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‘Winter of rage’: Experts warn of riots in Germany due to rising energy costs

Experts are warning that economic hardship may lead to protests throughout Germany in autumn and winter - and that they could be infiltrated by right-wing extremists.

Police officers watch over a demonstration against the Covid measures in Dresden.
Police officers watch over a demonstration against the Covid measures in Dresden. picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Sebastian Kahnert

In view of rising energy costs, supply difficulties, growing unemployment and general pessimism about the future, authorities in Germany are warning that there will be mass protests this year – and that these are likely to be abused by extremists.

The warnings come from civil servants from the federal offices for the Protection of the Constitution or Bundesverfassungsschutz – Germany’s watchdog for safeguarding free democracy at the federal level and in the 16 states.

Stephan Kramer, president of Thuringia’s Office for the Protection of the Constitution, told German broadcaster ZDF that, following the pandemic and the world events of recent months, there is a “highly emotionalised, aggressive, future-pessimistic mood” among the population, “whose trust in the state, its institutions and political actors is tainted by massive doubts”.

He expects that “legitimate protests” will be infiltrated by extremists, especially those from the so-called Querdenker (lateral thinking) scene and that it is likely that some will turn violent.

READ ALSO: How Germany is saving energy ahead of uncertain winter

“What we have experienced so far in the Covid pandemic in terms of partly violent confrontations on social networks, but also in the streets and squares, was probably more like a children’s birthday party in comparison,” Kramer said.

The head of Hamburg’s Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Torsten Voß, told the Funke Mediengruppe that he expects “extremist conspiracy ideologues and other enemies of the constitution” will try to abuse protests for their ideological purposes.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, he said “a spectrum of radical opponents of vaccination and so-called Covid deniers have built up a protest infrastructure, with contacts and channels for mobilisation”. This group will try to use this infrastructure for the energy security protests in the autumn, he said.

READ ALSO: German households could see ‘four-digit’ rise in energy costs this winter

Brandenburg’s head of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Jörg Müller, also fears that extremists could exploit the energy crisis and high inflation fears for their own purposes.

“Extremists dream of a German winter of rage” he told Welt am Sonntag. “They hope that the energy crisis and price increases will hit people particularly hard so that they can pick up on the mood and advertise their anti-state aspirations. We are following these goings-on with watchful eyes and open ears.”

Vocabulary:

Constitution – (die) Verfassung

Rage – (die) Wut

Violent – gewalttätig

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

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MONEY

German cabinet approves €300 energy relief payment for pensioners

The German cabinet has approved a one-time payment in December for pensioners to provide relief for rising energy bills.

German cabinet approves €300 energy relief payment for pensioners

The €300 payment is to be paid out by December 15th, Labour Minister Hubertus Heil, of the Social Democrats, said on Wednesday following the cabinet meeting. 

The cabinet also decided on a higher upper limit for people with so-called midi-jobs, which is a type of marginal employment in between a mini-job (which is generally exempt from taxes and social contributions) and full-time employment. 

Politicians in the coalition government, made up of the SPD, Greens and FDP, agreed on the measures in September as part of their third energy relief package.

Heil said the state was “standing by people” at a time when the cost of living was rising. 

Why are pensioners receiving a special payment?

Germany has put together several major relief packages to help people financially since the start of the energy crisis. 

One of the most high profile support measures, which was announced back in March this year, was a €300 taxable payment given out to people in employment. That was paid out in employees’ September pay packets. 

READ ALSO: Everything Germany is doing to help relieve rising energy costs

However, the government was slammed at the time as millions of pensioners were left out from the relief. It was only valid for taxpayers in tax brackets I to V.

According to the Federal Ministry of Social Affairs, a lump-sum energy payment will now be paid to all those who are entitled to a statutory old-age pension, pension for reduced earning capacity or surviving dependents’ pension, or to pension payments under the Civil Service or Soldiers’ Pensions Act from December 1st until December 15th. 

Pensioners have to live in Germany to be entitled to the payment. According to the ministry, the payment is made automatically – people do not have to apply for it.

The energy allowance is not counted towards income-related social benefits and is not subject to social security contributions, the ministry emphasised. The government estimates the costs of the payout at about €6 billion.

Relief for people with low incomes

The increase in the upper earnings limit for people with midi-jobs is being increased from €1,600 to €2,000, the cabinet decided. This is also part of the third relief package put together by the coalition government to support people in the energy crisis. 

“The sharp rise in prices for energy and food is a heavy burden on citizens,” said Heil, adding that the measures in the package will cushion some of these costs. 

The increase in the midi-job threshold alone would relieve the burden on employees subject to social security contributions with low wages by €1.3 billion, without having to forego social protection, he said.

“In this way, we are providing targeted relief for people with low incomes,” said Heil.

Unlike mini-jobs, midi-jobs are not exempt from social security contributions. However, they are subject to staggered reduced rates. Employees in midi-jobs do not have to pay full social security contributions until they reach the upper limit of €1,600 at present – and €2,000 in future.

READ ALSO: The rules in Germany around ‘mini’ and ‘midi-jobs’

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