Anyone who has spent time on the streets of Berlin for New Year's Eve would be familiar with the sight, sound – and smell – of fireworks. For one long evening, fire lights up the skies over Berlin as the Hauptstadt rings in the new year.
But for police, emergency services and plenty of residents and visitors to the city, the evening is not one of celebration. As reported by the Tagespiegel, the 2017-18 New Year's Eve resulted in over 3000 emergency calls as irresponsible use of fireworks caused injuries across the city. One 13-year-old boy lost his eye, while another man lost three fingers. One hospital in Marzahn, on the citys outskirts, admitted 21 fireworks victims.
The evening is also a dangerous one for law enforcement and emergency services. In total police were deployed 1732 times last New Year's Eve and were frequently targeted by rockets and fireworks. In total, 57 attacks on police and emergency services vehicles were recorded.
As a result, Berlins ruling coalition has sought to limit the use and sale of fireworks – although with fireworks being regulated at the federal level under the Explosives Act, their efforts may be limited.
Currently fireworks may only legally be sold in the three days leading up to and including New Year's Eve. The proposal suggest limiting this to just December 30th-31st. Under the Act, the sale of fireworks on private property cannot be restricted, meaning vendors would have to sign up on a voluntary basis.
Their plan also includes a ban on loud fireworks along with a restriction on the use of pyrotechnics in certain areas of the city. The restrictions proposed so far stop short of completely banning fireworks, but Die Linkes Hakan Tas suggests that this is a “first step” in that direction.
Deputy Social Democratic (SPD) chairman Jörg Stroedter said that Berlins New Year's Eve celebrations in their current state “can no longer be tolerated”.
Regina Kneiding, a spokeswoman for the Berlin senate, said that while fireworks are federally regulated, Berlin's existing restrictions on firework usage go beyond German legal requirements.
While German law allows the use of fireworks only for the 48 hours surrounding New Year's Eve, in Berlin firecrackers may only be used from 6pm on New Year's Eve to 7am on New Years Day.
Given that it is up to German municipalities to decide whether or not to ban fireworks, bans in specific streets, squares or places may be difficult to enforce.
Kneiding told The Local “if rules were to come in to allow fireworks only in certain places, authorities would need to justify why their use isnt allowed elsewhere”.
“The federal government leaves it to the municipalities to ban fireworks completely. Therefore to ban fireworks in specific districts it would be necessary to convince each district to get on board.”
“Fireworks are already banned nationwide near churches, hospitals, childrens homes, retirement homes, timber houses and areas with large crowds such as those around the Brandenburg Gate.”
“Its up to politicians to put in further restrictions.”
The proposed meeting between the coalition members will take place too late to influence this years celebrations, but may come into effect in 2019.