Berlin´s Red-Green-Red Coalition to enter its next term
On 26 of September 2021, in parallel with the Bundestag elections, Berliners have additionally submitted their votes for the Berlin House of Representatives*. And, just a few days after the traffic light coalition has finalised its coalition agreement on the federal level, the Berlin Red-Green-Red alliance has also concluded its negotiations, and is now ready to enter its next term in the German capital.
The coalition agreement is expected to be finalised shortly and the new senate with Franziska Giffey (SPD) as Berlin´s new governing mayor should take office before Christmas. Berliners can already expect changes in following areas, in which the future government has already reached an agreement during the negotiation talks.
Urban Development, Construction and provision of (affordable) Housing have the upmost priority for the new Berlin government and present the greatest challenge for the new ruling period, Giffey said. During the negotiation talks, the SPD, Greens and the Left have agreed on setting up a dedicated Alliance for New Housing Construction and Affordable Housing. The alliance should be set up immediately after the formation of the government and will include not only state-owned housing organizations and cooperatives, but also private companies. Giffey stated that only with joined forces of all market participants could the enormous challenge of insufficient housing supply be successfully addressed.
The SPD, Greens and the Left have also specified some of the more concrete measures for housing promotion and tenant protection:
- a housing promotion programme amounting to hundreds of millions and resulting in building 20,000 new housing each year, a total of 200,000 until 2030 (SPD, Franziska Giffey)
- urban development, i. e. higher buildings (Greens, Bettina Jarasch)
- closing the gaps between buildings, building housing units on top of supermarkets (Greens, Bettina Jarasch)
- simplification of construction regulations in order to speed-up building projects (Greens, Bettina Jarasch)
- strengthening the rights of tenants and expanding consulting services for tenants (The Left, Klaus Lederer)
- increasing the housing stock of state owned housing companies by building and acquiring new housing (The Left, Klaus Lederer)
Additionally, an agreement could be reached in the matter of the Tempelhofer Feld – an area that until now could not be used for building housings due to a referendum where citizens voted for keeping the area undeveloped. The SPD wanted to allow housing construction on the bordering areas of the Tempelhofer Feld. But with the newly reached agreement, there will be no development at the Tempelhofer Feld, at least for the next five years.
The probably most controversial question in the coalition talks was how to handle the referendum vote on the expropriation of large housing companies ("Expropriate Deutsche Wohnen and Co"), whether "large property owners" - i.e. companies with more than 3,000 flats in their own stock - should be expropriated and the housing stock socialized. This decision was supported by a majority of 57.6 % of Berliners in the referendum – nevertheless, this is not binding for the new state government. According to Giffey, a compromise solution could be found in this matter: the issue is to be addressed and, in particular, the legal implementation is to be examined intensively, with the aim to avoid another disaster like the so-called "Berlin rent cap". The parties agreed on setting up an expert committee, dedicated to examine the options and premises of a potential implementation of such an expropriation. A recommendation of the committee should follow within one year after the initiation of their works (which will start within 100 days after the government is finalized).
Other areas in which the three parties could reach an agreement include social affairs, health, care and inclusion. For example, the future coalition is set to roll out an investment programme for all Berlin hospitals, create measure to tackle the lack of staff in care sector, provide more support for caring relatives, improve the distribution of medical practices throughout the city, strengthen social psychiatric services, develop a mobility concept for people with impairments and address the poverty in the German capital. In total, 48 concrete measure were discussed in the health sector and 30 in the social affairs (some of them as subjects to financial availability (e. g. fighting the homelessness and violence against women), according to Giffey.
Other areas covered in the coalition talks were as well as public security, civil rights, justice and consumer protection. The future plans include a better monitoring of crime-ridden areas, more speed cameras on the roads and increased parking fees, i. e. a resident parking permit to rise from 10,20€ to 120 € per year, hourly parking could rise by up to 1€. On the other hand, there will be no congestion charges for inner-city car drivers. Berlins teachers will recieve a civil clerk´s status and there are plans to expand the public transport network. Berlin is also to become a green and climate-neutral city.
The allocation of Senate´s offices has also been announced:
The SPD will be in charge of the Senate Chancellery and thus the Office of the Governing Mayor and also the Senate Department for Urban Development, Building, Housing; the Department for the Interior, Digitalisation and Sport; Department for Economics, Energy, Operations and the Department for Education, Youth, Family.
The Greens will be responsible for the Senate Department for Science, Care, Health, Equality; the Department for Finance as well as the Department for the Environment, Transport, Climate Protection, Consumer Protection.
The Left Party will administrate the Senate Department for Culture, Europe, the Department for Integration, Labour, Social Affairs as well as the Department for Justice, Diversity, Anti-discrimination.
The detailed plans for the areas outlined above are yet to be provided by the future coalition in the full-scope coalition agreement which is in its last phase of editorial revision.
One small concern remains due to electoral errors that occurred during the elections on 26 September: missing or wrong ballots that belonged to other constituencies had led to temporary closures of the election points, resulting in waiting lines and many voters had left without having submitted their votes. Hence, it could not be ruled out that a different distribution of seats in the Berlin Parliament would have been resulted without these incidents, as Federal Election Commissioner Georg Thiel stated. He has filed an objection against results in the six of Berlin´s twelve districts/constituencies, which means that the results of the elections could actually be overturned. After the filed appeal (which can be submitted up tot wo months after the elections), the Bundestag will have to ultimately decide whether or not there will be a new election in the affected constituencies.
However, even then, it is unlikely that the Red-Green-Red coalition would be at risk as it has enough votes as a majority coalition. Therefore, we remain curious about the detailed plans and Berlin´s course for the future.
* The SPD won by a narrow margin over the Greens and after a "traffic light coalition" was initially considered also as a possible government constellation in the German capital, the representatives of a "Red-Green-Red" parties have decided to enter the final coalition negotiations. Hence, the old tripartite alliance that led the city's fortunes in the previous legislative period will in all likelihood remain in place, this time as a Red-Green-Red coalition (previously Red-Red-Green, or R2G) and rule Berlin for the next term of five years. (The results of the Berlin elections: SPD won 23.4% of first votes and 21.4 % of second votes; Greens: 20.0 % first votes, 18.9 % second votes; CDU: 19.7 % first votes, 18.0 % second votes; Left Party: 14.0 % first votes, 14.1 % second votes; FDP: 6.6 % first votes, 7.1 % second votes; AfD: 8.1 % first votes, 8.0 % second votes; Others: 8.4 % first votes, 12.5 % second votes.)