Tag: The Local Germany (page 1 of 2)

What’s next for East Berlin?

This article first appeared in The Local Germany. It’s part two of a two-part series.

In the second of a two-part series on Berlin’s future, The Local looks at the major developments in former East Berlin. From palaces to bridges, what’s next for the East?

For the last 25 years, Berlin has been too small.

The government predicted in 1991 the city’s population would hit six million by 2005. Five years later, it lowered its prediction to 4.7 million by 2010.

Today, just over 3.4 million people live here and the Bertelsmann Foundation think-tank expects Berlin’s population to reach 3.6 million by 2020.

Yet despite slower population growth than predicted, Berlin has struggled with some of its infrastructure and major development projects.

After 25 years in which “their” Berlin was transformed from the socialist GDR’s capital into a favourite destination for tourists, start-ups and real estate investors, some in the eastern half of the city have had enough and are wary of more change.

The most recent riot in June in Rigaer Straße, in the Friedrichshain area of the city, left more than two dozen people injured. “Fight gentrification, stop evictions,” exhorted a banner from one squat on the street.

East Side Gallery

Maik Uwe Hinkel learned last year about some of the difficulties developers can face in East Berlin with his luxury apartment project “Living Levels”.

The building site sits between the Spree river and the East Side Gallery – a 1.3km long section of the Berlin Wall that features paintings by artists from around the world.

When Hinkel tore down the first Wall segments to allow access to the site for the 60 flats to be built, thousands took to the streets to protest, among them former Baywatch star David Hasselhoff who performed at the Berlin Wall in 1989.

The investor’s reported past as a Stasi agent became front-page news. Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit became cooler about the project and local authorities, who had given Hinkel permission in the first place, loudly complained about the plans.

Despite the uproar, there is a six-metre wide gap in the East Side Gallery today, and “Living Levels” is set to be completed next year.

After his experiences last year, his office told The Local that Hinkel no longer talks to the media.

But the protests did effectively halt progress on a plot next door, where another property investor, Alon Mekel, wants to build a hotel.

Mekel has planning permission from Wowereit’s city government but needs the approval of the local district government as well.

Local politicians, however, oppose the project and want to buy back the land – but with city funds because the district can’t afford it.

The Mekel hotel project would widen an existing gap in the East Side Gallery from five metres to 11 metres to provide access point for the luxury flats, the proposed hotel and a public river promenade.

‘Brommybrücke’

The widened gap in the Wall would also allow access to a pedestrian bridge over the Spree connecting the Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain districts.

The restoration of the “Brommybrücke,” which was destroyed in World War II, is favoured by the city and both districts, but all three say they cannot pay for it.

Talks have been going on for more than a decade but the bridge is unlikely to be built before the 2020, a city official said in December.

Alexanderplatz

Plenty of talk also surrounds the future of the iconic Alexanderplatz.

It is the place where Berlin’s grand post-reunification visions and today’s less boastful reality are further apart than anywhere else in the city.

In 1993, architect Hans Kollhoff developed a masterplan that – in the spirit of a city expected to boom soon – authorized ten skyscrapers up to 150 metres high. That boom failed to materialize, as did the skyscrapers.

Instead, existing buildings were renovated or smaller ones built around the square.

But plans are afoot to start building skyscrapers on Alexanderplatz again.

Two decades after Kollhoff’s master plan, investors are getting ready to change Alexanderplatz’s skyline. Plans for one tower, designed by star Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry, were presented earlier this year.

And Russian investors want to build a 150-metre high-rise next to shopping mall “Alexa”. Local authorities have issued a preliminary construction permit for the project.

City Palace

The one large flagship project without delays or cost overruns in Berlin, for the moment, is the Berliner Stadtschloss (City Palace).

Once the main residence of Germany’s emperors, it will soon house Berlin’s collections of non-European art and culture, a science museum and books from the state library’s catalogue.

The federal government is paying €590 million of the costs to build the palace, but another €80 million needs to be raised through private donations.

Currently, the project is €50 million short, but supporters say they will meet the target before the palace is scheduled to open in 2019.

The trouble-plagued “Monument to Freedom and Unity” across the street from the palace could also be completed by then.

The monument, a giant see-saw, will stand on the platform of the former national Kaiser Wilhelm monument, which East Germany’s socialist rulers demolished in 1950.

Supporters initially wanted to inaugurate the unity monument in November to commemorate the fall of the Berlin Wall 25 years ago. Now they aim for October 2015, a quarter century after the eastern and western Germany reunited.

But given the long list of questions that surround the project, that deadline could be missed, too.

Among the problems facing the project are bats living in the area that are protected and need to be resettled as well as accessibility for disabled people.

The city and the federal governments are blaming each other for the lack of answers and related delays.

Just swim?

Berliners themselves are more excited about a potential new attraction in the historic centre.

“Flussbad Berlin” wants to make it possible to swim in the Kupfergraben, a small canal running parallel to the Spree river.

The Spree’s water, for decades too contaminated for swimmers, could be cleaned thanks to an innovative filter technology installed upstream.

The project would be far less grandiose than others officials are focused on at the moment, such as the long overdue Berlin Brandenburg Airport, which was supposed to open in 2012 or the talk about a Berlin bid for the 2024 or 2028 Olympic Games.

But for a city tired of and too broke for large-scale developments with their predictable delays and growing price tags, a riverside swimming pool might be about the right size.

For the last 25 years, Berlin has been hyped as everything from Europe’s next commercial hub to the world’s hippest tourist destination. Maybe all Berliners really want is to splash around in the Spree or fly a kite at the former airport in Tempelhof.

How will Berlin look in five years’ time?

This article first appeared in The Local Germany. It’s part one of a two-part series.

From Tempelhof to Tegel, Berlin’s airports cause its politicians headaches. In the first of two articles, The Local looks at plans and problems for development in the city’s western half. 

Berlin’s Tagesspiegel newspaper recently asked its readers in an online poll: “In your view, what do rising rents and gentrification lead to?”

About half of the voters said “Berlin will lose its unique character,” while a quarter each went for “Living in the city centre will become unaffordable for average earners” or “As the economy grows, Berlin becomes more exclusive.”

The response to the question suggests many Berliners are not overly optimistic about the development path their city is taking.

Tempelhof airport

But that may be about to change, particularly in the western districts. It began in May with a humiliation of Berlin’s political class, when citizens voted to halt development plans, which included a library, for the former Tempelhof airport that initially had the backing of all parties in the state parliament.

The public face of the plans was Michael Müller, the city’s senator for urban development.

The man who helped bring him down is less well known but arguably more successful. Michael Schneidewind is one of the leaders of “100% Tempelhofer Feld,” the initiative that forced the referendum.

He says the referendum could fundamentally change the way urban planning is done in Berlin but he is not confident Müller got the memo.

“Politicians cling to their term and their electoral district. Citizens, on the other hand, think more in life cycles and long-term across city borders,” Schneidewind told The Local in the group’s office near the former airport.

Since the last plane took off from Tempelhof in 2008, not much has changed. Urban gardeners took over a small part of the field and recreational facilities like a beach volleyball court were built on its edges but most of the 320ha are open space.

That is exactly how Schneidewind’s team – and a majority of voters – want it, rejecting plans for housing and commercial development and a new state library.

In an attempt to demonstrate he learned his lesson, Müller recently appointed a board led by one of his critics to engage citizens on the airfield’s future.

But Schneidewind remains sceptical. “In the past, civic involvement was purely decorative when it came to large investment projects,” and he questions whether this time will be different.

The debates about Tempelhof’s post-referendum future have just begun but one thing has already been won. Schneidewind said: “The feeling of powerlessness – that those in power will do whatever they want anyways – that has decreased.”

City West

But delegating all power may have its downsides. Look at “City West,” the area around Kurfürstendamm and the Zoologischer Garten train station.

It is where West Berlin’s heart beat loudest during the decades of the Wall and in the last few years has the area been revived through projects like the Waldorf Astoria, self-described “concept mall” Bikini Berlin and the 118-metre skyscraper Upper West  which is to be completed in 2016.

Across the street, big plans for the Zoo – as Berliners call the Zoologischer Garten train station – are being finalized.

Station operator Deutsche Bahn wants to give the landmark a much friendlier face in the next three years.

One of its highlights will warm the heart of every true West Berliner: “The Zooterrassen restaurant on the first floor… will be restored with an open air terrace, just like in the past,” the company told The Local.

But one eyesore remains: the square outside the station. “Hard, harder, Hardenbergplatz” is how Tagesspiegel newspaper described the difficulties of transforming what is currently a mix of a parking lot and a bus stop into an urban space.

Local authorities wanted to pedestrianize the square by allowing an underground car park underneath. Worried about complaints from neighbours, however, they limited the project to 300 spaces. Private investors no longer thought the project could be profitable and backed out.

All plans for Hardenbergplatz’s redesign are on hold after local authorities scrapped a round table of 50 businesses and residents from the neighbourhood, saying it was too big to come to any results.

Further west, another Berlin landmark shares Hardenbergplatz’s uncertain fate.

ICC

Since the last event took place there in April, the future of the International Congress Centrum (ICC) is up for debate. Many hope that after the failed Tempelhof plan, the building could become the new home of the state library.

But Finance Senator Ulrich Nußbaum effectively ruled out this idea by insisting on an “economically sustainable” use of the ICC to refinance any potential investment.

A renovation could cost €400 million, depending on how much asbestos is found from when the centre was built in the 1970s.

Some of the cancer-causing material has already been taken out but experts disagree on how much is left. If Nußbaum’s demands are not met, the ICC may even be demolished.

On the other hand, the new Estrel Hotel on Neukölln’s Sonnenallee has a brighter future.

District authorities have hailed the hotel’s founder, Ekkehard Streletzki, as “an idol” for his plans to build Germany’s biggest hotel (1,125 rooms) by erecting Berlin’s tallest skyscraper (175 metres). So far, no visible protest movement has formed to oppose the plans.

Tegel tech?

Development senator Michael Müller is also working to make sure that the next major project in the west is met with the same level of support.

Tegel Airport – the city’s biggest – will close once its much-delayed successor Berlin Brandenburg (BER) opens.

Unlike Tempelhof, where no plan for the future existed when the last plane left, Müller already has a blueprint to turn Tegel into “Berlin TXL – The Urban Tech Republic.”

His expectations are high. By 2030, he wants Berlin TXL to be a “competence centre for urban technologies” like automotive and life sciences.

Müller promises to put the existing structures to good use.

The hexagonal terminal building, for example, is set to become the new home of Beuth Hochschule für Technik, a university of applied sciences focusing on tech degrees.

The terminal’s surroundings will be a campus for higher education, science, research and technology, complemented by a “commercial belt” if Müller gets his way, and the airfield will be reserved for companies that need lots of space.

The goal is to bring back some of the industrial manufacturers that were based in Berlin but left the city in the decades after World War II.

Some areas will be reserved for housing. “In its eastern part, Berlin TXL will be a socially diverse residential area, a place of ecologic balance and novel sceneries,” the urban development department says.

The description sounds almost as nebulous as the plans for Tempelhof, where doubts about whether new housing would be affordable for average Berliners contributed to the success of Müller’s opponents in the referendum.

But Müller is determined not to let that happen again.

“Tegel airport will have a completely different future than the former airport in Tempelhof,” the senator said in a video. At the end of his introduction he presses his lips together as if to say, this time, I mean it.

German women fall short of equality

This article first appeared in The Local Germany.

Women in Germany are still underrepresented in leadership jobs and among professors, a new government report said on Wednesday. They are also paid less and remain unlikely to study science, technology, engineering or mathematics.

“Despite equal rights, there are still differences in the day-to-day life of women and men in Germany. In some areas of life, women and men have moved closer together. In others, differences continue to exist,” said chief statistician at the Federal Statistical Office Roderich Egeler in a statement.

Only two areas in the world of work featured a female majority of executives – education, and health and social services. In all other sectors, less than a third of leadership positions are held by women.

Few female leaders

Overall, women made up 29 percent of executives in Germany. That number is on the lower end among EU members and far below France (40 percent) or the UK (34 percent).

At the same time, the number of women in the workforce jumped from 56 percent in 1992 to 68 percent in 2012. The percentage of men working was virtually unchanged over the same period.

But only 55 percent of women held full-time jobs, compared to over 90 percent for men. In part, that is because seven out of ten mothers with underage children reduced their workload, compared to fewer than one in ten fathers.

East German women paid more

The report also found a wage gap between the genders. While men earned on average €19.84 an hour, women only made €15.56.

The statisticians have tracked the difference since 1995. “During this period, the so-called gender pay gap has been larger than 20 percent almost all the time,” they said.

The gap was highest in Baden-Württemberg, where women made 27 percent less than men, and smallest in Saxony, with four percent. Saxony’s number reflects a continued divide between East and West: In the East German states, women were paid eight percent less, compared to 23 percent in the rest of the country.

“Two thirds of the income disparity can be explained with structural factors,” Egeler said. Women often had jobs with fewer responsibilities or lower qualification requirements, for example.

“After taking these factors into account, an income disparity of €1.27 remains, resulting in an adjusted gender pay gap of seven percent,” said Egeler.

Female students, male teachers

But thanks to higher qualifications, female executives are likely become more common – and women’s pay better – in the future.

Girls are now more likely than boys to leave school with higher qualifications. Almost 55 percent of those getting the German Abitur – the standard requirement for entering university – are female. At the same time, less than 40 percent of school leavers without any qualification are women.

But while females made up a small majority of students in 2012, the report found they had been slow to break into male-dominated subjects. Only two in ten engineering graduates and four in ten in mathematics and natural sciences were female.

Regardless of the students’ gender, they were also likely to be taught by a male professor. There were only 9.000 female professors in Germany in 2012, compared to 43.900 men in the same position.

“That means 20 percent of professors at German universities were women. But compared to ten years ago, that reflects a significant change to the benefit of women. In 2002, their share had been only 12 percent,” Egeler said.

Even in subjects were students were overwhelmingly female, professors tended to be male. More than three quarters of those enrolled in cultural and language studies were women, for example, but only a third of their professors were.

The higher a position in the academic food chain was, the less likely it was to be filled by a woman. While 45 percent of all PhD graduates in 2012 were female, just 27 percent of those who submitted a habilitation dissertation – the next step on the academic career ladder – were women.

The report did not analyze the reasons for the differences.

And the winner of the EU single market is…

This article first appeared in The Local Germany.

Germany and Denmark came out as the winners of the European Union’s single market in a study released on Monday. Integrating economically with its neighbours has helped the German economy grow an average of €37 billion a year since 1992.

Germans’ average income in 2012 was €680 higher thanks to the European Union’s single market, a study by the Bertelsmann Foundation think-tank found.

Germany, of all the EU countries, had taken the most advantage of the increased economic integration with other European nations since the single market was launched in January 1993, closely followed by Denmark.

The single market guarantees free movement of goods, persons and services, as well as of capital and payment transactions across national borders.

For every year between 1992 and 2012, Germans’ average annual incomes were €450 higher than they would have been without the single market, the study found. That means in 2012, GDP per person was 2.3 percent higher than it would have been without integration – the highest figure of the EU countries.

The figure for Denmark was two percent, although their per capita income gain over the same period is €500, slightly higher than Germany’s.

The study found that economic integration increased in almost all of the 15 states that joined the European single market in the 1990s, resulting in income gains in every national economy.

Only Luxembourg was not assessed because of “major data gaps”.

Greece was the only country with a mixed picture of the benefits brought by the EU, the study said.

Taken alone, Greeks’ annual incomes rose by an average of just €70 each year over the 20-year period.

Yet in real terms, incomes were found to have fallen by €190 in this time due to the nation’s dramatic economic crisis.

The United Kingdom has also failed to take as much advantage of the single market as it could have. Incomes in the UK rose an average of just €10 a year thanks to the single market.

It is not the first confirmation of Europe’s benefits for the German economy this year.

Eric Schweitzer, the head of the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DIHK), said in April that the EU’s eastward expansion had been a “historical godsend” that had “created or secured” one million German jobs.

Lawmakers earn millions on the side

This article first appeared in The Local Germany.

A quarter of all politicians in the German Parliament are making additional income on top of their parliamentary salary, a transparency group said on Saturday. Thirteen lawmakers have made more than €100,000 in the last few months.

Website abgeordnetenwatch.de said 150 out of the 631 lawmakers in Germany’s lower house, the Bundestag, earned money from other jobs.

In the nine months the parliament has sat, lawmakers made more than €6.6 million in additional earnings.

At least €2.1 million came from anonymous sources, the group said.

“In reality, the earnings are likely much higher,” abgeordnetenwatch.de said in a blog post.

Conservatives top list

Most of the 13 MPs who made more than €100,000 since September are members of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) or their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU).

Seven CDU and CSU MPs registered earnings in the top bracket, meaning they made more than €250,000 from one source.

CSU’s deputy head Peter Gauweiler topped the list with additional income of close to €1 million. His earnings were from work from his legal practice.

“Since the bracket has no limited, actual incomes theoretically could come to €1 million or more,” the transparency group said.

Gauweiler has missed 35 votes out of 45 where MPs names had to be registered in the first few months of parliament’s term, according to Spiegel Online.

“Seen in light of his absences and the number of votes he missed, Mr Gauweiler’s side earnings are indeed a problem,” SPD lawmaker Ulrich Kelber tweeted on Sunday.

The list of the highest earners also featured Peer Steinbrück (pictured), the former finance minister who ran for chancellor for the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) last year. Public pressure during the campaign forced Steinmeier to disclose how he had made almost €2 million during the last parliament. His earnings in this parliament have come from speeches, consultancy and writing work.

‘Conflicts of interest’

The transparency group criticized the disclosure system as insufficient. It pointed to the case of farmer Johannes Röring, a CDU MP from Borken, North Rhine-Westphalia.

Röring received between €75,000 and €100,000 since the beginning of this year from a source which was only identified as “Contract partner 3.”

“Is it a wealthy person? Or a company? Does politician Röring vote on bills that directly or indirectly affect his ‘contract partner 3?'”, abgeordnetenwatch.de said.

“Potential conflicts of interest are obvious,” the group added.

In 197 cases affecting the 150 MPs earning extra money, it was unclear who paid the lawmakers.

Automatic pay increases

MPs in Germany currently make €8,667 a month. They also receive a tax-free €4,204 for district offices and employees.

Lawmakers can also claim up to €12,000 a year for office equipment.

Within Berlin, MPs also have free access to chauffeured cars. For travel on official duty outside the city, lawmakers can use trains for free or claim reimbursement for flight expenses.

Lawmakers with additional positions within parliament, such as the heads of parliamentary groups and committees and their respective deputies, can make thousands of euros in addition to their salary as an MP.

MPs’ pay will rise to €9,082 a month in 2015 after parliament linked their salaries to increases of the average German gross wage.

Under the new law, pay increases will need to be approved once at the beginning of a term and then increase automatically until the next election.

President Joachim Gauck initially delayed the law because of constitutional concerns before signing it ten days after it was meant to go into effect.

Abgeordnetenwatch.de wants parliament to pass a strict transparency law, requiring MPs to disclose who paid them “from the first euro to the last cent.”

The group cited disclosure rules for British MPs as an example.

Finders are keepers in Berlin cash hunt

This article first appeared in The Local Germany.

A California millionaire, who became an internet phenomenon by hiding cash and tweeting hints about its location, is bringing the frenzy to Germany this weekend.

Berliners rifling through bushes and looking under benches this Sunday might not be looking for bottles but for cold, hard cash.

Jason Buzi, a real estate investor from San Francisco, has hidden money in envelopes, sugar packets and candy containers. Sometimes dollar notes are literally dangling from trees.

Hundreds have joined scavenger hunts in California, New York and now the treasure hunt is coming to Berlin.

This Sunday, Berliners could find a little something as long as they follow @hiddencash on Twitter where Buzi will start posting clues.

In the past, some of his tweets have been very specific, directing followers to a certain building on a beach. On another occasion, Buzi only tweeted a Google Maps screenshot and the photo of a forest track.

“I’ll be distributing between €1,000 and €1,500” in envelopes containing €50 to €100, he told Berlin’s BZ newspaper.

‘Not about the money’

Buzi, who hides the money with help from friends, will not be in Berlin himself.

“I have a good friend who I trust 100 percent. He will be hiding the money for me in a suitable place,” he said. BZ said that could be in Kreuzberg district’s Viktoriapark.

But why hide the money instead of donating to charitable organisations?

“It’s not about the money. It’s about bringing people together for a fun activity and connecting social media with real life,” Buzi tweeted on Wednesday.

And he told BZ: “It is so much better for me when I can see how my donations change the lives of others. Some of them say thank you with photos or write to me:”

After this weekend, some of those messages could include a heartfelt “Dankeschön.”

Top university switches master’s to English

This article first appeared in The Local Germany.

One of Germany’s top universities wants to ditch German and switch almost all of its master’s programmes to English in the next six years, prompting fears that the academic standing of the German language is under serious threat.

Munich’s Technical University (TU), one of the highest ranked in Germany, already uses English in 30 of its 99 master’s courses. Now the board of trustees has followed a recommendation by the university’s president, Wolfgang Herrmann, to switch to English for most other master’s modules by 2020.

“English is the lingua franca in academia and of the economy,” Herrmann told the Süddeutsche Zeitung on Wednesday. He said it was important to prepare students for a professional life in which they would be expected to speak English.

Herrmann also said he wanted to send a “strong signal” that would allow TU to compete for the brightest master’s students globally.

A spokesman for the university told The Local the TU did not have a target for the number of modules it would offer in English. He added the plans were based on demands from students.

“We want to expand our offers in English. This will not affect all modules,” the spokesman said.

The university declined to give further details.

Students sceptical

But Sebastian Biermann, chair of TU’s student parliament, disputed that students had called for English across the board.

“This came from the university’s management, not from students or the university’s departments,” he told The Local.

While Biermann said student representatives were open to more English, “generally switching all master’s degrees to English is something we view rather critically”.

Biermann said the reform made sense for some departments like computer sciences, where English is already common. It was not the right solution for courses like constructional engineering, he said, where textbooks and legal requirements were mostly in German.

Switching TU master’s programmes to English also requires fluency among academic and administrative staff and more language support for students. Biermann said students doubted this could be achieved by 2020.

German gets ‘dwarfed’

And Johannes Singhammer, a Munich lawmaker who serves as deputy speaker of the German parliament for the Christian Social Union (CSU), asked the university to reconsider its decision.

“It would be the wrong signal to send if the impression was given that German was no longer suitable for technical studies and ready to be discarded on the scrapheap of former high-level languages,” Singhammer wrote to Herrmann

Singhammer warned German should not be “dwarfed” until it was no longer an academic language.

“Abandoning German as an academic language poses the risk of economic disadvantages,” Singhammer added. “Businesses again and again point to the relationship between knowledge of the German language and the purchase of German products.”

Singhammer said the university was making it harder to promote the academic use of German, something the German Parliament said last year it wanted to do.

‘Publish in English or perish in German’

Last month, humanities and social sciences scholars from more than 60 universities gathered in Siegen, North Rhine-Westphalia, to debate the declining importance of the German language in their field.

Among the issues they discussed was the idea that professors had to “publish in English or perish in German”.

And a 2010 study by higher education think-tank, the HIS Institute, found that for German academics, English-speaking publications were “often the only way to be noticed by the international scientific community”.

Typewriter manufacturers see boom in sales

This article first appeared in The Local Germany.

German typewriter manufacturers are enjoying a boom in sales following the NSA spying scandal. A German defence manufacturer switched to typewriters last year, while last week a leading politician called for the government to use the old technology.

The head of the parliamentary inquiry into spying by the US National Security Service (NSA) in Germany made headlines last week when he said his committee was considering using typewriters. But he is not alone.

With a turnover of €5 million, the German typewriter market is growing.

Manufactures Olympia and Bandermann are seeing a revival in what was until recently a dying technology.

“We sell about 10,000 (typewriters) every year,” Bandermann manager Rolf Bonnen told The Local. Sales grew around a third last year on 2012.

“We’ve seen an increase because Brother left the market,” Bonnen said, referring to the end of typewriter production in the UK in 2012.

Asked about reports that the company delivered to Russian intelligence, Bonner joked: “No (spy) has come into my office, put an untold number of bills on my table and in a Russian accent asked for 20 typewriters.”

Last year Triumph Adler, which is part of Bandermann, made a YouTube video to promote its product as “Bug proof. NSA proof,” after the Russians’ interest was first reported by German media.

And an Olympia spokesman told Wirtschaftswoche magazine that the company expects to sell more typewriters this year than at any time in the last 20 years, with sales set to double in 2014.

“We will certainly cross the 10,000 threshold,” manager Andreas Fostiropoulis said.

He confirmed to Wirtschaftswoche that their Russian business partners had asked for 20 typewriters, apparently for the country’s secret services.

Back to a secure future?

And at least one German company has already returned to typewriters instead of emails and PDFs.

Manufacturing company Diehl, whose products include defence equipment, made the switch last year.

“The Diehl Group relies on traditional typewriters for sensitive affairs,” spokesman Michael Prymelski said.

CEO Thomas Diehl said last year that at Diehl, highly sensitive data only existed on paper. “This is still the case,” said Prymelski.

But not everyone thinks typewriters are an effective way of securing communication.

The spokesman for the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) on the NSA inquiry, Christian Flisek, dismissed the idea of returning to typewriters, saying it would make the inquiry a subject of “ridicule”.

“The idea that one would return to the typewriter to protect oneself against surveillance is absurd,” Flisek said.

Berlin or Frankfurt for World Cup parade?

This article first appeared in The Local Germany.

If they win the World Cup – and that “if” has become smaller after beating Brazil – Germany must choose between Berlin and Frankfurt for their victory celebration. The debate is already heating up. Which one should it be?

Berlin was famously described as “poor but sexy” by its own mayor and Frankfurt’s reputation is the opposite – wealthy but perhaps a little dull.

Both cities are now facing off over where Die Mannschaft should celebrate if they win Sunday’s World Cup final.

The German team celebrated its last two World Cup trophies in Frankfurt’s Römer square. The players were on the balcony of city hall while thousands of fans cheered them below.

But when Germany came third in the 2006 World Cup, the team went straight to Berlin to celebrate. They picked the same place to party after coming second in the Euro 2008 football championship.

Despite the final not taking place until Sunday, the debate has already started over where to host the World Cup parade.

A tongue-in-cheek article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung argued Germany’s banking centre was the obvious choice.

Berlin has no jobs, it argued, before pointing out this could actually be an advantage for the capital as it would mean plenty of people would be free to attend the victory celebrations.

Frankfurt’s claim is not only rooted in the history of 1974 and 1990. The women’s national football team celebrated their last championships at the Römer.

And the historic square’s timber-framed facades and Frankfurt’s city would make for an idyllic setting, reminding the world Germany has more to offer than its capital.

But Berlin supporters point to their fan mile, which stretches west from the Brandenburg Gate, and has become the unofficial centre of German fan culture in the last few years.

After the semi-final victory, Twitter users said they had spontaneously booked tickets to Berlin to see the victory parade at the Brandenburg Gate.

So what do you think? Should the German team continue the tradition and celebrate in Frankfurt or go with the times and come to Berlin?

Flood of goals hit firms’ World Cup giveaways

This article first appeared in The Local Germany.

Businesses in Germany which tried to tap into the nation’s World Cup fever with free giveaways and discounts for every goal have been left counting the cost after Germany’s 7:1 rout of Brazil.

Bars had to give away hundreds of litres of free beer and bakeries were left without buns after customers took full advantage of their goal-related offers.

Büsch Bakery, a chain in North Rhine-Westphalia, offered its customers a free bun for every German goal throughout the World Cup. It was a risk-free affair until the goal fest against Brazil in the semi-final on Tuesday night.

“I don’t have exact numbers yet but we gave away hundreds of thousands of buns,” manager Dirk Jonack told The Local on Thursday.

“We had nothing left,” he added. Many customers had to put up with vouchers because there was simply no stock left.

Asked whether he secretly hoped a potential German victory in the final would be a little closer, the football fan in Jonack took over.

“Not really. A big victory over Argentina would be wonderful,” he said.

Free beer

When Schraders Bar in Berlin promised its customers “rivers of free shots” for every goal before the game on Tuesday night, its owners did not expect that more than 1,000 glasses would be handed out during the game.

“We had to mix more,” manager Christian Wojtek told Berlin’s Tagesspiegel newspaper.

In what could be a good omen, the bar will make the same offer for Germany’s final against Argentina on Sunday.

A restaurant in Hamburg is looking forward to Sunday night, too, but has not said whether it would offer fans the same deal it did on Tuesday.

For every German goal, the up to 1,500 guests of Landhaus Walter in Hamburg’s Stadtpark were promised 50 litres of beer.

At the end of the night, 350 litres of beer had been given out, the Hamburger Morgenpost reported.

Good vibes                                    

A store for erotic toys in Berlin, meanwhile, limited its World Cup discount on a vibrator. Customers of the Fun Factory on Oranienburger Straße were told they would get ten percent off per goal but not more than 50 percent in total.

Ringk garden centre in Brakel probably wished it had made a similar move. Customers there got 70 percent off all products – ten percent for every goal.

The resulting stampede of garden enthusiasts brought traffic to a halt in the North Rhine-Westphalia town of 23,000, reported Westfalen-Blatt.

“It was very stressful but our customers were of course happy,” an employee told The Local on Thursday.

She said no decision had been made yet on whether the offer would be repeated for the final on Sunday.

Brewery “Dampe” in Essen promised its 300 guests shots for every German goal.

“At some point my co-workers just put the boxes on the bar and told our guests: Help yourself,” employee Karin Flemming told Der Westennewspaper.

And online health food retailer Schneekoppe, was forced to apologize to customers. Its servers were unable to cope when customers wanted to make the most of Schneekoppe’s 60 percent discount – ten percent per goal capped at 60 percent.

“Due to the great popularity of our World Cup offer, technical difficulties may occur,” a note on the website said.

‘I got screwed’

But while most businesses took Tuesday’s result and its consequences in their stride, a fashion store owner in the Hessian town of Groß-Gerau was audibly annoyed when they spoke to The Local.

Tabloid newspaper Bild reported the store had advertised the same ten-percent offer but limited it in retrospect to 50 percent on the morning after the game.

Owner Christine Gärtner disputed that version on the phone with The Local. “Bild completely screwed me,” she said. When asked for her account, Gärtner demurred.

“I absolutely don’t want to say anything more about this topic,” she said, sounding like she could not wait for the World Cup to be over.