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> European elections

> More than 200,000 foreign nationals granted German citizenship

> Germany legalises the recreational use of cannabis

> Berlin state parliament lowers voting age to 16

European parliament

The European Parliament building, which opened in 1999, is named after Louse Weiss, a journalist, women's rights activist and, later in her life, Gaullist politician

EUROPEAN ELECTIONS

European elections: Pro-European parties retain a strong majority but German eurosceptic far-right makes gains

June 2024: In the elections to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 9 June 2024, pro-European party groups retained the majority despite suffering heavy losses in some cases. Out of 720 seats in parliament, staunchly pro-European party groups won 489 seats. However, they lost 36 seats. Eurosceptic groups won 131 seats, an increase of 13 seats. The 100 independents and non-defined members of parliament probably include a considerable number of Eurosceptics. For example, the 15 deputies sent to Strasbourg from the German far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) belong to this group after the party was expelled from the Identity and Democracy grouping in the European Parliament.

 

In Germany, voter turnout was higher than ever after 16 and 17-year-olds were allowed to vote for the first time. Almost 65% of those eligible to vote cast their ballot. In the first all-German EU election in 1994, the turnout had been exactly 60 percent, in later votes only between 40 and 50 percent.

 

Around 65 million people in Germany were eligible to vote. The European elections are seen as a mood test for the German parties for the state elections in Saxony, Thuringia and Brandenburg in the autumn and for the parliamentary (Bundestag) elections in the autumn of next year.

 

Distribution of seats in the European Parliament

(by party groupings)

Pro-European

European People’s Party Group (EEP), centre-right – 185 seats (gained 9 seats)

Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D), centre-left – 137 seats (lost 2 seats)

Renew Europe (RE), liberal / strongly pro-European – 79 seats (lost 23 seats)

Greens – European Free Alliance (Greens/EFA), 52 seats (lost 19 seats)

The Left in the European Parliament (GUE/NGL), 36 seats (lost 1 seat)

 

Eurosceptic

European Conservatives and Reformists, anti-federalists (ECR), 73 seats (gained 4 seats)

Identity and Democracy (ID), right-wing nationalists, 58 seats (gained 9 seats)

 

Others

Independents 46 seats (lost 16 seats)

Various others - 54 seats

 

How Germany voted

Christian Democrats (CDU)/CSU), centre-right – 30.0%, 29 seats

Alternative for Germany (AfD), far-right – 15.9%, 15 seats

Social Democrats (SPD) ,centre-left – 13.9%, 14 seats

The Greens, centre-left – 11.9%, 12 seats

Coalition Sahra Wagenknecht (BSW), populist, 6.2%, 6 seats

Free Democrats (FDP), centre-right – 5.2%, 5 seats

The Left, leftist, 2.7%, 3 seats

Free Voters, centre-right, 2.7%, 3 seats

Volt Germany, pro-European, 2.6%, 3 seats

 

IN GREATER DETAIL

CITIZENSHIP

More than 200,000 foreign nationals granted German citizenship in 2023

May 2024: In 2023, more than 200,00 people from 157 countries were granted German citizenship. Former Syrian nationals alone accounted for more than a third (38%) of naturalisations. The five most frequently represented nationalities Syria, Turkey, Iraq, Romania and Afghanistan together accounted for more than half (56%) of all naturalisations. Naturalised citizens were on average 29 years old and therefore significantly younger than the population in Germany (45 years). At 45 per cent, the proportion of women among naturalised citizens was lower than in the overall population (50 per cent).

 

With 75,500 people, 27,100 more (+56%) than in the previous year, Syrian nationals were the largest group of naturalised citizens in 2023. In 2022, their number had already more than doubled year-on-year to 19,100; in 2021, it had even increased sevenfold to 6,700.

 

Syrian citizens who received a German passport in 2023 were on average 24.5 years old and 64 per cent of them were men. Before being naturalised, they had lived in Germany for an average of 6.8 years. The high number of naturalisations of Syrians is therefore linked to the high influx of Syrian asylum seekers between 2014 and 2016, who now increasingly fulfil the requirements for naturalisation, including language skills and minimum length of stay. Spouses and underage children can also be naturalised without a minimum period of residence. This applied to around some 28,000 (37%) of naturalised Syrians.

 

Turkish and Iraqi nationals together made up the second largest group of origin of naturalised citizens in 2023 with 10,700 naturalisations each. The number of naturalisations of Iraqi nationals increased by 3,900 (+57%) compared to 2022, while the number of naturalisations of Turkish nationals fell by 3,500 (-25%).

 

The number of naturalisations of Ukrainians rose by 300 (+6%) to 5,900 in 2023, after almost tripling from 1,900 to 5,600 between 2021 and 2022 in the wake of the Russian attack on Ukraine. Naturalisations of Ukrainian citizens accounted for three per cent of all naturalisations in 2023.

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CANNABIS

Germany legalises the recreational use of cannabis, but conditions apply

April 2024: On 1 April 2024, following Malta in 2021 and Luxembourg in 2023, Germany became the largest country in the European Union (EU) to legalise cannabis for recreational use. Possession of up to 25 grams of dried cannabis is now permitted in public places, as is home cultivation of up to 50 grams and three plants per adult. However, cannabis smokers will have to wait another three months before they can legally buy drugs through so-called ‘Cannabis Social Clubs’.

 

The situation will change in July with the introduction of the clubs. These non-profit associations will be able to sell their members a maximum of 25 grams a day and no more than 50 grams a month. These clubs, a kind of shared cannabis garden, will be able to grow the drug on an outdoor plot, in a greenhouse or an uninhabited building. Checked at least once a year by the authorities, each association will be able to welcome, for a membership fee, a maximum of 500 people who have been resident in Germany for at least six months.

 

According to the German government, the new legislation should make it possible to combat trafficking more effectively. Believing that the policy of prohibition has failed, Health Minister Dr (med) Karl Lauterbach regularly points out that countries such as Canada, which have implemented legalisation, have been able to reduce the black market. The minister said cannabis was coming out of the taboo zone. "It's better for real help for drug addicts, prevention for young people and the fight against the black market", he added.

 

But many medical associations fear an increase in consumption, particularly among young people. Up to the age of 25, cannabis use entails greater risks for the still-developing brain, according to experts, who point in particular to the danger of developing psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia.

 

Germany's health minister has promised increased resources to raise awareness among young people of the dangers of cannabis, without announcing any specific amounts. The authorities point out that cannabis remains banned for under-18s. Consumption is also banned within a 100-metre radius of schools, crèches and playgrounds.

 

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VOTING AGE

Berlin state parliament lowers voting age to 16

December 2023: Young people in Berlin will be able to vote from next year as soon as they turn 16. The city state's parliament decided to lower the voting age from 18 to 16. Because this decision required an amendment to the state constitution, it needed the approval of a broad parliamentary majority. The supporters of the CDU, SPD, Greens and Left all argue that this would strengthen democracy and give younger people more political participation.

 

Main political parties in Germany

CDU: Christian Democrats (Christlich Demokratische Union) conservative, centre-right

SPD: Social Democrats (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschland), centre-left, progressive

Grünen: Greens (Die Grünen), green, centre-left, progressive

FDP: Liberals (Freie Demokratische Partei) liberal, centrist

Die Linke: The Left (Die Linke), leftist

AfD: Alternative for Germany (Alternative für Deutschland), far-right.

 

"Young people have to bear the consequences of today’s political decisions for a long time to come. Now they are also involved in the decision-making," said Green politician Klara Schedlich, who, according to her parliamentary group, is the youngest member of the Berlin parliament, at the age of 23. "We have a reason to celebrate today, all democrats in this House." The far-right AfD voted against lowering the voting age.

 

Following Berlin’s decision, the city is the seventh German federal state in which people aged 16 and over can vote at state level. The next state elections are scheduled for 2026. In the majority of federal states, 16-year-olds are already allowed to vote in local elections. In Baden-Württemberg, Brandenburg, Bremen, Hamburg, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Schleswig-Holstein, this also applies to state elections. The right to vote from the age of 16 also applies to the 2024 European elections.

 

In the February 2023 Berlin state elections, the majority of 18 to 24-year-olds voted for progressive parties. Most popular were the Greens (22%), followed by the Left (18%). In third place was the CDU (12%), followed by the SPD (11%), FDP (8%) and AfD (7%).

 

Among the over-70s, 40% voted for the CDU, followed by the SPD (30%), the Left (11%), the AfD (7%) and the Greens (6%). The FDP was supported by 3% of this age group.

 

Political scientists are calling for a uniform voting age for all elections in Germany, and many parties are also in favour of lowering it, namely the FDP, Greens, SPD and Left Party. The current German coalition government would like to set the minimum voting age for the upcoming parliamentary (Bundestag) elections at 16. However, the voting age is enshrined in the German constitution and therefore cannot be changed by a simple majority. And the two-thirds majority required for a reform is not in sight as long as the CDU is against the changes. The far-right AfD is also opposed to lowering the voting age at federal level.

 

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