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OLAF SCHOLZ

Germany’s analogue admin is even annoying the chancellor

Chancellor Olaf Scholz has found himself caught in the sticky web of Germany's notoriously outdated administrative processes, he has told a conference on digitalisation.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz speaks at the digital conference in Berlin on June 9th
Chancellor Olaf Scholz speaks at the digital conference in Berlin on June 9th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Annette Riedl

Scholz had to go and apply for a passport and ID card in person because it was not possible online, the chancellor told the re:publica digital conference in Berlin on Thursday. 

“I drove by there, there was no other way,” he said, adding that he would like to see such services offered via the internet in the future.

Scholz said Germany had some catching up to do on digitalisation and admitted he was “really surprised” when he recently learned that some of the country’s immigration authorities had shelved plans to put more procedures online.

“I can only say that’s not the way to go,” he said.

Though known for being at the forefront of many technologically advanced industries, Europe’s biggest economy has long been criticised for lagging behind when it comes to digitalisation, although the culture is slowly changing. 

READ ALSO: What you need to know about dealing with German bureaucracy online

The German weekly WirtschaftsWoche reported this week that the chancellery has no secure line for video calls, meaning Scholz has to get in a car to the defence ministry whenever he has to take part in a sensitive NATO teleconference.

A solution is envisaged for late 2023, the paper said.

Last year, it emerged that some 1,600 fax machines were still lurking in Berlin’s Bundestag house of parliament as the government announced it was finally planning to get rid of them.

In another throwback to the 1980s, Berlin also announced with some fanfare last year that teachers would finally be getting their own email addresses.

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LIVING IN GERMANY

Living in Germany: Looking abroad for airport workers, greeting cards and chimney sweeps

In our weekly roundup for Germany we look at what the government is doing to ease the air travel staffing crisis, very German greeting cards, lightning storms and the Schornsteinfeger - chimney sweep - lucky tradition.

Living in Germany: Looking abroad for airport workers, greeting cards and chimney sweeps

Germany looks for help abroad to ease aviation staffing crisis

Last week the German government made the exceptional move of stepping in to help private firms in the aviation sector restore their staffing levels. Ministers announced they will cut red tape to allow private companies to employ workers from abroad on a temporary basis, due to the chaos that we’re seeing in German airports and airlines. From long queues at security or when claiming baggage, to flights being cancelled, it can be a real nightmare to travel in Europe at the moment. One reader even contacted us to say he had to wait two and half hours on a plane in Düsseldorf because there apparently wasn’t enough baggage staff to load cases onto the flight. That’s why the German government says it will allow companies to employ staff from abroad at short notice. However, at the same time, ministers came down hard on the private sector for not preparing for the rising demand for travel. German’s Labour Minister Hubertus Heil Heil criticised many companies in the aviation industry for laying off staff in the pandemic – or not topping up reduced hours (Kurzarbeit) pay despite government support. 

Even if the sector manages to fill many positions, it will still take time to clear hurdles so it looks like we’re in for at least a few more weeks of stress if travelling by plane. And with more states about to go on their school holidays, it’s just going to get busier. Keep us posted on how it’s going in German airports if you’re on the move this summer – we’re always eager to hear your experiences. 

Tweet of the week

The dedication to cars and driving in Germany is quite something, as the tweet below shows. 

Where is this? 

Lightning over Frankfurt
Photo: DPA/Jan Eifert

There’s been a lot of mixed weather in Germany this week, with extreme heat, thunderstorms and hailstones depending on which part of the country you live in. This picture shows a spectacular storm on Thursday in the Frankfurt area. It was taken from the Großer Feldberg in the Taunus mountains.

Did you know?

I (Rachel) received my first visit in Germany from a chimney sweep (der Schornsteinfeger) on Friday. Although I don’t have an open fire in my flat, chimney sweeps in Germany are still needed once a year to check your heating system, check for gas leaks and carry out any other maintenance in that area. Did you know Germans also believe seeing a Schornsteinfeger brings good luck? Some say it comes from the olden days when sweeps cleared your chimney meaning you’d be able to cook again and reduced the risk of fires. It’s also meant to be especially lucky to see a chimney sweep on your wedding day or New Year’s Day. This is thought to be partly because traditionally chimney sweeps would collect the fee for their services on the first day of each new year, meaning they were often among the first to wish families a happy new year. Along with miniature pigs (which Germans also find lucky), horseshoes, ladybirds and four-leaf clovers, little chimney sweeps made out of marzipan or plastic are also given as a New Year’s gift to loved ones.

READ ALSO: Eight things German believe bring good luck 

A chimney sweeper in Wernigerode, Saxony-Anhalt.

A chimney sweeper in Wernigerode, Saxony-Anhalt. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Matthias Bein

Some chimney sweeps (although not all!) wear a traditional uniform complete with top hat and silver buttons. Giving one of the buttons a twirl is said to bring good luck, but you’d have to politely ask them before doing it!  

Thanks for reading,

Rachel and Imogen @ The Local Germany 

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