced or spread. According to the Federal Research Institute for Cultivated Plants, the plant passport proves that the goods are free of pests and that all plant health requirements have been met.

A package deal for subcontractors

The German government wants to put an end to unacceptable working conditions in the parcel industry, and at the same time take the fight against undeclared work seriously.

The Parcel Courier Protection Act will therefore come into force on December 1st, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs announced recently. 

In order to increase cost efficiency, large parcel service providers (main contractors) often pass on orders to subcontractors. However, some of them pay little or no social security contributions.

 With the new law, the government wants to ensure that subcontractors pay social security contributions properly.

Letters are posted through a postbox in the centre of Cologne. Photo: DPA

Health insurance funds and employers' liability insurance associations can issue subcontractors with a so-called clearance certificate if they meet their social security contribution obligations.

The main purpose of the certificate is to remove the main contractor from liability if the subcontractor withholds social security contributions.

Paying it forward to Austria

Starting on December 1st, travellers heading to Austria by car will have to pay more. In future, the annual vignette – a type of permit – will cost €91.10, up from the current €89.30. 

The two-month ticket, currently €27.40, will cost 60 cents more in future, and the ten-day ticket, currently €9.40, will cost 20 cents more in future.

However, there is also a bit of good news for motorists. The Austrian parliament recently decided by a large majority to exempt five short motorway sections close to the German border from tolls. With this measure, the parties want to curb alternative traffic, especially by German drivers on country roads.

The exceptions to the toll are to apply, among other things, on the west motorway (A1) between the Walserberg and the Salzburg Nord junction and on the Inntal motorway (A12) between the border and the Kufstein-Süd junction. 

Netflix change

Planning to stay in on some cold wintry evenings with a good book or movie? The streaming service Netflix will discontinue support for some Samsung TVs on December 1st, said the Korean electronics manufacturer in a statement. The extent to which German devices are affected is still unclear.

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  1. “For the first time, an ICE will also travel from Germany to Switzerland.” Strange, pretty sure I’ve been regularly getting ICEs down into Switzerland for a few years…

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