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LIVING IN GERMANY

German city mayor plans to hike up parking charges by 600 percent

The mayor of the southern German town of Tübingen has taken a radical step to discourage people with large cars from driving into the centre.

German city mayor plans to hike up parking charges by 600 percent
Mayor Boris Palmer rides his bicycle through the centre of Tübingen on November 12th, 2019. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Tom Weller

According to the regional Stuttgarter Zeitung, Boris Palmer – who is also a member of the Green party – plans to hike parking charges from €30 to €180 per year in an attempt to free the picturesque town from congestion.

If the plans come into force, the top parking fee will apply to cars with combustion engines weighing more than 1800kg and electric cars weighing more than 2000kg. Owners of smaller cars will pay €120 a year.

Social security recipients will pay half price, and there will be other exceptions for disabled people and carers who are dependent on their cars to carry out their jobs.

Palmer initially proposed to raise the top fee to €360, but his plans met with opposition from officials on the city climate planning committee. At €180, however, he has managed to gain a consensus. 

Announcing the proposals, the mayor explained that his aim was to convince the majority of people to use public transport when visiting or travelling around Tübingen. 

READ ALSO: How you can travel for free in parts of Germany

“There should be a noticeable difference between the fees small city cars and big sport utility vehicles have to pay, which actually aren’t needed in the city,” he said. 

The revenue from the new parking fees will be funnelled back into the university town’s public transport network and used to further its aims to become climate neutral by 2030.

Other towns and cities in Germany are piloting similar schemes. The move has also been widely praised by climate activists, who say that free and heavily subsidised parking spaces must end. 

‘You don’t pay enough taxes’

In his 14 years as mayor of Tübingen, Palmer has developed a reputation across Germany as a straight-talking politician who puts forward radical, and often controversial, plans.

After winning the support he needs for his parking fee change, he penned an unapologetic post on Facebook announcing the move telling ‘car drivers’ that things were about to change. 

“You didn’t pay for the roads. Neither do you pay enough taxes,” he wrote. “Your favourite form of transport is massively subsidised as it is, by all other taxpayers and the next generation.

READ ALSO: Does German desire for transport efficiency trump environmental concerns?

“If the prices were to reflect the real amount you should be paying, a parking space would have to cost not €30 a year, but €3,000.”

Disgruntled residents, meanwhile, accused the mayor of “conducting a personal campaign against cars and their owners”. 

The final decision on the price hike will be made by the council at the end of September, though media reports suggest that it is highly likely to pass. 

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LIVING IN GERMANY

Living in Germany: Battles over Bürgergeld, rolling the ‘die’ and carnival lingo

From the push to reform long-term unemployment benefits to the lingo you need to know as Carnival season kicks off, we look at the highlights of life in Germany.

Living in Germany: Battles over Bürgergeld, rolling the 'die' and carnival lingo

Deadlock looms as debates over Bürgergeld heat up 

Following a vote in the Bundestag on Thursday, the government’s planned reforms to long-term unemployment benefits are one step closer to becoming reality. Replacing the controversial Hartz IV system, Bürgergeld (or Citizens’ Allowance) is intended to be a fair bit easier on claimants.

Not only will the monthly payment be raised from €449 to €502, but jobseekers will also be given a grace period of two years before checks are carried out on the size of their apartment or savings of up to €60,000. The system will also move away from sanctions with a so-called “trust period” of six months, during which benefits won’t be docked at all – except in very extreme circumstances. 

Speaking in parliament, Labour Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) said the spirit of the new system was “solidarity, trust and encouragement” and praised the fact that Bürgergeld would help people get back into the job market with funding for training and education. But not everyone is happy about the changes. In particular, politicians from the opposition CDU/CSU parties have responded with outrage at the move away from sanctions.

CDU leader Friedrich Merz has even branded the system a step towards “unconditional Basic Income” and argued that nobody will be incentivised to return to work. 

The CDU and CSU are now threatening to block the Bürgergeld legislation when it’s put to a vote in the Bundesrat on Monday. With the conservatives controlling most of the federal states – and thus most of the seats in the upper house – things could get interesting. Be sure to keep an eye out for our coverage in the coming weeks to see how the saga unfolds. 

Tweet of the week

When you first start learning German, picking the right article to use can truly be a roll of the “die” – so we’re entirely on board with this slightly unconventional way to decide whether you’re in a “der”, “die”, or “das” situation. (Warning: this may not improve your German.) 

Where is this?

Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Boris Roessler

Residents of Frankfurt am Main and the surrounding area will no doubt recognise this as the charming town of Kronberg, which is nestled at the foot of the Taunus mountains.

This atmospheric scene was snapped on Friday morning, when a drop in temperatures saw Kronberg and surrounding forests shrouded in autumnal fog.

After a decidedly warm start to November, the mercury is expected to drop into single digits over the weekend. 

Did you know?

November 11th marked the start of carnival season in Germany. But did you know that there’s a whole set of lingo to go along with the tradition? And it all depends on where you are. First of all, the celebration isn’t called the same thing everywhere. In the Rhineland, it’s usually called Karneval, while people in Bavaria or Saxony tend to call it Fasching. Those in Hesse and Saarland usually call it Fastnacht. 

And depending on where you are, there are different things to shout. The ‘fools call’ you’ll hear in Cologne is “Alaaf!” If you move away from Cologne, you’ll hear “Helau!” This is the traditional cry in the carnival strongholds of Düsseldorf and Mainz, as well as in some other German cities.

In the Swabian-Alemannic language region in the southwest of the country, people yell “Narri-Narro”, which means “I’m a fool, you’re a fool”. In Saarland at the French border, they shout “Alleh hopp!”, which is said to originate from the French language. 

Lastly, if someone offers you a Fastnachtskrapfe, say yes because it’s a jelly-filled carnival donut. And if you’re offered a Bützchen? It’s your call, but know that it’s a little kiss given to strangers!

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