Energy transition and sustainability, migration, justice and fear of terrorism have affected and polarized people in Germany during this decade. But the country cheered together in the summer of 2014.
The current world situation, in Europe and especially in Germany, combined with the discussion about the understanding of our democracy and its basic values, is currently putting Article 14 of the Basic Law and its second paragraph in the limelight. In the specific case of housing and rent policy, the recent demonstrations in Berlin and the public debates in the political parties show the explosiveness and fuel for conflict contained in the debate about property and how it should be treated.
There’s a phone call from the police in the middle of the night: they immediately need a search warrant, it’s imperative that the public prosecutor (Staatsanwalt) comes. This or similar situations are frequently seen in Tatort, the classic German TV crime series. Working nights or on-call is actually part of a public prosecutor’s job in Germany. But they mainly work at their desks. In the German legal system it is their job to lead preliminary criminal investigations. That involves reading files, instructing the police to conduct witness interviews or house searches, closing proceedings or writing indictments. The public prosecutor presents the final plea for the prosecution at the end of a court case.
Ten years ago, when Germany’s Basic Law turned 60, the birthday party in Berlin attracted hundreds of thousands of citizens. They strolled along Strasse des 17. Juni where official institutions had set up their exhibition stands. They crowded in front of the Brandenburg Gate to listen to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, with the final melody that has become the hymn of the European Union, and to pop music afterwards. And from everywhere in the city, they watched the fireworks at night. Some weeks later, an Italian colleague and former ambassador to Germany, who had seen this on TV in Rome, told me he envied the Germans for being able to celebrate their constitution with such a public festivity.