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Court halts AfD attempt to throw out far-right figurehead

A Berlin court has accepted an appeal made by far-right politician Andreas Kalbitz against the Alternative for Germany’s decision to annul his party membership.

Court halts AfD attempt to throw out far-right figurehead
Andreas Kalbitz. Photo: DPA

The Berlin court on Friday granted Kalbitz an interim injunction against the decision to annul his membership, stating the he must remain a party member until an official decision is made by the AfD’s internal party arbitration panel.

In May party leader Jörg Meuthen persuaded a majority of the leadership to back him in annulling Kalbitz’s membership after he was found to have hidden a previous association with a banned neo-nazi organisation called the “Heimattreue Deutsche Jugend” (Patriotic German Youth).

The decision was carried by  narrow majority of seven party committee members for with five opposing. The Heimattreue Deutsche Jugend is one of a number of far-right organisations which the AfD's conditions of membership prohibit association with.

Kalbitz, who was party leader in the eastern state of Brandenburg up until the decision, denies ever having been a member of the Heimattreue Deutsche Jugend.

The Berlin court’s decision is likely to further escalate tensions between the east and west German factions inside the party, with Kalbitz being a figurehead of the more hard line eastern faction.

Along with Thuringian party leader Björn Höcke, in 2015 Klabitz founded the Flügel, a nationalistic and xenophobic pressure group inside the party. Germany’s domestic spy agency, the BfV, decided earlier this year to classify the group as “extreme right wing” giving it the remit to put the organisation under surveillance.

Since the announcement of that decision the AfD has been riven by internal disputes over whether to remove the most extreme members of the party in order to avoid further attention from the intelligence services or whether to stick to the xenophobic course which secured it 12.6 percent of the vote at the last election.

Meuthen suggested in March – to the consternation of party colleagues – that the AfD should consider splitting into a “conservative” western chapter and a “nationalistic” eastern one.

The party’s popularity has dropped significantly since the star of the year, with polls regularly showing them at 9 percent, a drop of around 6 percent since January. Pollsters put this down to party feuding and the resurgence of Angela Merkel’s CDU since the corona virus outbreak.

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TRAVEL NEWS

German states threaten to block €9 ticket in Bundesrat

Germany's cut-price transport ticket is supposed to go on sale next Monday - but a battle over financing is threatening to torpedo the government's plans.

German states threaten to block €9 ticket in Bundesrat

An feud between the federal and state governments intensified on Monday as state leaders threatened to block the government’s most recent energy package when it is put to a vote in the Bundesrat on Friday. 

The battle relates to the government’s plans for a budget transport ticket that would allow people to travel on local and regional transport around Germany for just €9 per month.

Though the 16 states have agreed to support the ticket, transport ministers are arguing that the low-cost option will blow a hole in their budgets and lead to potential price hikes once autumn rolls around.

They claim that current funding promised by the Federal Transport Ministry doesn’t go far enough.

READ ALSO: 

“If the federal government believes it can be applauded on the backs of the states for a three-month consolation prize and that others should foot the bill, then it has made a huge mistake,” Bavaria’s Transport Minister Christian Bernreiter (CSU) told Bild on Monday.

The government has pledged €2.5 billion to the states to pay for the measure, as well as financial support for income lost during the Covid crisis. 

Transport Minister Volker Wissing. of the Free Democrats (FDP), said states would also receive the revenue of the €9 ticket from customers who take advantage of the offer. 

“For this ‘9 for 90 ticket’, the €2.5 billion is a complete assumption of the costs by the federal government,” said Wissing on Thursday. “In addition, the states are also allowed to keep the €9 from the ticket price, so they are very well funded here.”

Transport Minister Volker Wissing

Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) speaks ahead of a G7 summit in Düsseldorf.

However, federal states want a further €1.5 billion in order to increase staff, deal with extra fuel costs and to plan for the expansion of local transport in Germany.

Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania’s Minister for Economic Affairs, Reinhard Meyer (SPD), told Bild that there would be “no approval (on Friday) as long as the federal government does not provide additional funds.”

Baden-Württemberg’s Transport Minister Winfried Hermann (Greens) also warned that “the entire package of fuel rebate and €9 euro ticket could fail in the Bundesrat” if the government doesn’t agree to the state’s demands on funding.

The Bundesrat is Germany’s upper house of parliament, which is comprised of MPs serving in the state governments. Unlike in the Bundestag, where the traffic-light coalition of the Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and Free Democrats (FDP) has a majority, the CDU is the largest party in the Bundesrat. 

What is the €9 ticket?

The €9 monthly ticket was announced early this year as part of a package of energy relief measures for struggling households.

With the price of fuel rising dramatically amid supply bottlenecks and the war in Ukraine, the traffic-light coalition is hoping to encourage people to switch to public transport over summer instead. 

The ticket will run for three months from the start of June to the end of August, and will allow people to travel nationwide on local and regional transport. Long-distance trains like IC, EC and ICE trains will not be covered by the ticket. 

It should be available to purchase from May 23rd, primarily via ticket offices and the DB app and website. 

Some regional operators, including Berlin-Brandenburg’s VBB, have also pledged to offer the ticket at ticket machines.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to get hold of the €9 travel ticket in Berlin

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