Despite the virus containment measures in all parts of the world, it seems that the German obsession with white asparagus knows no bounds. Whilst the vast majority of citizens and organisations are heeding the advice and enforcement of control measures, Brandenburg and other major asparagus growing regions are demanding that it is all ignored so that they can get their precious crop out of the ground.
The reason is that the farmers, who charge a small fortune for this forced delicacy, do not want to pay a living wage to the pickers. Therefore, they have to bring in workers from poorer EU and Non-EU states to work the fields who are prepared to take the back breaking, poorly paid work. The recent border control has put the brakes on this freedom of movement and threatened the harvest. However, the powerful German lobby representing the Landwirtschaft has managed to create the idea that it would be a national disaster if the population cannot have ‘spargel’ this Easter, and urged the governments to ‘relax’ the borders and movement controls to allow the itinerant workers to come into the areas where the local population cannot move around freely themselves.
The point I am making is that there seems to be one rule for some and another rule for others here. The national address made by Chancellor Merkel a few weeks ago was one of ‘togetherness and solidarity’. The message being broadcast by this favouritism towards chloryphyll-free foodstuff is one of ‘protectionism’. Whilst millions of people have and will lose jobs due to the economic impact, a handfull of landowners will benefit from having a guaranteed harvest and guaranteed income. Farming is risky and there are rewards as well as penalties for working with nature but this does not mean that a luxury product farmer should be bailed out at the expense of other citizens rights.
Whilst this was unfolding, another separatist reaction was taking place in Ost-Prignitz Ruppin (OPR), a county in North West Brandenburg State. The state Prime Misister had set out the emergency guidelines for the control of movement and contact across the state and posted it out on news and in Town Halls. A local representative in OPR, however, decided to suggest his own ‘rules’ in addition, targeting second home owners in the region, especially Berliners. He suggested that they be prevented from going to their holiday residence or ‘FeWo’ until the crisis is over as he wanted to prevent ‘people with second homes coming to the region and infecting the local population and putting strees on local hospitals and clinical beds.’
A knee jerk reaction, yes, but a highly irresponsible one as it creates the ‘individual borders within borders’ reaction, not ‘solidarity and togetherness’ as promoted by the Chancellor and endorsed by the State Minister. Under scrutiny however, this ruling falls down, as two homeowners from Berlin discovered. They launched a rapid appeal in Potsdam and the court ruled in their favour, stating that there was no evidence that the arrival of second homewoners would endanger local citizens or threaten their clinical bed capacity. A higher court decision is due to be ruled on Tuesday 7th April.
In direct opposition to the ban on incomers, the Council Representative did little to strengthen his argument when he stated that despite people from ‘outside’ not being allowed in, ‘residents’ from OPR are free to travel ‘out’ to Berlin and back ‘for work’. Again, one rule for one and one rule for another. It is times like this crisis when people show their true colours and some politicians cannot help themselves from saying the wrong thing at the wrong time as there seemed to be an ‘opportunity’. Most of the time, it is the people who lead by example if they are treated with respect by their political leaders. Not the other way round.
For some people, going to spend some quiet time (self isolate) at their sommerhaus/kleingarten/bootshaus/bungalow is more a part of spring/Easter than eating a premium food product such as white asparagus. If done sensibly whilst observing the distancing and hygeine measures, will prove more beneficial than harmful. There is a very fine line between effective, sensible, preventative control measures and denial of civil liberties. So far , Germany is doing a great job, both citizens and authority. Lets all help to flattenthecurve but the minute it becomes political, it becomes a different beast.