German opposition adopts gender parity target for 2025

Germany's main opposition party, the centre-right Christian Democrats, on Saturday adopted a quota policy for women in senior leadership roles with a goal of gender parity by 2025.

Friedrich Merz. CDU chairman
Friedrich Merz, leader of Germany's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, delivers a speech during the CDU party congress in Hanover, northern Germany on September 9, 2022. Photo: Ronny Hartmann / AFP

Delegates for the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party adopted the new rule with 559 votes for and 409 against, with 11 abstentions, at the congress in Hanover.

From next year, women must occupy a third of leadership positions at both local and national levels, climbing to 40 percent by 2024 and then reaching 50 percent by mid-2025.

The same quotas will apply to candidate lists at general, regional and European elections.

The decision settles a debate that has agitated the party of the former chancellor Angela Merkel for several years.

Former president Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who was the head of the CDU between 2018 and 2021, put forward the policy.

She encountered a lot of pushback to the proposal among the party, which was created in the immediate post-war period and whose posts of responsibility are mostly held by men.

And despite the target being passed, there is still strong resistance to quotas by many delegates who fear the policy risks appointing women solely to meet targets and not based on ability.

But CDU chairman Friedrich Merz has given his support to the goal, and emphasised that “more than 50 percent of voters are women”.

Merkel left office in 2021 after 16 years in power and was succeeded by Social Democrat Olaf Scholz at the helm of a three-way coalition with the Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats.

After losing power last year, the CDU is hoping to win in the elections in 2025.

The conservatives are currently leading in the polls, ahead of the Greens and Scholz’s Social Democrats.

Before the national vote, the CDU is also hoping to make gains in regional elections, with the next on October 9 in the region of Lower Saxony.

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All cell phone users in Germany to be part of disaster ‘warning day’

On Thursday, Germany will be testing emergency preparedness in its second annual 'Warntag' - and for the first time including all cell phone holders.

All cell phone users in Germany to be part of disaster 'warning day'

Floods are sweeping through a region, a widespread power outage has occurred or a cyber attack hits large swathes of the country – these are some of the reasons why Germany might need to use its disaster warning systems in the future.

On Thursday at 11 am, both federal and state governments will be testing these system for 45 minutes in order to be better prepared in case of a catastrophe.

For the first time, the Bundesrepublik will be sending out a warning to all cell phone users using a “cell broadcast”, which will they receive without having to be signed onto a particular app or part of a specific provider.

Why should Germany have a warning day at all?

The importance of alarm systems was highlighted by the flood disaster in the western states of Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia in July 2021, when people were not informed in time of the impending danger. Afterwards, a broad debate arose on how this could be improved.

Furthermore, amid an energy crisis and war within Europe, many people are also hyper-vigilant about what Germany would do in the event of a wide-reaching emergency.

Germany’s first Warn Day took place on September 8th, 2020, but many complained that it was not effective nor wide-reaching enough.

READ ALSO: What to do in Germany if there’s a power outage

What does the warning day test exactly?

A warning day is used to test the warning systems available for emergencies and disasters and to put technical procedures to the test. It is also an exercise to raise people’s awareness and familiarise them with what happens when the authorities sound an alarm.

A screen showing a warning system is seen on a display at the Federal Office for Civil Protection. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Oliver Berg

How exactly does the second nationwide warning day work?

A disaster scenario will be practised throughout Germany, meaning it will be extremely loud from 11 am onward. Existing or newly installed sirens will sound, and loudspeaker trucks will drive through the streets of some communities. 

Announcements will also be broadcast on trains, radio and television. The warnings will furthermore be played on media sites on the Internet. They will appear on digital display boards, for example in city centres or at train stations.

The message will also be disseminated via warning apps. In addition, a test warning of the highest level will be sent to cell phones nationwide via “cell broadcast”.

How does the test warning via a cell broadcast work?

The system goes out through the mobile network, using very little data and reaching cell phone users even when the system is otherwise overloaded. 

In cooperation with the mobile network providers, the authorities send a message with the respective warning to the cell phone that is logged into a mobile network cell and can receive network broadcast messages – similar to an SMS.

The information appears as a pop-up on the display and triggers an alert. This is the case even if the cell phone is set to silent.

The content of the message is deliberately kept short since as many people as possible should get the info via cell broadcast that there is no actual danger on the warning day. 

Of course, this is different than in a real emergency.