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Social Democrats in uproar as youth leader calls for BMW to be nationalized

The Social Democrats were falling into civil war on Thursday after the leader of their youth movement gave an explosive interview in which he called for luxury carmaker BMW to be nationalised and the property rental market to be abolished.

Social Democrats in uproar as youth leader calls for BMW to be nationalized
Kevin Kühnert. Photo: DPA

Kevin Kühnert, head of the Young Socialists (known as Jusos) told Die Zeit newspaper that he wanted Germany’s most famous car brand to be taken over by the state “in a democratic manner”.

“It's of little importance to me whether BMW's address states 'state-owned automobile company' or 'cooperative automobile company' or whether the collective decides that BMW is no longer needed in its current form,” he stated.

The 29-year-old, who is widely regarded as the up-and-coming star in centre-left politics, also said that he believed that nobody should be able to make a profit by renting out apartments to tenants.

SEE ALSO: Germany's SPD shifts back to leftist roots, straining ties with Merkel

“At most everyone should own the space that they themselves live in,” he said.

Kühnert is known for taking up positions to the left of the mainstream in his party. But the Die Zeit interview has caused outrage in a country in which talk of property expropriation and state-run industry brings back dark memories of the dysfunction East German state.

Political opponents said on Thursday that Kühnert had revealed himself as having more in common with Karl Marx than modern-day social democracy. And within the SPD itself, the criticism has been furious, with some calling for him to be ejected from the party.

Michael Frenzel, head of the party’s economic forum, said that the leadership had to take strong action. “There is only one reaction: ejecting him from the party,” he said.

Kühnert’s opinions were “a steep step to bring the SPD closer to the old SED [the ruling party of the GDR] and to further alienate us from the middle,” Frenzel added.

Johannes Kahrs, another leading moderate in the party questioned weather Kühnert was on drugs when he gave the interview.

“What nonsense,” he said on Twitter. “Whatever he was smoking, it can’t have been legal.”

Others in the party have cautioned that Kühnert should be allowed some freedom to think radically as a member of their youth movement.

“A chairman of the Young Socialists is allowed to think outside the box about the connections between capitalism and social democracy and that is his right,” said party deputy leader Natascha Kohnen. “This should not lead to a hysterical debate among the other parties.

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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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