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Everything that changes in Germany in February 2019

From higher taxes to healthier products, we look at what changes when January becomes February on Friday.

Everything that changes in Germany in February 2019
A clock in Dresden being changed in March 2018. Photo: DPA
What the app?
Whatsapp is particular popular in Germany, but it will most likely lose some users due to a controversial innovation. While WhatsApp was free of advertising in the past, this will now change, and several Germans have already taken to social media to complain.
 
Mark Zuckerberg's data giant Facebook bought Whatsapp four years ago, and has now signed an agreement for free advertising, which it can show in the form of videos, text or photos. 
 
Facebook Vice President Chris Daniel announced in November that he wanted to show the ads in the status area in the future. At the time, the announcement prompted some Whatsapp employees to leave the company.
 
Germany in the past tried to minimize the relationship between the two services; in 2016, the Data Protection Services blocked Facebook from collecting user information from WhatsApp.
 
 
Photo: DPA
 
Woman and/or holidaymakers rejoice, officially
Whether in the name of feminism or having another official day off of work, many Berliners rejoiced last week when Frauentag, or Women's Day, was voted by Berlin's state parliament as a public holiday. It will be officially written in to law on February 1st. 
 
 
Cities cleaning up their act?
More and more German cities are imposing driving bans on older diesel models. A ban zone was only introduced in Stuttgart at the turn of the year. However a ban in Frankfurt, which was supposed to go into affect on February 1st, is currently being put on ice, as the city is protesting the decision made by the Hesse state government in Wiesbaden.  
 
 
Spraying on the safe side
An amendment to the EU Cosmetics Regulation stipulates that sprays and other cosmetics must no longer contain zinc oxide. Inhaling such particles can cause pneumonia. Starting from February 24th, such products may not be sold. Cosmetics already on shelves, however, can be sold up to May 24th. 
 
The real pill
Counterfeit drugs will hopefully be a thing of the past by later this year. As of February 9th, 2019, the packaging of medicines must bear an individual number and a seal, according to Germany's Federal Office of Medicine and Medical Products, bringing it up to standard with EU-wide regulations. This is intended to prevent counterfeit medicines from entering the market. 
 
A toll that's not so toll (great)?
Holidaymakers heading to the Austrian ski slopes by car will have to dig a little deeper into their pockets from February 1st. From then on, the new annual tolls will apply – with slightly higher prices. Instead of €87.30, the annual toll now costs €89.20.
 
Also the tolls for shorter trips (for ten days or two months) become more expensive. They rise in each case around 60 cent to €9,20 or €26,80.

 
Keeping emissions in balance
At the end of January 2019, the amendment to the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Trading Act (TEHG) came into force, transposing the reform of European emissions trading into German law. The primary aim is to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases and at the same time to ensure the competitiveness of energy-intensive industries within the EU.
 
Here's a bit of background: Throughout Europe, 12,000 industrial and energy plants are participating in emissions trading. This means that together they may only emit a certain amount of greenhouse gases. This maximum quantity will be reduced from year to year – this year by 38 million tonnes, and by 2021 by 48 million tonnes. 
 
 
Photo: DPA
Some say that this really sucks
Anyone looking for a new vacuum cleaner has so far been able to look to the EU energy label. With a letter scale that ranged from A+++ to D and a colour scale from dark green to dark red, it quickly became clear which product was energy-efficient – and which was not. But that's over now: vacuum cleaners will no longer have an EU energy label.
 
While the manufacturers of refrigerators, washing machines and televisions may continue to advertise with such a label, the labels of vacuum cleaners must disappear. The reason for this is a court ruling which criticized the test method chosen by the EU.
 
According to the court's reasoning, energy consumption had only been tested using empty vacuum cleaner bags. Yet they said this is an inefficient way to test: in practice, of course, vacuuming is also done with filled bags – and this influences energy efficiency. The complaint was filed by the British company Dyson, whose products are completely bagless.
 
Cheaper Saki for residents of Germany
The Free Trade Agreement between the European Union and Japan enters into force on February 1st. The significance is enormous, say economists: both markets account for around one-third of global economic output.
 
With the agreement – also called Jefta – almost all customs duties on the products of both economic areas will cease to apply. The annual savings for EU exporters are expected to amount to around one billion euros annually. In addition, an increase in exports is expected due to the size of the Japanese market.
 
Sushi sold in a REWE supermarket. Photo: DPA
 
Looking on the sunny side
Starting Thursday, January 31st, the new register for photovoltaic systems in Germany will be launched. All types of devices, from a solar roof you install on your home (though most likely won't reap much benefit from in February) to solar production plants, apply – you can find the form to register here
 
Newly set-up systems, as well as the expansion of existing PV systems, must be registered within one month of installment. There is a two-year notification period for owners of existing systems. Anyone who misses this deadline risks a reduction in the feed-in tariff under the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG).
 
Want to know what will change throughout Germany over the course of the year? See our article about everything that's set to change in 2019

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WHAT CHANGES IN GERMANY

Everything that changes in Germany in October 2022

From a nationwide public holiday and new Covid rules to changes surrounding mini and midi jobs, here's what's happening in Germany this October.

Everything that changes in Germany in October 2022

Reunification Day

Germany will celebrate the Day of German Unity, or Tag der deutschen Einheit, on Monday October 3rd.

It marks the day that the the German Democratic Republic (GDR) officially ceased to exist as a sovereign state and rejoined the Federal Republic of Germany in 1990. Since then, Germany has been reunited as the Bundesrepublik and the date is celebrated every year with a holiday in every federal state.

This year it’s 32 years since east and west reunified. Because it’s a public holiday, most workplaces as well as shops and other businesses are closed. 

READ ALSO: Which public holidays are coming up in Germany?

New Covid rules

A new set of Covid rules based on the amended Infection Protection Act will come into force from October 1st. 

The rules will apply until April 7th next year. We have a short round up of some of the bigger changes below, but check out our key points article for more information. 

READ ALSO: Key points – Germany’s new Covid rules from October

Mask mandate changes

Under the new regulations, people travelling on long-distance trains in Germany will have to wear an FFP2 mask if they are over the age of 14. Children aged between six and 13, can wear a surgical mask.

A mask mandate is also in force nationwide in hospitals, nursing homes and doctors’ offices. In nursing homes and clinics, a negative Covid test has to also be shown when visiting. 

Masks will no longer have to be worn, however, on flights to and from and within Germany. 

Further requirements, such as the obligation to wear masks in shops, restaurants or event rooms, can be imposed by the federal states – depending on the incidence of infection. Tests may be required in schools and daycare centres.

States are expected to continue with the mask mandate order on local public transport.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach holds an FFP2 mask

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach holds an FFP2 mask. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Michael Kappeler

Covid safety plans at work – but no mandatory ‘home office’

Employers do not have to offer their staff the opportunity to work from home. But bosses should consider this, as well as regular Covid testing, as an option for employees as part of Covid safety plans. 

A draft law by Labour Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD), which called for mandatory home office rule during the winter months to help with the Covid situation, was toned down after coalition partners, the FDP pushed for a change.

Vaccination status changes

There are changes coming up when it comes to what counts as being fully vaccinated in Germany. In general, people will need three jabs to be classed as fully vaccinated from October. 

Vaccination certificates issued after two shots will only be considered as proof of full vaccination until September 30th. Beginning October 1st, a booster jab (i.e., a 3rd vaccination) is generally required to be considered “fully vaccinated”. Alternatively, two vaccinations and proof of recovery from Covid-19 will also qualify. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s planned changes to Covid vaccination status

However, keep in mind that there is no planned vaccination/test requirement to enter indoor public areas in Germany – previously known as the 3G or 2G rules.

If a German state government imposes a mask requirement indoors, then people simply need to wear a mask to enter indoor settings such as bars, restaurants, cultural and recreational venues. People who present a negative Covid test would be exempt from wearing a mask. However, regions can also choose to exempt the freshly vaccinated or recently recovered people from the mask requirement. In that case, people would have to show proof. However, not all states have to bring in this exception.

A person is considered recovered from the 29th day after detection of infection and for a maximum of 90 days. The ‘recovery’ proof can be provided by a PCR test.

Mini-jobbers can earn more

On October 1st, the upper earnings limit for people with so-called mini-jobs will rise from €450 to €520 per month. There will also be changes for employees in midi-jobs, who were previously allowed to earn between €450 and €1,300 per month: the limit will shift to between €520 and €1,600 from October.

READ ALSO: The rules in Germany around mini and midi jobs

A member of staff at a cafe in Stuttgart.

A member of staff at a cafe in Stuttgart. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Bernd Weißbrod

Minimum wage boost

On October 1st, the statutory minimum wage in Germany will be raised to €12 per hour. It was raised to €10.45 at the beginning of July.

VAT on gas usage to be slashed

Energy prices are currently going through the roof. As a result, the German government has decided to reduce the VAT rate on gas consumption from 19 to 7 percent. The reduction in VAT was intended to offset the controversial gas levy – however, that levy is being shelved. 

READ ALSO:

Property tax deadline 

From 2025, a new property tax calculation will apply in Germany. For this to happen, almost 36 million properties in Germany are being revalued on the basis of information that owners submit.

That means people owning property in Germany have to submit a new declaration to the tax office based on values as of January 1st 2022. Owners have until October 31st of this year to send in updated information electronically via the Elster portal to the tax office.

Commercial tax programmes that offer an interface to Elster can also be used. People who do not have Internet access can also have the declaration prepared by relatives. In exceptional cases, a declaration in paper form is also possible by making a request at the tax office.

READ ALSO: The German property tax declaration owners need to know about

An aerial view of flats in Munich.

An aerial view of flats in Munich. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sina Schuldt

An extra hour in bed

Don’t forget that the clocks go back this October. 

During the night from Saturday October 29th to Sunday October 30th, clocks in Germany will be set to winter time. At 3am the clock will go back one hour, to Central European Time (CET).

The good news is that we all get an extra hour of sleep (or partying). The bad news is that it’s going to get darker earlier in the evening. 

Driving test questions

People learning to drive in Germany will see a few changes. Starting October 1st, the questions for the theoretical driver’s license exam will change. New questions will be added, while older questions revised. In total, the test contains 52 questions.

No more WhatsApp for older iPhones

From October 24th, the messenger service WhatsApp will no longer be supported on Apple smartphones with an iOS operating system 10 and 11. Apple users must have at least iOS 12 installed from this date to continue using WhatsApp.

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