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How the coalition agreement changes everyday life in Germany

What does the coalition agreement between the SPD, the Greens and the FDP mean for the everyday lives of people living in Germany? Tenants, teens, families and car owners will all be affected under the new plans. Here are a few of them that may impact you.

Low income families will be given more financial support.
Low income families will be given more financial support. Photo: dpa-Zentralbild | Sebastian Kahner

The next coalition is promising to ‘dare to make progress’ in its government programme, with a particular emphasis on an ambitious climate policy. But there are many smaller changes that will have a more immediate impact on our lives.

Here are the key changes that are planned.

Families with children are to benefit from more daycare places and all-day care in schools.

They want to introduce a new child allowance, which is intended to support families on low incomes. It will wrap in the current child benefits, with other welfare including education support.

There is also a gift to new parents. Both parents are to receive two weeks’ paid leave after the birth of a child, while parental payments will also be extended for an additional month.

Tenants will no longer have to bear the entire extra costs put on heating bills by CO2 taxes. The coalition wants to achieve “fair sharing” by making landlords take on some of the costs.

The coalition wants to develop a model for the sharing of costs according to energy classes by mid-2022. If they haven’t done so by that time, they’ve agreed that cost will be shared 50/50 between tenant and landlord from June 1st onwards.

The rental brake, which limits new rents in areas with an overstretched housing market, will be extended and tightened up. As opposed to allowing rents to go up by 15 percent over three years, landlords will only be able to raise rents by up to 11 percent over this time. 

READ MORE: Four ways to help lower your rent in Germany

Homeowners will have to prepare for higher costs of building their own four walls. Those who build or renovate will soon have to comply with higher energy standards. That means more insulation, new windows and more heat generation with solar and biofuels. For new private buildings, solar panels are to become the rule, but they won’t be mandatory.

From 2025 onward, only heating systems that use 65 percent renewable energy, such as heat pumps, are to be allowed.

Electricity customers are to be offered relief on energy bills, which have been shooting up recently. From 2023, the EEG levy to promote green electricity will no longer be financed via the electricity bill, but by the federal government.

SEE ALSO: Why households in Germany are facing higher energy bills

According to comparison portal Verivox, abolishing the EEG will reduce the electricity bill for an average family by around €177 each year. The coalition also wants to offer a one-off increase in heating allowance to help households manage rising heating costs.

Car owners can expect fuel prices to keep rising. The CO2 tax will go up at the start of 2022, making petrol and diesel more expensive. However, a Green Party demand for a sharper rise to the carbon tax didn’t make it into the document.

Petrol prices will go up next year. Photo: dpa-tmn | Christin Klose

The state pension is to remain stable. In addition, more self-employed people are to be included in the statutory pension scheme. Some of the money paid in is to be invested on the capital market, which the coalition hopes will lead to better returns.

Low-wage earners will benefit from an increase in the minimum wage from the current €9.60 to €12 an hour. “This means a salary increase for ten million citizens,” said Olaf Scholz (SPD).

Rejected asylum seekers who learn German, are in steady work and do not commit crimes will be given new opportunities to remain in Germany permanently.

Family caregivers should receive more support including wage compensation for care-related time off.

Those who work in home office will still be able to claim a lump sum on their tax return next year. The allowance is €5 per day worked at home, up to a maximum of €600 per year.

SEE ALSO: Six Berlin cafes and co-working spaces to escape the home office

Teenagers are to be allowed to vote and obtain a driver’s license at an younger age. The voting age for federal elections is to be lowered to 16.

Accompanied driving is also to be possible from the age of 16, instead of the current 17. But drivers younger than 18 will still only be allowed to drive in the company of someone who is at least 30 years old.

The coalition agreement promises internet users anonymity while surfing. The ‘traffic light’ parties want as little monitoring and storage of communications data as possible. In the future, people who sign contracts online will be able to cancel them simply by clicking a button.

Consumers are to be given more protection against buying poorly manufactured products. Products that are used for a long time will have to have a correspondingly long warranty.

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GERMANY EXPLAINED

EXPLAINED: How October 3rd became Germany’s national holiday

Compared to many other countries, October 3rd is a relatively new nationwide holiday, marking 32 years since German reunification. Aaron Burnett explains the background to it and why it's celebrated on this particular date.

EXPLAINED: How October 3rd became Germany's national holiday

Independence Day in the United States dates all the way back to 1776. Canada Day, celebrated on July 1st, goes back to 1867. France’s Bastille Day on July 14th commemorates the storming of the Bastille in 1789.

Compared to those national holidays, Germany’s October 3rd is fairly recent, having only been around since 1990.

October 3rd – or Tag der Deutschen Einheit – marks the date that the former West and East Germany officially became one country again, after being divided since the end of WWII. In 2022 it’s celebrated on a Monday, meaning many people will get a long weekend. 

Between 1945 and 1949, the country was split into four occupation zones – held by the Americans, British, French, and the then Soviets. In 1949 the Soviet zone became the communist East Germany – or Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR), while the rest of the country became the West German Bundesrepublik Deutschland (BRD).

The Bundesrepublik continues today, but now with the five eastern federal states, plus East Berlin, that were formerly in the DDR.

Why October 3rd and not November 9th?

Less than a year before official reunification on October 3rd, 1990, the Berlin Wall fell on November 9th, 1989.

At first glance, November 9th might seem a better day to commemorate as a national day.

Growing up in Canada, my Gelsenkirchen-born Oma used to talk about the Berlin Wall falling with a slight waver in her voice – and sometimes even tears – decades after it crumbled before her eyes on her television screen.

November 9th, 1989 is remembered by many Germans as the happiest day in the history of the country, but the anniversary of the Berlin Wall’s fall is not observed as a national holiday.

‘It was the happiest day in German history,’ she told me at the time. ‘People were just so amazed at seeing that and no one really thought it would actually happen and guck mal – there it was. It was very emotional at the time and I guess I still am too,’ she would say.

READ ALSO: ‘There was a human tide moving’: Berliner remembers crossing the Wall

For Oma and many other German-Canadians I grew up around, Unity Day felt a little less momentous than November 9th. To them, October 3rd was an important day to observe, but conjured up a few less emotions.

‘November 9th suddenly made the dream of having a unified Germany again seem possible,’ my teacher at Calgary’s German-Canadian Club told me years ago. ‘By the time it was actually official, it just seemed like the final step of something that had been going on for a while already.’

To my Oma, my teacher, and others I grew up around who remembered that time – German reunification seemed inevitable within days of the Wall falling. But it wasn’t necessarily guaranteed. Even after the Wall fell, the DDR and BRD remained separate countries at first.

The months between November 9th, 1989 and October 3rd, 1990 were momentous – and saw several additional events that would pave the way for reunification.

On March 18th, 1990, the DDR would hold its first – and only – free and democratic elections. Won by the East German Christian Democrats, their leader Lothar de Maiziere served as GDR Premier until reunification on October 3rd.

Lothar de Maiziere, the first and only democratically elected leader of East Germany, at a German reunification celebration on October 3rd, 2020.

In Spring 1990, Bonn and Berlin agreed to convert the East German Ostmark – which was practically worthless at the time – to the West German Deutschmark on a largely 1 for 1 basis, with most salaries, prices, and savings being converted straight over.

Finally, the process for legal reunification took months, with the signing of an economic and currency union, the reconstituting of the five eastern federal states that had been abolished in communist times, the official reunification treaty, and the treaty that saw the WWII allies renounce all rights and responsibilities in Germany.

READ ALSO: What unity means to eastern Germans

At the stroke of midnight on October 3rd, 1990 – a reunified Germany became a fully sovereign state for the first time since WWII. That was thanks in large part to both political will and legal work in the months immediately following the Wall’s fall.

Although it seems so normal now, reunification was never guaranteed, which is part of why October 3rd enjoys and deserves its own special commemoration.

November 9th – German history’s double edge

The other major reason why October 3rd serves as Germany’s national day instead of November 9th is that November 9th, while associated with the happy elation of witnessing the Berlin Wall crumble, is also linked to many other momentous – and often solemn – historical commemorations.

On November 9th, 1918, Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated. Within hours, the Social Democrats and the Communist Party both declared the Weimar Republic and a ‘free, socialist republic,’ respectively. It would serve as the first sign of political instability that eventually allowed the Nazis to take power.

On November 9th, 1923, Adolf Hitler attempted a coup that started in a Munich beer hall. He was arrested and wrote Mein Kampf during his time in jail.

November 9th was not chosen as Germany’s national day partly because of the solemn commemorations attached to it, such as Kristallnacht on November 9th, 1938.

And on November 9th, 1938, Jewish businesses and synagogues were violently targeted during Kristallnacht, or the “Night of Broken Glass.” At least 90 Jews were killed and 30,000 deported.

As happy as November 9th, 1989 was, commemorating it as Germany’s national day would be problematic given the other solemn observances attached to it, which is also part of why October 3rd was chosen.

READ ALSO: Why November 9th is a fateful day in German history

What days does October 3rd replace?

Both East and West Germany had national holidays before reunification. The DDR observed ‘Republic Day’ on October 7th, the anniversary of its founding in 1949. Before 1990, the BRD commemorated June 17th, or the anniversary of the East German uprising in 1953.

October 3rd replaced both days as the national day of celebration. 

Where can you celebrate it?

Unity Day is a national holiday with celebrations readily found around the country.

In Bavaria, Oktoberfest remains open until October 3rd partly to mark the occasion. In Berlin, festivities are readily found around the Brandenburg Gate.

However, each year, a major city plays host to official celebrations and the Unity Day Bürgerfest, or ‘Citizen’s Festival.’ The host city is in the federal state presiding over the Bundesrat – Germany’s upper legislative chamber – that particular year.

For 2022, Erfurt – the state capital of Thuringia – is the host, and next year will see Hamburg take over hosting duties.

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