Flensburg Files News Flyer- 17 September 2011

Some wild and unexpected events have occurred in the past couple days will raise your eyebrows as the Flensburg Files presents you with its batch of News Flyers. While some are not surprising as the events have been plastered on the international level (but in short blips), others-especially in Thuringia and Schleswig-Holstein reveal examples of what is yet to come on a larger scale. So without further ado…..

Danish Parliamentary Building in Copenhagen- photo taken in August 2011

Denmark goes left and has first female prime minister
After 10 years of conservative rule under Lars Rasmussen, the Danish population on Thursday went to the polls and elected the Social Democrats back into power. And with that a first in Danish history- a female prime minister by the name of Helle Thorning-Schmidt will be appointed to lead the country.  Despite a razor-thin margin of victory, the center-left party will gain 89 seats in parliament and construct a coalition with the Social Liberal Party, in light of Rasmussen’s concession to defeat and resulting resignation (which he submitted to Queen Margaret the following day).  Rasmussen’s leadership during his ten years included attempts of putting a cap on immigration in the country. Yet he was a target of many controversies including implementing stricter border controls with neighboring Germany and Sweden, prompting the governments to protest the country’s policies and the European Union to threaten the country with sanctions. That combined with the increased unemployment and its first deficit in response to the economic crisis played a considerable role in the population’s decision for a change, which they hope to achieve with the 44-year old social democrat. Her plans will include easing border controls, which will breathe a sigh of relief for people living in the border towns of Malmø and Flensburg, which not only have large pockets of Danish living there, but rely on Denmark for commerce and trade.

Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danish_parliamentary_election,_2011

 

 

Erfurt Cathedral: Site of the Holy Mass on 24 September- Photo taken in March 2011

Pope Benedikt XVI to visit Germany
Stores are offering deals in connection with his visit, security is being beefed up in many places and people in town are talking about it. Pope Benedikt XVI will tour Germany next weekend, and the country is opening its arms to greet the former German bishop who once was known as  Joesph Ratzinger. The three day visit will include stops in the capital of Berlin, followed by Erfurt and in the end Freiburg im Breisgau. In Berlin, he will meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Christian Wulff, which will be followed by mass at the Olympic Stadium. After the visit, he spends two days in Thuringia, which includes the visit to St. Marien Church and the Erfurter Dom Cathedral- both in Erfurt and a vesper in Etzelbach, located southwest of the Thuringian capital. His final stop in Lahr and Freiburg in Baden-Wurttemberg will include meeting former Chancellor Helmut Kohl and the judges of the federal supreme court of Karlsruhe  and will feature a youth vigil on the evening of the 25th before his trip back to Rome.  The Flensburg Files will feature highlights of the visit which will take place from 22-25 September. Stay tuned.
Link: http://www.papst-in-deutschland.de/programm/; http://www.morgenpost.de/berlin/article1456122/Freude-in-Berlin-ueber-Papst-Besuch-2011.html
Thuringian Airports in Trouble- Airlines pull out.
Despite using the airport as a platform for Pope Benedict XVI’s visit, the Erfurt Airport is finding itself in serious trouble, as Cirrus Airline announced that beginning in March 2012, there will be no more service to Munich. Earlier this year, AirBerlin, which had provided services to Berlin and Nuremberg decided to pull out for the aforementioned reasons. The problems however go beyond the airport, which has been serving the Thuringian capital since 1992. In Altenburg, located 1.5 hours south of Leipzig and only 30 minutes east of nearby Gera in eastern Thuringia, its airport lost its only state connection to the UK, when Ryanair this past March cut its services to London-Stanstedt.  The problems with the two airports are twofold. First, both airports have problems attracting passengers because of its proximity to its nearest competitors, Nuremberg, Magdeburg and Leipzig-Halle. Despite modernizing its airport in 1994, Erfurt has yet to reach its maximum capacity as only an average of 500,000 passengers visit the airport each year.  The airport in Altenburg, which once was a military base serving the former East Germany, was a main attraction for tourists coming from the UK and points north and west thanks to Ryanair. Secondly (which is not a surprise to many), the state is reigning in on subsidies for both airports as it recently passed its austerity bill for the next two years, which would trim millions in state aid, across the board.  This was one of the main reasons why Cirrus is pulling the plug on its services between Erfurt and Munich. With major airlines pulling out, Thuringia is finding itself in a very difficult situation attracting passengers to to area and may have to rely on the private sector to keep the airports running if it ever wants to stay competitive with its aforementioned counterparts, let alone the railway companies also  serving passengers in the state- mainly Die Bahn . Apart from Leipzig-Halle, Magdeburg and Nuremberg, which are by train 1, 2, and 4 hours from Erfurt respectively, with international flights no longer available in Thuringia, one will have to travel to either Frankfurt/Main or Berlin (Tegel), each located 3 hours by train. The one with the most to lose is Altenburg because of its location to Leipzig. While it could still serve local services to some of the nearest cities in the eastern part of the country, it may not be able to compete with its counterpart from Erfurt, and unless other airlines offer services to this small airport, one could see the facility fold in the next months or years.  It may take a year to a year and a half to find out how the austerity package combined with the recent pull-outs will have an impact on not only the two airports but Thuringia in general, and that will take more than Pope Benedikt XVI’s visit to Erfurt to resuscitate the region.

Link: http://www.mdr.de/thueringen/mitte-west-thueringen/flughafen136.html ; http://www.mdr.de/thueringen/mitte-west-thueringen/hintergrundflughafen100.html; http://blog.leipzig-zeitgeist.de/2011/02/01/regional-flight-services-withdrawn-from-altenburg/

 

Museumberg on the hill on Flensburg's west side: Possible candidate for cuts- photo taken in April 2011

Flensburg’s Cultural Scene Under the Knife
The city of Flensburg prides itself not only on its multicultural diversity (partly because of the Danish minority living there) but also its fine arts, as it has two libraries, two orchestras, the state theater, and many others. Thanks to the austerity package passed by the state parliament in nearby Kiel, which would provide savings of up to 6 million Euros, cuts and mergers are now foremost on the minds of many Flensburgers, as the cultural scene will receive less funding from the state.  Examples of how cuts will affect the cultural scene include: merging the city library with the Danish library, having only one orchestra (both have had 231 events attracting over 34,000 visitors this year) and cutting fine arts programs, whose contracts run out in 2012. While no plans have been etched in stone, there have been protests against such measures and it is unknown how these cuts will affect the city in general. But represents a classic example of what is being seen throughout all of Germany, as the federal and state governments are tightening their belts for leaner times ahead.

Link: http://www.shz.de/artikel/article//spar-keule-kreist-ueber-der-kulturszene.html?cHash=b4bc9fd19d&no_cache=1&sword_list[0]=kultur&sword_list[1]=flensburg

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