DW Newsletter
If you cannot view this message correctly, please click here.
DW Logo
Made for minds.
Berlin Briefing
A weekly look at German politics
22.09.2023 | 19:00 UTC
In this edition: German and Ukrainian leaders put their differences aside; the Greens get a beating in regional elections; conservatives are up in arms about preschool kids and diversity; and a trial connected with one of the biggest art heists in modern German history concludes.
A view of Berlin
The collaborative street art by Rommy Gonzalez and Ekaterina Koroleva revolves around feminity.
Willkommen to DW's Berlin Briefing
By DW's Analysis Team
All eyes were on Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy this weekend as he came to Germany for the first time since Russia launched its invasion.

He first held top-level talks in Berlin before traveling on to the western city of Aachen to receive the prestigious Charlemagne Prize for contributing to Europe's unity.

DW's Chief Political Correspondent Nina Haase followed the events closely and explains their significance.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy receiving the Charlemagne Prize  
A prize for the Ukrainian people
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the people of Ukraine have been awarded the prize for European unity named for the “Father of Europe.” 
Heizungshammer backlash
Chancellor Olaf Scholz's center-left Social Democrats (SPD) received a boost from the small city-state of Bremen, where they won a clear election victory on Sunday.

For their coalition partner, the Greens, it was a different story: They took an unprecedented beating in one of their traditional strongholds, losing one-third of their support as compared with 2019.

In pre-election polls 80% of voters had expressed dissatisfaction with the policies of the federal Economy and Climate Minister Robert Habeck (Greens), saying his plans to phase out fossil fuel heating from 2024 would put too much of a burden on private households. Germany's tabloid media and the conservative opposition are denouncing the government's plans as Habecks Heizungshammer (Habeck's heating hammer).

There is pressure to postpone measures, as lavish state support for homeowners is unlikely. Finance Minister Christian Lindner (neoliberal FDP) says recent tax relief measures to help citizens cope with inflation have emptied state coffers and the government must tighten its belt and resist new expenditures. 

Green Party co-leader Ricarda Lang expressed her disappointment at the election results in Bremen but vowed to hold on to core projects on the path to climate neutrality, even if they are unpopular. "If we don't change anything now, we endanger everything down the road," Lang said.

But in Bremen — just like previously in Berlin — voters also turned against local Green Party policies to limit car traffic. Green Party top candidate and Senator for the Environment Maike Schaefer resigned on Monday, accepting personal responsibility for the poor showing.

She had become hugely unpopular through policies to reduce parking spaces and by introducing speed limits in the city center. Schaefer then managed to draw car lovers' ire just two weeks before the vote by abolishing the much-beloved Brötchentaste on parking meters, which allowed drivers to park for free just long enough to hop into the bakery to grab some rolls.

Boosting public transport and electromobility are on the list of measures to reduce CO2 emissions, but lifestyle changes are proving to be a hard sell in Germany.
an empty train station platform   Deutsche Bahn battles crisis
German trains were once synonymous with efficiency. Now, the state railway Deutsche Bahn is beset by woes. Can it get back on track? 
an electric car at a charging station  
E-mobility in Germany is slow to take off
So far, only one million of Germany's total 49 million passenger cars are electric. German manufacturers are late to the game. DW's Auto and Mobility show explores whether any of the models are actually affordable. 
Is Germany "too woke"?
Last week, Germany's center-left federal government presented a draft self-determination law, which would make it easier for people to change their name and gender. 

This comes at a time when conservative politicians have begun driving campaigns that are reminiscent of societal discourse in the United States, where Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has pushed through what has been termed the "don't say gay" bill banning the mention of sexual orientation and gender identity to children through third grade.

DeSantis has admirers among regional politicians from the conservative Christian Social Union in Germany's southern state of Bavaria.

There, the debate over a public reading event for kids at a Munich public library has turned acrimonious. Munich's municipal library has invited two drag artists and a trans woman to read to children aged four and up about "boys in dresses, princesses with their own will, the colors blue and pink, and discovering one's own freedom." CSU politicians want to ban the event, which they say is "endangering the welfare of children."

This coincides with a nationwide debate over a decision by kindergarten teachers in the Bavarian town of Fulda not to celebrate Mother's Day. In a letter to the parents, they wrote that the aim was not to exclude any people, as "the constellation mother-father-child(ren) is no longer the norm in today's families." The former head of the center-right Christian Democrats' youth wing, Tilman Kuban, posted a copy of the letter on Twitter with his comment "There are no more limits to the madness…"

Meanwhile, anti-woke populists are having a heyday after Germany again came in last at the Eurovision Song Contest. The band "Lord of the Lost" had been posing in extravagant latex costumes with a rainbow banner rather than the national flag. "Anyone who is not able to present the country's flag does not deserve to win," read a comment on a nationalist Twitter account called "Heimatgefühl".
Lord of the Lost   'We don't mind being freaks'
DW met up with the goth metal band "Lord of the Lost" as they were preparing for the Eurovision Song Contest.
art and crime
A piece of jewellry from the Green Vault
A spectacular heist
Members of Berlin's Remmo organized crime family were sentenced to prison — ranging from four years and four months to six years and three months — for stealing priceless jewels from the Green Vault museum in Dresden in 2019.

Check out the dazzling jewels that remain missing to this day. 
Do you have questions about Germany?
If so, drop us a line and we'll try to answer them in an upcoming newsletter.
Like this newsletter? Subscribe now!
Sign up here for Berlin Briefing and receive the latest edition.