Storm brews over German budget plans

A storm is brewing in Germany's grand coalition government amid signs that the ambitious plans by the government might jeopardize its aim of balancing the budget by 2011.

Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück has rejected as unworkable spending requests sent to him by four government ministries that are too expensive for his overall budget plans.

But the ministries concerned – transport, research, education and economy – say their spending plans are part of political goals set by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s left-right government.

Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul told the Financial Times Deutschland on Friday that her ministry’s spending request is to pay for what Merkel promised at a G8 summit in 2007 on reducing poverty and fighting disease in the developing world.

“My minister has only applied in 2009 for what the entire federal government – led by the chancellor – committed itself to internationally,” Wieczorek-Zeul told the paper.

Similar dismay came from Research and Development Minister Annette Schavan, who told the paper that her budget request was in line with government plans to devote three percent of Germany’s gross domestic product in R&D by 2010.

The aim of a balanced federal bugdet in 2010 “is a collective aim of the federal government and therefore a collective duty of all members of the government,” Merkel’s spokesman Thomas Steg told a news conference on Friday.

He stressed that conflicts were inevitable in view of the government’s aims and said that talks on working out a budget for 2009, which is due to be agreed upon by July, were still at an early stage.

“The chancellor expects … that a constructive, amicable solution to all budget issues is achievable,” Steg said.