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Germany in 2010 – A Year in Review

The year of 2010 was a year full of events that kept the attention of the whole world. Everyone was anxious about the oil tank catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico and everyone was glad for the saved mine workers in Chile.
But what happened during 2010 in Germany? The next paragraphs will give you a rough overview about what was important in respect to political life, economic life, and cultural life – followed by some fun facts at the end.

Political life
In 2010 there were no elections of major importance. Still, something has changed. It’s not the politicians but the people. It seems as if the political atmosphere and the people’s understanding of their role in politics has changed. The involvement in political issues, the rising of the individual voice and the demonstration of the individual opinion seems to be more present now than in the last couple of years.
Last year, a subject seemingly not as tense as much others kept the attention of the German population for weeks: Stuttgart-21. It’s a construction project for a new train station in the city of Stuttgart in the southern part of Germany. The project was accredited ten years ago and as the construction work started last year people of an unexpectedly large number went in the streets and demonstrated against it. They were angry because they felt betrayed. Nobody had asked them whether they wanted this utterly modern, yet very expensive train station and especially whether they wanted the state to spend billions of tax money on it or not. The opponents would prefer a cheaper and less prestigious alternative to reconstructing the train station, so that there would still be money left for other more urgent reconstructions. What made this conflict a serious issue of German politics, though, is what occurred on a day in late September. To catch the attention of the media and the general public, the opponents organized a big demonstration against the project. The atmosphere was so emotionally charged that the situation escalated and the police used water cannons, pepper spray and riot sticks. The police department apologized for these actions, which are more than uncommon in Germany. This incident became a huge topic. The administration of the federal state in which these actions took place is now analyzing what exactly happened. The atmosphere is still heated and several voices long for more propositions. Mediation talks between supporters and opponents were broadcast live on German TV. The leader of the mediation called it an “experiment in democracy”. (read more about it here ).
The tense atmosphere seems to encourage other demonstrations, as the movement against nuclear power seems to undergo a revival. Along with that goes the rising of the Greens. This political party was founded in 1990 and represents eco-friendliness and sustainability. Since Germany is a multiparty system, the Green Party used to be part of parliament since the mid 90’s as they gained more than 5% of the vote. Within the last years surveys show that the party would gain almost 25 % of the votes if there were elections right now. Experts say that the disapproval of Stuttgart-21 as well as the disapproval of Munich’s application for the Olympic Winter Games plays a big role for these developments.
Economic Life
While other countries are suffering hard from the economic crisis Germany’s economy is rather stable, yet prospering. Newspapers like The Guardian, The New York Times, and The Economist published articles called “German economy surges ahead at record pace”, “What Germany Knows About Debt”, and “What’s Germany’s secret?”. The links provided give you more information about this topic. They also show that Germany doesn’t have the master plan of how to deal with the crisis. Based on Germany’s past, its prior economic situation, and its measurements at hand it can work things out pretty well. The New York Times writes for example that: “The point is not that Americans can or should copy Germany. But are German policy makers so wrong in their long-term orientation? We can lecture, or we can listen. The choice is ours.”
[I do not own this picture. It is property of www.nytimes.com and drawn by David G. Klein.]
Nevertheless, Germany had to face some tough decisions and the German population is concerned. The main reason is the situation in other countries of the European Union like Greece and Ireland- referring to a law that forbids that countries of the EU bail out other countries; Germany refused to help Greece financially for quite a while. Yet, in April 2010, after several meetings a long term plan was released that is supposed to stabilize the economic situation in Greece. It comes with several requirements to assure reasonable money spending and reasonable politics in Greece. Still, the situation is tense and it will be interesting to see what happens in the next few years.

Cultural Life

Regarding the music industry in Germany two important things happened in 2010. One was good, one was utterly bad.
Germany is known for a techno parade called “Love Parade” that takes place once a year since 1989. It started as a political demonstration for international understanding through love and music just months before the fall of the Berlin Wall. It used to take place once a year in Berlin until 2006. In 2007 the city canceled the parade because the Senate of Berlin denied to issue certain permits. The event then moved to the Ruhr area in the western part of Germany. Each year it took place in a different city with drastically increasing numbers (i. e. from 2006 to 2007 the number of attending people doubled).
love parade1.jpg
Last year Duisburg was the host city. The organizers expected 800,000 people to attend the event, the police believed around 400,000 were present. In fact, 1.4 million people showed up. Just a few days before the parade some permits and documents were still missing. Some people had warned that the site is not suitable for such an event. On July, 24th 2010, the day of the event, 21 people died and more than 500 people were injured. Most of them suffered from being trapped on in an overcrowded tunnel leading to the site. This tunnel was the one and only way to enter and leave the festival area. Hence, people were pushing to get onto the site while others were trying to leave it because it was already too crowded. The party on the area was continued to avoid a mass panic. After the accident the involved parties (organizers, security service, city, police) blamed each other. The investigations are still going on but one thing is already sure: there won’t be another Love Parade.
Here is a video that explains what happened in detail.
At least one good thing regarding music occurred last year as well: Germany won the Eurovision Song Contest for the first time since 28 years. The Contest is an annual competition held among active member countries of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU). Since 1956, every year, each member country submits a song to be performed live on television and then casts votes for the other countries’ songs to determine the most popular song in the competition. The performed songs have to be unreleased until a certain date prior to the competition. Usually there are national contests prior to the European one to determine which candidate the country is sending to the contest. The decision in Germany was based on televoting. Last year 39 participants performed on the day of the contest, May, 29th 2010. It was broadcast all over the world even in countries like Australia that aren’t allowed to participate.
19-year old Lena Meyer-Landrut was elected to be the German performer for last year. She was singing in English to a song called “Satellite”. Here is a video of her performance.
People in Germany gathered to watch the contest together, whether in their homes, in pubs or at public screenings.

Fun Facts

Each and every year the German “Duden”, the most important orthography institution, that keeps track of the German language, its usage, new created words and so on elects a “Word of the Year</strong>”. Due to the increasing participation of citizens in political issues the Duden decided the word “Wutbürger” to be the word of 2010. “Wut” means rage and “Bürger” means citizen. (N.B. Words like “to google” were inherited by the German language so that there is now a German verb called “googeln” officially approved by the Duden)
In 2010 there was also the Soccer World Cup in South Africa. This was of course a big event in Germany, because what is there that Germans love more than soccer? Hence, the majority of the German population was watching the games, either at home, in pubs or in the most common fashion: public screenings. This means that people gather in parks, beer gardens, or other public places where they watch the games on a big screen and party. Everyone was curious about who would win the game. Someone already seemed to know the result in advance: an octopus called Paul, who lived in a zoo in a German town called Oberhausen. Prior to every game two transparent boxes each containing a mussel were placed into his aquarium. The boxes were labeled with the flags of the two competing countries of the next game. Paul’s choice of one of the boxes to get the mussel was regarded as a prediction for the game. He turned into the octopus oracle.
And indeed, in each and every case that Paul predicted a result of a game he was right. He also predicted that Germany would loose in the final. (Here is a video of his prediction) A town in the winning country of the World Cup, Spain, even gave him the status of an honorary citizen.

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