Germany: Interior Ministry Rejects Calls for Firecracker Ban on New Year’s Eve
Whenever the end of the year nears, the old argument about banning the sale and use of pyrotechnical products returns. Those of us who are tired of discussions on Corona measures, the 49 Euro Ticket and the energy prices, can take part in one about firecrackers and ban zones.
Berlin, November 3rd, 2022 (The Berlin Spectator) — This is like a competition. Whoever revives the discussion about firecracker bans first will win. This time, the environmental organization Deutsche Umwelthilfe was victorious. Earlier this week, its chairman Jürgen Resch told Germany’s Interior Minister Nancy Faeser to end the use of such products “once and for all”. All she needed to do was to change the Explosives Act.
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The main argument the Umwelthilfe is citing: On New Year’s Eve, the particulate matter concentration in the breathing air in German cities increases substantially. Up to 4,000 metric tons of additional fine dust could be kept from being inhaled by people if there was a ban on firecrackers, fireworks and all other kinds of pyrotechnical products.
Because of the Corona pandemic and the measures that were in place against its spread, the sale of bangers and similar items was forbidden in the past two years. The government reimbursed the firecracker industry which produces its goods all year long in order to sell them during the last three business days of the year only, due to legal restrictions in Germany.
But this time, Nancy Faeser does not seem to want to impose a ban. Her spokeslady was quoted by German-language media. She stated it could not be foreseen whether there would be a situation that required the kind of measures that had be taken in 2021 and 2020. The summary: She said no.
Proponents of the right to light pyrotechnical products on New Year’s Eve say this was a tradition many Germans cherished. Konstantin Kuhle, an MP for the center-right FDP, was quoted my several German publications as well. He said a general ban on firecrackers would damaged the confidence people put in the state’s institutions. He might be right. Lighting fireworks and bangers may be some kind of a valve. If the state closed it, the pressure would increase.
Noise and Waste
But those who call for a ban have good arguments too. Apart from the particulate matter, the noise is a problem. Dogs and other pets hate it, it wakes up small children and can damage people’s hearing. It also causes a lot of waste on the streets which the city cleaning departments have to clear on New Year’s Day. Besides, the many crises the world is going through right now makes the use of bangers seem inappropriate, from the perspective of some people.
There is another issue: Firecrackers are like soccer, in the sense that many persons who use them are intoxicated, just like soccer fans who watch matches. This aspect leads to bad injuries every year. Hospitals usually are very busy on New Year’s Eve, especially in cities. In times of Corona, why would anyone want to increase the burden on the German health system?
The list of problems related to the use of pyrotechnical products does not end. In pre-Corona times, mobs of intoxicated people in Berlin attacked the police by throwing lit firecrackers and fireworks at them. That is why the Berlin Senate started putting in place ban zones. Last year, there were more than 50 of them all over the capital. The police enforced those ban zones at Alexanderplatz (see photo at top of page) and many other locations.
If no pyrotechnical products could be sold last year, why did Berlin need ban zones? Because many Berliners seem to have bangers in stock. Also there is an illegal market for firecrackers, and a legal one in Poland, which is only about 100 kilometers (62 miles) away. Long lines of Germans usually form in front of firecracker shops in this neighboring country in late December.
Majority for Ban
For the Greens at the Berlin House of Representatives, Vasili Franco stated he and his party welcomed the demand for a permanent firecracker ban on New Year’s Eve. He cited the result of a recent poll according to which 53 percent of all Germans favor a ban on private fireworks in the Federal Republic. Humans, animals and the environment would benefit from such a step, Franco said.