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Update: ‘We were wrong’ about German spy chief’s promotion: SPD boss Nahles

The leaders in Germany's grand coalition will renegotiate the planned promotion of the former head of the German domestic intelligence agency.

Update: 'We were wrong' about German spy chief's promotion: SPD boss Nahles
Andrea Nahles, SPD leader. Photo: DPA

Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) agreed to renegotiate the future of Hans-Georg Maaßen, former President of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, after a call from SPD leader Andrea Nahles.

Nahles, along with Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and CSU leader Horst Seehofer, had agreed on Tuesday to sack Maaßen as head of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution. But as part of the deal he was promised a position as secretary of state in the Interior Ministry.

“The Chancellor considers it right and appropriate to reassess the issues at stake and to find a viable joint solution,” government spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Friday.

Meanwhile, Seehofer also said later on Friday that he would not rule out a new consultation with Merkel and Nahles about the Maaßen case.

“I think a renewed consultation makes sense if a mutual solution is possible. This is now being considered,” Seehofer told the DPA on Friday.

The decision was sparked after Maaßen gave comments in a newspaper interview on xenophobic incidents in Chemnitz. He had questioned the authenticity of amateur video footage, seemingly contradicting Merkel, and was also accused of having questionable links to the far-right.

There was a huge resistance to the deal within the Social Democrats (SPD), with former party leader Sigmar Gabriel calling the move to transfer Maaßen as “crazy”. 

Deputy SPD chairman Ralf Stegner also challenged the grand coalition, saying patience among SPD member was “extremely thin”.

“I am of the opinion that the leaders of the coalition should meet again to discuss the important but very different concerns of the coalition partners,” Nahles wrote in a letter to Merkel and Seehofer, which was initially reported by Spiegel Online.

The SPD leader successfully pushed for Maaßen’s dismissal, whose suitability in the fight against far-right extremism was doubted by the party.

Federal Interior Minister Seehofer, who, unlike Merkel and Nahles, supported Maaßen, planned to take him in return for the position of SPD State Secretary in his ministry. 

Seehofer emphasized that he wanted Maaßen’s expertise in the fight against terrorism. On Thursday he praised Maaßen as a “competent, honest employee”.

With his headstrong decision, however, the CSU leader brought the SPD into severe turbulence – there were demands at the grassroots level to end the grand coalition.

“The consistently negative reactions from the population show that we were wrong,” Nahles wrote.

“We have lost confidence instead of restoring it,” she said. “That should be a reason for us to pause together and rethink the appointment.”

The call from Nahles came during a turbulent time in German politics.

On Friday, a poll found that the Alternative for Germany had overtaken the SPD for the first time as the second strongest party in Germany.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Germany approves €9 public transport ticket for summer

It's official - people in Germany will get cheap public transport for three months this summer after the €9 ticket was approved.

Germany approves €9 public transport ticket for summer

As part of a host of energy relief measures to cushion the cost of living crisis, the German government is offering cheap public transport for the months of June, July and August. 

Monthly tickets will be available at a price of €9 (or €27 for all three months) and they will allow people to use all buses, trains and trams in local and regional transport throughout the country.

So even if people buy the ticket in Munich, they will also be able to use local and regional buses, trains and trams elsewhere in Germany, whether it’s Hamburg or Cologne. 

READ ALSO: How to explore Germany by train with the €9 ticket

The ticket will not be valid, however, on long-distance transport such as ICE trains or Flixbus.

The offer was put together by the coalition government – made of the Social Democrats, the Greens and the FDP.

The Bundestag voted for the initiative on Thursday, agreeing to give federal states a subsidy of €2.5 billion to fund the project. 

And on Friday, the Bundesrat – the upper house of parliament that represents the states – gave the green light to the ticket, paving the way for it to begin on June 1st. 

States had wanted an extra €1.5 billion funding boost to deal with lost revenue, however it would have been hugely controversial if they had blocked it.

READ ALSO: German states threaten to block the €9 ticket in the Bundesrat

During a debate on Thursday, federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) said the €9 project was “already a success”.

“All of Germany is talking about local public transport,” he said, adding that it is also being viewed with interest abroad. 

READ ALSO: ‘Fantastic’: Your verdict on Germany’s €9 ticket

The Left party (Die Linke) voted in favour of the €9 ticket, but leader Bernd Riexinger said he thought the plan didn’t go far enough. “Three months is simply too little,” he said.

The opposition, however, slammed the move. Christian Democrat Michael Donth called it an “expensive experiment”.

Rail operator Deutsche Bahn will offer the ticket for sale as early as Monday. Local public transport providers across the country are also preparing their ticket machines for the initiative. It will also be available in travel centres.

People with subscriptions to local transport will automatically benefit from the offer. 

In some regions, such as Stuttgart and Freiburg, the ticket is already available for purchase.

READ ALSO: How to get a hold of the €9 ticket in Berlin

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