German President Steinmeier moves closer to second term

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier is poised to be elected for a second five-year term in the largely ceremonial role as he secured the backing of the ruling Green party on Tuesday.

President Frank-Walter Steinmeier
Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/AP Pool | Michael Sohn

First appointed president in 2017, Social Democrat (SPD) Steinmeier, 65, last year said he would like to run again when Germany elects its next president on February 13th.

The Greens, who are part of a new three-way coalition government with the SPD and the liberal FDP, said in a statement they would be recommending that their MPs vote for him.

Steinmeier is a “very good and highly respected federal president who has rendered great service to our country during his first term”, they said.

The FDP has also said it will back Steinmeier.

The office of president is a symbolic role in Germany providing a counterpart to the head of government, currently Chancellor Olaf Scholz, also a Social Democrat.

One of Germany’s most popular and trusted politicians, Steinmeier was appointed as head of state after extended stints as foreign minister and chief of staff for former chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

With his snowy white hair, round glasses and dimpled smile, Steinmeier is a trained lawyer with a reputation for being diplomatic and measured in his speech.

Announcing his desire to run for a second term last year, Steinmeier said being president had been an “honour” and an “enormous challenge”.

Presidents can run for a maximum of two terms in Germany, though Steinmeier would be only the fourth person to be re-elected to the role.

READ ALSO: ‘Germany is a country with a migrant background,’ says President Steinmeier

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Germany approves €9 public transport ticket for summer

It's official - people in Germany will get cheap public transport for three months this summer after the €9 ticket was approved.

Germany approves €9 public transport ticket for summer

As part of a host of energy relief measures to cushion the cost of living crisis, the German government is offering cheap public transport for the months of June, July and August. 

Monthly tickets will be available at a price of €9 (or €27 for all three months) and they will allow people to use all buses, trains and trams in local and regional transport throughout the country.

So even if people buy the ticket in Munich, they will also be able to use local and regional buses, trains and trams elsewhere in Germany, whether it’s Hamburg or Cologne. 

READ ALSO: How to explore Germany by train with the €9 ticket

The ticket will not be valid, however, on long-distance transport such as ICE trains or Flixbus.

The offer was put together by the coalition government – made of the Social Democrats, the Greens and the FDP.

The Bundestag voted for the initiative on Thursday, agreeing to give federal states a subsidy of €2.5 billion to fund the project. 

And on Friday, the Bundesrat – the upper house of parliament that represents the states – gave the green light to the ticket, paving the way for it to begin on June 1st. 

States had wanted an extra €1.5 billion funding boost to deal with lost revenue, however it would have been hugely controversial if they had blocked it.

READ ALSO: German states threaten to block the €9 ticket in the Bundesrat

During a debate on Thursday, federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) said the €9 project was “already a success”.

“All of Germany is talking about local public transport,” he said, adding that it is also being viewed with interest abroad. 

READ ALSO: ‘Fantastic’: Your verdict on Germany’s €9 ticket

The Left party (Die Linke) voted in favour of the €9 ticket, but leader Bernd Riexinger said he thought the plan didn’t go far enough. “Three months is simply too little,” he said.

The opposition, however, slammed the move. Christian Democrat Michael Donth called it an “expensive experiment”.

Rail operator Deutsche Bahn will offer the ticket for sale as early as Monday. Local public transport providers across the country are also preparing their ticket machines for the initiative. It will also be available in travel centres.

People with subscriptions to local transport will automatically benefit from the offer. 

In some regions, such as Stuttgart and Freiburg, the ticket is already available for purchase.

READ ALSO: How to get a hold of the €9 ticket in Berlin