food / travel

Alcohol, Sex, Skateboarding: Barcelona Raises “Excess” Behavior Fines

The Spanish city’s authorities raise the cost of over-doing it for locals and tourists alike. But will it change people’s behavior?

Young people in Barcelona (Macle)
Young people in Barcelona (Macle)

Worldcrunch *NEWSBITES

BARCELONA - Why go to a bar when the vibe outdoors is so great? This is part of the appeal of this Mediterranean coastal city for party-seeking young (and not so young) people, who frequently turn public spaces into an open-air club: drinking, shouting, relieving themselves against walls, and plenty more. When they're done, streets and squares can end up looking like deserted battlefields.

In the past two decades the number of visitors to Barcelona has risen from 1.73 million in 1990 to 7.13 million in 2010. Overnight stays have gone from 3.79 million in 1990 to 14 million in 2010.

Visitor rates, however, aren't the only changes afoot in the seaside Spanish city. In recent months, the city government has also started to change course, encouraging visitors and residents alike to make better use of public space. Municipal authorities are trying to get their message across via ubiquitous red flyers published in various languages.

Part and parcel of the flyer is a kind of catalogue of fines for all undesirable behavior. The penalty for public drinking? A hefty 1,500 euros. Unauthorized selling of goods on the open streets? A fine of 500 euros. Public urination will cost you 1,500 euros. The same goes for skateboarding or rollerblading in spaces not designated for those activities.

"Sexual services' in public can also cost this much. And anyone caught spraying words or images on walls, or in other acts of vandalism, will be fined double. The same goes for anyone organizing gambling, particularly prevalent in Barcelona, with so-called "thimble riggers' luring tourists.

People who spend the night on the beach come way relatively lightly with a 500-euro fine. But it might cost them that much again if they used soap at the beach showers.

More and more complaints for undesirable public behavior are being filed with authorities. That number in 2009 had risen to 111,824 – and in 2010, it was up to 120,678. Still, whether the fines deter the merrymakers remains to be seen.

Read the full story in German by Ulrike Wiebrecht

photo - Macle

*Newsbites are digest items, not direct translations

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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