#Arbeitnehmerfreizügigkeit: Full EU freedom of movement for Bulgarians and Romanians causes controversies in Germany and the UK

Bc-jd2hCUAAUd5aStarting this year, Bulgarians and Romanians whose access to the labour market in Germany and the UK had been limited since these countries joined the EU in 2007, enjoy the same freedom of movement as any other EU citizen. In fact this “Freizügigkeit” is one of the EUs fundamental principles and should form no grounds for debate. But the Bulgarians’ and Romanians’ right to settle and work in other parts of the EU – if they so wish – has been met with severe criticism and scaremongering in the UK and Germany.

Due to the lower standard of living in the these regions of Eastern Europe, it is feared by right-wing politicians (with the Bavaria’s CSU and the UK’s UKIP party being most outspoken about this) that Bulgarians and Romanians will want to move to more affluent countries within the EU with the main intention of claiming benefits whilst making no or little contribution to the economy. They are calling for measures to stop “benefit thieves” at the border.

In both the UK and Germany, regulations are already in place which restrict migrants’ access to state benefits during the first few months they spend in their new country and thereafter limit their entitlement to unemployment support. It is also a fact that, due to a low birth rate and lack of skilled employees, the German economy needs well qualified migrants, and that many people moving to Germany from Eastern Europe are educated to a high level. NTV explains the German situation in this article, and the Independent supplies everyone in Britain who wants to continue to believe that there will soon be a Romanian camping out in your own living room with this handy “guide to immigrant rhetoric“. The Guardian’s Jonathan Haynes has kindly provided his Twitter followers with this picture  of “hordes of immigrant Romanians and Bulgarians swarming through Kings Cross”. Be afraid, be very afraid. Bc5KQALIEAA4k0f


Austrian German and Bundesdeutsch – the Threat of Standardisation

©dpa (via Süddeutsche Zeitung)

There are many different varieties of the German language. This is important for the German speaking countries outside of Germany where the differences in vocabulary and grammar form part of a distinct national identity. This is particularly true in the case of Austria. The small neighbouring country often sees Germany as an arrogant force with little respect for Austrian sensibilities. And expecting everything to be in standard German without wanting to learn about differences is regarded as a typical “Piefke” (i.e. arrogant German) attitude.

Indeed, many Germans in the northern regions of the country are unaware of Austrian German and, if they they ever cross the border, soon find themselves struggling with the linguisitic differences, particularly in the culinary field. Austrian German knows a wealth of words and expressions connected to food that are completely different from the standard German terms and can easily cause confusion.

But it seems that some of this distinct “Austrianness” is now being lost as the influence of modern media brings about a shift towards a more prevalent use of the previously rejected “Bundesdeutsch” (i.e. the language spoken in the Bundesrepublik Deutschland). It seems that the heavenly “Paradeiser” for instance might soon be replaced with the much more prosaic “Tomate”.

Find out more about this – and about the German entrepreneur who scandalised Austrians by securing the marketing rights to the – for many – quintessentially Austrian greeting “Griaß di!” on our Facebook page and in an article by the Süddeutsche Zeitung. For more information on the often difficult relationship between Germans and Austrians, read one of our previous blog posts.


Kein Spaß: TV Host Kurt Felix Dies

Kurt Felix and Paola © Nadine Rupp/getty images

He was best known for hosting “Verstehen Sie Spaß”, the German version of “You’ve been framed”. From 1980 to 1990 Kurt Felix and his wife Paola presented the hugely popular entertainment show based on the “candid camera” principle. After the Swiss journalist left the show, a series of other hosts, including late night talk show legend Harald Schmidt, took over and continued to play pranks on celebrities and unsuspecting citizens.

The current successful presenter is Guido Cantz, and the programme still has impressive viewing figures. But the show has never been quite the same without Felix. His inimitable blend of boyish humour and charmingly deliberate Swiss diction will forever be associated with “Verstehen Sie Spaß”.

Innumerable times Felix had suddenly appeared at the end of a prank to show people that they had been punked. Sadly, as DIE ZEIT writes today, Felix’ death from cancer, which ocurred on Wednesday, is all too real and this time no one will jump out from behind a bush shouting “it’s all been a joke”.

One of Felix’ classic pranks: The shower in the lift

German Rock Band “Die Toten Hosen” Celebrates 30th Anniversary

The music industry is a fast moving business, making it difficult for many artists to develop long-lasting careers. A German band that has been incredibly successful at maintaining a huge popularity throughout the years, whilst remaining true to their socially subversive punk rock roots, are Die Toten Hosen. The band’s name alludes to the colloquial expression “tote Hose”, denoting boredom and apathy – yet this ironically self-deprecating epithet could of course not be further from the truth. Audiences have certainly never felt bored at Tote Hosen gigs, and over the years the band has been involved in various initiatives which have motivated people to take a stand against racism, fight the negative effects of globalisation and oppose environmental destruction.

 Headed by charismatic frontman Campino (born Andreas Frege, he chose a  popular sweets brand as his stage name) Die Toten Hosen first rose to fame in the early 1980s and had their big commercial break-through in 1988 with the songs written for a stage version of  Anthony Burgess’ / Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. The track “Hier kommt Alex” became an instant hit.

Nearly 25 years on and Die Hosen are still one of Germany’s most commercially successful rock groups. Yesterday they returned to Bremen where, many years ago, they had their first successful gigs away from their native Düsseldorf. In the Schlachthof (a former abbatoir cum music venue) they celebrated their 30th anniversary – and it was just like the old days.

Alles Gute zum Geburtstag, Tote Hosen!



A Piefke* Invasion?

A Piefke* Invasion? German School Leavers Increasingly Move to Austria and Switzerland to Study

As another cohort of students gets ready to start their studies at Aston, we look to Austria and Switzerland where the rising number of Germans moving to the neighbouring Alpine countries to study is causing growing concerns.

In Germany it can be difficult for young school leavers to get admitted to study the subject of their choice. Popular disciplines often require high entry grades and the overall number of applicants is rising. This is due to a combination of factors. On the whole, the percentage of A level students wishing to enter higher education is on the up, and recent changes in the school system, reducing the time spent in secondary school by one year, mean that in the most densely populated regions of Germany this year’s group of A level graduates is twice as big as last year’s. In addition, boys no longer need to do military service and are free to start university as soon as they leave school.

Not surprising then, that students who do not manage to secure a place in their chosen subject decide to look abroad. With two neighbouring countries which share the same language – although for purists that statement is open for debate – and boast a number of attractive universities of equally high standing as the best examples of the German higher education system, the decision to study in Austria or Switzerland is easily taken.

In Austria students pay a moderate tuition fee which is lower than in some parts of Germany and most importantly, there are either no entry requirements other than an A level equivalent – be it the Austrian Matura or the German Abitur – or applicants sit an entrance exam irrespective of their past achievements at school, or lack of such. German school leavers have therefore become a real problem for home students. For instance, with 800 Germans and only 230 Austrians competing for 200 places in Psychology at the University of Salzburg it is likely that the cohort to start their studies this autumn will consist of 75-80% Germans. This is particularly worrying because the Austrian economy will not benefit from these students: they leave the country once they have their diploma. In fact, because Salzburg is at a commutable distance from Bavaria, many students do not even take up residence in Austria in the first place. Faced with the potential future problem of an unskilled workforce, Austrians have considered restricting German access to Austrian education but were told by the EU that this would not be allowed for most subjects, medicine being the exception. EU officials did not want to see the health of Austrian citizens endangered by a lack of doctors.

As a non-EU country, Switzerland has been able to take stronger restrictive measures and no longer admits German students below a certain Abitur point score. The Swiss should be less worried about a brain drain as Germans are the biggest number of migrants to enter the country each year and contribute successfully to the smooth running of the Swiss economy. But this influx is nonetheless causing social problems and Germans are not popular in Switzerland as you can see here.

What life in Austria is like as a German student refugee is shown in this satirical clip from Spiegel Online.

*In Austrian German “Piefke” is used as a derogatory term for Germans.