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HEALTH

North Rhine-Westphalia premier calls for ‘urgent reopening’ of German-French border

The premier of Germany’s largest state, North Rhine-Westphalia, has called for the border with France to be reopened urgently.

North Rhine-Westphalia premier calls for 'urgent reopening' of German-French border
Photo: DPA

Speaking to the Stuttgarter Zeitung, Armin Laschet said “We urgently need to open the border with France”.

Laschet warned that failing to do so would be a betrayal of European ideals.

“The lockdown ends in France on May 11th – that would be a good time to signal to our neighbours that we have a common European response to the pandemic… the past few weeks have been a little too national and too little European.”

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Border controls were put in place between the countries in March, with only citizens, residents or people with a “valid reason to travel” allowed to cross the border. 

Laschet, from the ruling Christian Democrats, is widely seen as the favourite to succeed German Chancellor Angela Merkel when she steps down. 

Former EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has also criticised the border controls, saying they are contrary to the founding ideals of the bloc and a hindrance on the internal market. 

“Anyone who shuts their borders, even if the national public likes it sometimes, is putting the internal market at risk. In this respect, you should be very careful with borders in Europe”.

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CULTURE

‘People liked the silence’: How Berlin’s club scene is struggling after lockdowns

Berlin's clubs are suffering from staff shortages, a lack of guests... and neighbours who've grown used to the silence, representatives for the scene say.

'People liked the silence': How Berlin's club scene is struggling after lockdowns

Some operators from Berlin’s club scene are bracing themselves for a difficult autumn. For months now, people have been allowed to dance again and life has returned to normal in the dark corners of Berlin’s famous nightlife scene.

But the clubs have far from recovered from the pandemic. They face staff shortages, rising prices and the prospect of a return to Covid restrictions in the autumn.

“We go into the autumn with huge fear, because the omens are totally unfavorable,” said association head Pamela Schobeß.

Spring and summer went anything but smoothly, she said. “There has been an oversupply of events. People aren’t going out as much, and some are still afraid to move around indoors.”

Money is also an issue. “A lot of people are afraid of rising energy prices.”

The industry lost workers during the pandemic and it’s hard to convince them to come back with the outlook for the autumn looking so gloomy, Schobeß says.

Her colleague Robin Schellenberg tells a similar story. People have switched to various other jobs and would even rather work on a supermarket checkout, which may have been considered less sexy in the past. Now, he says, some have learned to love not having to work nights.

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Schellenberg runs the Klunkerkranich, a small club on a parking garage deck in Neukölln. Because a number of things have become more expensive, they have also had to increase their admission prices.

His impression is that people are going out less often and are deciding more spontaneously. In addition, people in the neighborhood are now more sensitive to noise. “Many people found the silence very enticing,” he said.

Some in the industry wonder what will happen next. Will club admission have to become much more expensive? Will that exclude people who can no longer afford it? And what happens if Covid infection numbers rise sharply?

If masks become mandatory indoors in October, Schobeß believes that would be bad for the clubs. “Even if we don’t get shut down by the state, we’ll actually have to close down independently ourselves,” she reckons.

Masks take all the joy out of the experience, she says. People have drinks in their hands and are “jumping around and dancing” and then security guards have to tell them “please put your mask on.”

The federal government is considering whether states should be able to make masks mandatory indoors starting in October. Exceptions should be possible, such as at cultural and sporting events, for people who have been tested, recently vaccinated and recently recovered.

In the event that Covid numbers soar, the states could then be allowed to tighten the rules and eliminate all exemptions.

READ ALSO: German court declares techno to be music

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