GERMAN BRIEF: BERLIN
Berlin to be safer, greener and faster
May 2023: Berlin's new government, consisting of centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU) and centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), began its work on 3 May. After five weeks of coalition negotiations, the two parties have agreed to an extensive government programme, parts of it will have to be implemented without delay.
The government partners have set themselves a number of priorities. After an increase in crime by almost eight per cent last year, public safety and security are at the top of the list.
To achieve climate neutrality by 2040, the city will have to become much greener. In the short term, the planting of 10,000 climate-resilient urban and street trees is planned. In the long term, the aim is to increase Berlin's tree population to some 500,000.
To encourage Berliners to switch from private cars to public transport, the new government will introduce a 29-Euro ticket, which would allow ticketholders unlimited travel across the city for one month.
The notoriously cumbersome bureaucracy of the German capital is to be modernised. Digitalisation, in particular, is lagging behind other German cities. Berlin's new Mayor Kai Wegner will personally take charge. In order to advance the digitalisation of the administration, a new digital law is to be passed.
More staff and tougher laws are the order of the day. In neighbourhoods with high crime levels, knife-ban zones and temporary video surveillance will be introduced. The use of body cameras is to be massively expanded and also authorised in private apartments. More tasers are also planned. Mobile phone surveillance will be made possible in cases of suspected terrorism and organised crime.
The public prosecutor's office, courts and penal system are to be better equipped. There will be special public prosecutors for crime-ridden neighbourhoods. A model for juvenile offenders - fast proceedings, fast sentencing - is to be rolled out and the fight against organised crime and clan criminality is to be strengthened.
The two government partners plans to include climate protection in Berlin's constitution. In order to fight climate change, the parties want to allow small wind turbines in the city. To make the city greener, there is to be an immediate programme for 10,000 climate-resilient urban and street trees. In addition, the coalition has the long-term goal of increasing the number of street trees to 500,000.
The governing coalition is focusing on the expansion of local public transport. It plans to introduce a 29-euro ticket, which will provide ticketholders with unlimited travel for one month across Berlin.
The rules for bike lanes will be changed. Their width will not necessarily have to be 2.30 metres throughout Berlin. Especially where there is less demand, narrower paths could suffice.
Some 2,000 new e-charging stations are to be installed every year. Park-and-ride schemes on the outskirts of the city are to be expanded. Existing 30 km/h-zones will be scrutinised. The standard speed on main roads should be 50 km/h.
Children who do not speak sufficient German before entering school are to receive language education in the year before they start school with a foundation year ‘Kita-Chancenjahr’.
The digitalisation of schools is to be speeded up. All public schools are to be connected to a gigabyte-capable broadband network by the end of the legislative period.
The trial year at grammar schools (Gymnasien) is to be abolished. Instead, the coalition wants to introduce an aptitude test. The examinations for an intermediate school-leaving certificate (Mittlere Reife) at grammar schools are also to be abolished.
Starting in 2024, subsidies for universities are to be increased by five per cent annually, instead of the current 3.5 per cent.
Town planning and house building
The government partners have agreed to build an average of 20,000 new apartments per year. Of these, 5,000 are to be social housing. For more than four billion euros, about 15,000 flats are to be purchased by the city. In order to speed up the construction of new buildings, the coalition wants to deregulate construction in many areas. Details will be part of a ‘Faster Building Act’ (Schneller-Bauen-Gesetz).
An international urban planning competition is to be held to explore developing the fringes of the former Tempelhof airfield (Tempelhofer Feld). The CDU would like to hold a new referendum on Tempelhofer Feld. In a 2014 referendum, almost two-thirds of Berliners rejected building on the open space.
The coalition partners want to allow young people, aged 16 and over, to vote in district and city-wide elections. All parties in the Berlin Senate, except the right-wing AfD, are in favour of lowering the voting age.
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