For most people in Germany, Flensburg in the far north of the republic is synonymous with the notorious "points" for drivers.
For the Danes, on the other side of the border, Flensburg is a city where people like to go for a trip or to go shopping. Many Danes also work in the Schleswig-Holstein city.
But when parking their cars, some Danes have recently experienced a nasty surprise: a fine for using their Danish parking discs. The newspaper "Der Nordschleswiger" and the Danish television station TV Syd reported on this, among others.
If you park your car in Germany, you have to use a parking disc that looks exactly like the one in the road traffic regulations. The German and Danish parking discs do not look very different: both have the dark blue color, the times and the white arrow in common. Danes often have their parking disc glued to the front of the windscreen. But only the German disc can save you a warning money of 20 euros.
That wasn't a problem in Flensburg for several years, writes the "Nordschleswiger". The regulatory office turned a blind eye. But since Wednesday, the road traffic regulations have been consistently applied.
Clemens Teschendorf, spokesman for Flensburg City Hall, told the newspaper that it was about equal treatment. Apparently, German motorists who had to pay for a wrong parking disc had complained. They would have demanded the same leniency as the Danes. In November it was then decided that the Danish discs would no longer be tolerated, reported the North German Broadcasting Corporation (NDR). The Danish media informed about the change of course.
The new practice also causes a lack of understanding in local politics. "For years we have been discussing the revitalization of the city center in local politics. Here we always have to think about Danish purchasing power and avoid patronizing the city center visitors," said Susanne Rode-Kuhlig, FDP councilwoman, in a statement.
FDP parliamentary group leader Christoph Anastasiadis said: "Flensburg benefits enormously from Danish day visitors and tourism. We should use and promote this potential instead of giving it away by giving the wrong signals." Especially in the border region, small bureaucratic hurdles should not make it difficult for "people on both sides of the border to live together". "We shouldn't lose ourselves in parochial thinking on these issues."
Stefan Seidler, member of the Bundestag for the South Schleswig Voters' Association (SSW), has no understanding for the new parking disc regulation. "The parking disc posse in Flensburg is such a situation that nobody really understands. We need cross-border, understandable regulations. I will therefore campaign in Berlin for a European parking disc," he wrote on Twitter.
The farce about the parking discs in the rather tranquil Flensburg is now also a case for the EU Commission in Brussels, as reported by TV Syd. The Social Democrat MEP Christel Schaldemose from Denmark wanted to address the issue to the Commission and ask her questions.
"For me, this is a bureaucratic monster and a clear example of the fact that there are some rules here that are completely stupid," said Schaldemose. In their view, it should be possible to use parking discs across borders as long as they are visible and legible.
Like SSW politician Seidler, Schaldemose is open to a uniform EU parking disc. She also wants to call on the German Social Democrats in the EU Parliament to make the parking disc posse an issue in Germany.
To make the whole thing even more absurd: German parking discs can be used in Denmark – without risking a fine.
Sources: "Der Nordschleswiger", TV Syd, NDR, FDP Flensburg, road traffic regulations