German minister's youth curfew plan sparks criticism

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 09, 2012 9:30 AM

BERLIN (Reuters) - German children could be barred from going to evening pop concerts and Christmas markets without an adult chaperone if the family minister's proposal for a curfew to try to curb binge drinking gets the green light.

But her suggestion has already drawn strong criticism from inside Chancellor Angela Merkel's ruling centre-right coalition.

German government statistics show the number of young people in the 15-20 age bracket ending up in hospital with alcohol poisoning rose by nearly 3 percent in 2010 from the year before.

Under Family Minister Kristina Schroeder's bill, children under 16 would be barred from taking part in public events where alcohol is available after 8 p.m. and young people aged 16 to 18 would not be able to do so after midnight.

Young people would be allowed to stay in these spaces after the new curfew only if accompanied by their parents or by a person with parental power. The age of the accompanying person would be also raised from 18 to 21.

Public events include concerts, Christmas markets and the broadcasting of sport events in fan areas.

The Free Democrats (FDP), the liberal junior partner in Merkel's coalition, branded Schroeder's proposals unworkable.

"A 20-year-old could buy vodka but not take his 13-year-old brother to the cinema at 7 p.m.. We reject similar absurd regulations," FDP youth spokesman Florian Bernschneider told German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung on Monday.

The Economy Ministry, which is run by FDP leader Philipp Roesler, said the plans would interfere with private life and have negative effects on the organizers of public events.

Alcohol abuse happens more frequently at private rather than public venues, the ministry said.

(Reporting by Elisa Oddone; Editing by Gareth Jones and Alison Williams)