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Germans have become (a bit) friendlier and more helpful during pandemic, says study

Even though some people fight over toilet paper in the supermarket and others argue on the street over face masks, social cohesion in Germany has improved during the corona pandemic, a new study claims.

Germans have become (a bit) friendlier and more helpful during pandemic, says study
People leave food at a neighbour's door in Baden-Württemberg. Photo: DPA

Researchers at the Basel Institute of Commons and Economics, led by sociologist Alexander Dill, asked participants between May and September this year to mark on a scale of 1 (low) to 10 (very high) how they rate the helpfulness or hospitality of people in their neighbourhood. 

Germans’ friendliness was rated better this year by the respondents, with 6.9 points compared to 6.6 points last year.

The social climate was also rated better with 7.1 points compared to the previous year (6.7). 

Helpfulness experienced by the respondents in everyday life also increased: from 7 in 2019 to 7.3 points this time around. 

READ ALSO: How people in Germany are showing their solidarity during the corona crisis

Germany not rated top for friendliness

However, Germany did not make it into the top 20 states in the international comparison, which is led by Thailand and Tanzania with values of around 9 points for friendliness.

Although the federal and state governments placed restrictions on personal contact in order to contain the coronavirus pandemic, the score for hospitality climbed this year from 6.2 to 6.7 points.

This backs up a trend that the Bertelsmann Stiftung identified in a representative survey last summer.

According to that survey, the proportion of people who consider social cohesion in Germany to be at risk fell from 46 percent in February this year to 36 percent in May and June. 

The Basel Institute of Commons and Economics publishes its annual World Social Capital Monitor and is registered as a partner for UN sustainability goals. 

The results of the survey are not representative, if only because of the anonymous nature of the survey, as age groups are not weighted according to their share of the population.

However, in the opinion of the researchers, the results are nevertheless meaningful, as can be seen from the usually very small deviation in the individual answers. 

Dill is a critic of international rankings that looks solely on indicators such as per capita income or infrastructure.

Brazil and India are among the countries that have improved their social climate this year according to the World Social Capital Monitor, even though they have been heavily affected by the pandemic.

SEE ALSO: Here's where Germany's happiest people live

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COVID-19

Court turns down AfD-led challenge to Germany’s spending in pandemic

The German Constitutional Court rejected challenges Tuesday to Berlin's participation in the European Union's coronavirus recovery fund, but expressed some reservations about the massive package.

Court turns down AfD-led challenge to Germany's spending in pandemic

Germany last year ratified the €750-billion ($790-billion) fund, which offers loans and grants to EU countries hit hardest by the pandemic.

The court in Karlsruhe ruled on two challenges, one submitted by a former founder of the far-right AfD party, and the other by a businessman.

They argued the fund could ultimately lead to Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, having to take on the debts of other EU member states on a permanent basis.

But the Constitutional Court judges ruled the EU measure does not violate Germany’s Basic Law, which forbids the government from sharing other countries’ debts.

READ ALSO: Germany plans return to debt-limit rules in 2023

The judgement noted the government had stressed that the plan was “intended to be a one-time instrument in reaction to an unprecedented crisis”.

It also noted that the German parliament retains “sufficient influence in the decision-making process as to how the funds provided will be used”.

The judges, who ruled six to one against the challenges, did however express some reservations.

They questioned whether paying out such a large amount over the planned period – until 2026 – could really be considered “an exceptional measure” to fight the pandemic.

At least 37 percent of the funds are aimed at achieving climate targets, the judges said, noting it was hard to see a link between combating global warming and the pandemic.

READ ALSO: Germany to fast-track disputed €200 billion energy fund

They also warned against any permanent mechanism that could lead to EU members taking on joint liability over the long term.

Berenberg Bank economist Holger Schmieding said the ruling had “raised serious doubts whether the joint issuance to finance the fund is in line with” EU treaties.

“The German court — once again — emphasised German limits for EU fiscal integration,” he said.

The court had already thrown out a legal challenge, in April 2021, that had initially stopped Berlin from ratifying the financial package.

Along with French President Emmanuel Macron, then chancellor Angela Merkel sketched out the fund in 2020, which eventually was agreed by the EU’s 27 members in December.

The first funds were disbursed in summer 2021, with the most given to Italy and Spain, both hit hard by the pandemic.

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