Parliamentary Digest 3rd April

Sitting days and agenda

The next sitting week for the Bundestag is planned to be 20th – 24th April; the week that schools are supposed to return after the Easter holidays (but may not, due to the corona crisis).

Information about what is happening in the Bundestag on a daily basis (including in committees and parliamentary questions) can be found in the ‘Heute im Bundestag’ section of the Bundestag website (in German) here. The timetable can be found here and agendas and sittings under ‘Tagesordnungen und Sitzungsverlauf’ here.

The next sitting week for the Bundesrat is 27th – 30th April, when the committees will be sitting. A plenary session is planned for 15th May.

Information about the plenary sessions of the Bundesrat can be found here and information about its responsibilities here.

A short guide in English about how legislation is passed in Germany can be found here and the Rules of Procedure in Parliament here.

Social distancing in the Bundesrat last week

What’s going on in the Bundestag

Right-extreme music scene

The government gave an answer to a ‘Kleine Anfrage‘ (a written request information from the government – not answered in writing and not discussed in the Bundestag) from the FDP about the right-extreme music scene in Germany. The government said that according to information from the intelligence services, the music scene has a “recruiting and retention function that should not be underestimated” within the right-wing extremist spectrum in Germany.

Bands popularise right-wing extremist attitudes with aggressive, xenophobic, anti-Semitic and anti-democratic texts. Music is an important medium in right-wing extremism, especially among young people. Streaming and download platforms have become the most frequently used form of music consumption, especially for young people, and this also applies to right-wing extremist music.

The number of right-wing extremist music groups in Germany has remained almost unchanged at around 150 and there are also around 60 right-wing extremist songwriters and solo performers. The increasing number of individual performers has been reflected in the increasing number of right-wing extremist performances and this trend is expected to continue. In 2018 there were a total of 270 live events.

Attacks on Muslims

A question from the Left Party about the amount of attacks on Muslims in Germany revealed that last year there were 871 attacks on Muslims and Muslim institutions. The number of attacks has remained roughly constant since 2017.

The Green Party submitted a question about “Measures taken by the Federal Government to protect mosques and Muslim institutions”. The Greens asked about the extent to which there is a current risk assessment by the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) with regard to Muslim institutions and especially mosques in Germany

Blood donation ban for homosexuals

The FDP introduced a motion (motions are a way in which MPs can influence legislation and policies by calling on the government to report to Parliament or submit a bill) about abolishing the blood donation ban for homosexual and transgender people. The motion said that the decisive factor for the risk of infection should not be sexual or gender identity, but actual risk behaviour.

e-government

An answer to another FDP question gave information about the government’s talks with the Estonian government about strategies for e-governmenet. The Federal Minister of Justice, Christine Lambrecht, said that they had discussed aspects of “e-identity” used in Estonia, data protection and transparency for users.

Online learning

The FDP also called for a comprehensive initiative to strengthen online learning of students, since there is currently no date for schools to open again. The parliamentary group argued that part of the financial resources of the Digital Pact should be used by for online solutions and that a list of high-quality, quality-tested online providers is compiled, and licences acquired.

Organised crime

The Alternative for Germany (AfD) continued its provocative use of parliamentary questions by asking for information about the migration background of people in organised crime.

The AfD regularly asks questions which give information linking foreigners with crime.

What’s going on in the Bundesrat

Basic pension

At the end of last week, apart from approving the Corona package of laws, the Bundesrat also put forward some changes to the government’s proposals for a basic pension. Theproposals were agreed in November after months of negotiations, and provide a supplement to state pensions to avoid pensioners having to claim benefits. The Bundesrat was concerned that the draft law would mean that most people would not be entitled to a basic pension in the first years of their retirement; doubted that the basic pension could be implemented in the proposed time frame and proposed a staggered implementation; and asked that the federal government reimburses the states for additional costs incurred.

Fertiliser regulation

A new and highly controversial fertiliser regulation was passed. The regulation has been the case of protests by famers, since they will not be allowed to use as much fertiliser. In November, farmers from all over Germany drove tractors into the capital in protest at the proposed laws, causing traffic jams and clocked streets.

Draft law on hate

The Bundesrat also requested amendments for the government’s draft law against right-extremism and hate: this package of measures was developed in reaction to the attack on a synagogue in Halle last year and includes requirements for social media networks to report hate as well as a new police department to deal with this; fines for inadequate reporting; and greater punishments for anti-Semitic hate.

One amendment called for a location principle to be introduced for providers of social media so that they could not avoid the regulations on the basis that data requested by the authorities is stored abroad when they offer their services in Germany. Other change requests related to the clarification of criminal offences, who is obliged to provide information, and what the competencies of the new police department are.

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