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Today in Germany: A roundup of the latest news on Thursday

AFP/The Local
AFP/The Local - [email protected]
Today in Germany: A roundup of the latest news on Thursday
A board showing cancelled trains in Hanover on November 16th during a strike. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Moritz Frankenberg

Train drivers' union announces strike, Berlin's €29 ticket get start date, Volkswagen to reduce workforce and more news from around Germany.

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Train drivers' strike starts Thursday evening 

German train drivers are set to go on strike on Thursday evening until Friday night in a dispute over pay and conditions. 

The GDL union said drivers of freight trains had been called on to strike from 6pm Thursday, and drivers of passenger trains from 10pm. 

The strike will end at 10pm on Friday. 

All employees in long-distance and regional trains, as well as employees of the S-Bahn in Berlin and Hamburg, have been called out on strike, the union said. 

In addition to Deutsche Bahn, the strike also applies to the regional train operators Transdev, AKN Eisenbahn and the City-Bahn Chemnitz.

t is their second walkout in weeks - in mid-November, train drivers went out on a 20-hour strike that led to the cancellation of some 80 percent of long-distance trains nationwide.

GDL wants to see working hours reduced to 35 hours a week, from 38 currently, without salaries being cut - which rail operator Deutsche Bahn has so far refused.

READ ALSO: German train drivers to stage fresh strike starting Thursday

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Berlin's €29 ticket expected July 2024

The city of Berlin is bringing back it's reduced price travel ticket, and this week a start date was confirmed.

According to authorities, the €29 monthly ticket is scheduled to come back into force from July 1st 2024.

The ticket is called the 'Berlin-Abo' and will only be valid in the inner transport area, known as the AB zone.

According to a transport department spokeswoman, advance sales for the pass will begin around Easter. 

Berlin previously introduced a €29 ticket as a follow-up to the €9 ticket offer of summer 2022, but it was shelved to make way for the nationwide €49 travel pass, which was introduced earlier this year. 

The new Berlin 'Abo' can only be purchased as a monthly subscription with a term of at least one year.

READ ALSO: What are the rules of Berlin's new €29 travel pass?

Passengers board a U-Bahn train in Berlin.

Passengers board a U-Bahn train in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christoph Soeder

Irregular migration falls sharply 

The number of people entering Germany illegally dropped dramatically in November, new figures show. 

Figures from the government show that police detected 4,353 illegal entries to Germany in November, down from 18,384 in October.

Germany has upped its border controls in recent months due to a spike in what's known as irregular migration.

However, the police union (GdP), said border controls in Germany only have a small effect on numbers. 

Instead, they believe there's been an overall "domino effect", meaning that neighbouring states and others have subsequently strengthened their own border protection. 

Andreas Roßkopf, who is responsible for federal police and customs at the GdP, notes that Austria and Slovakia have recently intensified their border controls with Hungary.

He also attributes the decline in the number of unauthorised entries to a temporary effect found through intelligence - smuggling organisations have been caught up in a row which has meant many migrants could not cross borders that way. 

READ ALSO:

German carmaker Volkswagen to reduce workforce

Volkswagen has said it would cut its workforce over the coming years as the German auto giant seeks to boost its profitability and reboot a faltering shift to electric cars.

"Over the coming years, we will need to reduce our workforce in a socially responsible way," the group's human resources chief Gunnar Kilian said.

The focus would be on "partial retirement and early retirement schemes to the maximum extent possible," he added, in a statement issued after a meeting with employees in Wolfsburg, where the firm is headquartered.

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He did not indicate how many roles would be affected at the 10-brand group, whose marques include Audi, Skoda and Seat.

But he said the aim was to reduce staff costs in areas outside production by about 20 percent.

He stressed this did not mean having 20 percent fewer people, and most savings would "come from process improvements and structural adjustments".

On Wednesday, Thomas Schaefer, head of the Volkswagen brand, outlined measures that had already been decided upon to reduce costs.

These range from dropping a plan to build a new research and development centre, to speeding up product development.

In September, VW said it was cutting 269 temporary jobs at its flagship electric car plant in Zwickau.

Germany wants EU to discuss Israeli settler sanctions

Germany wants the European Union to consider sanctions on extremist Israeli settlers behind a wave of violence against Palestinians in the West Bank, a foreign ministry spokesman said on Wednesday.

In a rare concrete repercussion against Israelis, the US said Tuesday it would refuse visas for extremist Israeli settlers in response to violence in
the West Bank since Hamas's October 7th attack on Israel.

The German foreign ministry spokesman, Sebastian Fischer, on Wednesday said Berlin welcomed the fact that the US "will now take concrete measures in the form of entry restrictions".

It was "important to drive this debate forward at European level too", the spokesman said.

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Berlin is "actively contributing" to discussions on the topic ahead of a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday, he added.

In early November, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo called on the EU to consider barring "extremist" Israelis who call for violence against Palestinians from visiting Europe.

Hamas militants stormed out of Gaza into Israel on October 7, killing around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking around 240 hostages, according to Israeli officials.

In response, Israel vowed to destroy Hamas and has carried out air strikes and a ground offensive that have killed more than 16,000 people, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Even though Hamas does not control the West Bank, some 250 Palestinians have been killed there by Israeli soldiers and settlers since October 7th, according to Palestinian authorities.

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