Will Berlin be the new Amsterdam?

by time news

There was a time when Holland was considered the benchmark for progress. I remember that time well, because I grew up in Friesland, in the German-Dutch border area, when Germans on this side of the border were amazed at how Dutch people across the Ems were allowed to enter into same-sex marriages or light a joint. In the minds of many Germans, the narrative of Holland has established itself in the minds of many Germans since the eighties, but no later than the beginning of the nineties, as a kind of Mecca for free spirits, progressives and all those who thought they were a little ahead of their time, with Amsterdam and its red light district De Wallen as its epicenter, where partying, prostitution and the consumption of colored pills are naturally tolerated. An image that the Dutch are only too happy to cultivate to this day, as it means increasing tourism figures and thus a lucrative source of income.

Time has not stood still in Germany in the past twenty years and Berlin in particular has blossomed into a refuge for avant-gardists and trendsetters since Klaus Wowereit’s much-cited statement “poor but sexy” in 2003, which other European capitals in is always one step ahead in many ways. Hardly a coolness ranking has appeared since then in which Berlin does not appear in some form: be it Berghain as the best club in the world (DJ Mag, 2009), Wedding and Neukölln among the coolest districts in the world (Time Out, 2019 and 2021 ) or Berlin in the list of the world’s most popular travel destinations (Tripadvisor, 2013).

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Meanwhile, Amsterdammers seem to be getting tired of their hitherto flaunted progressiveness. Window prostitution is to be banished from the city center to the outskirts and coffee shops will soon only be allowed to sell marijuana to residents of the city. Free way of life – yes, but somewhere else please.

So it is a good thing that in the coalition agreement that the Social Democrats, Greens and Liberals presented to the federal government, a point sealed the end of the last bastion of Dutch progressiveness: The traffic light coalition parties give the green light for the controlled distribution of cannabis to adults for consumption. The motto “Dare to make more progress” is emblazoned in the background, and if the reporting is to be believed, the three unequal governing parties quickly agreed on the direction in which to move forward: Greens and FDP have been talking for some time for a legal trade in cannabis. The SPD negotiators had to jump over their shadows for this step in its radicalism.

A tightening of the advertising and sponsorship opportunities for legal drugs and the review of the new law for its social effects – this is probably primarily the protection of minors – at the end of the legislative period may reflect concessions made by the two junior coalition partners to the election winner. It remains to be seen whether this actually means that stoners will cross the borders of the progressive country Germany to shop in local coffee shops.

And the Dutch have so far been reluctant to comment on the German plans. Perhaps a good thing too: Our neighbors who were once so fast-paced have been waiting for a coalition agreement that the future German government has presented after just 60 days of negotiations for eight months.

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