Government throws spanner in SPD/Green Berlin coalition talks

The German Transport Ministry said Tuesday that federal investment in Berlin’s controversial A100 motorway extension could not be moved to another project, hampering coalition negotiations between Mayor Klaus Wowereit and the Greens.

Government throws spanner in SPD/Green Berlin coalition talks
Photo: DPA

Wowereit comfortably won the mayoral election on September 18, but his party did not secure enough seats in the state parliament to govern outright. Tuesday’s announcement left Wowereit at an impasse.

His Social Democratic Party is in favour of the extension, but their favoured coalition partner is the Green party, want the motorway extension in the south-east of the city stopped.

The project, which involves partially closing an incomplete motorway ring around the city and cutting a path through residential areas and parks, has been put on ice as the negotiations continue. The SPD and the Greens suggested using the money from the federal government elsewhere, but the Transport Ministry has now ruled that out.

The ministry said it was not possible because there were no other major construction projects in the city. Andreas Scheuer, parliamentary state secretary in the construction ministry, told the Berliner Morgenpost paper, “We’re not a request show. The A100 is an important project for us.”

The Green party would like to use the €420 million set aside for the motorway to improve roads in the area and install noise reduction facilities.

The extension has been a contentious issue in Berlin for some time.

DAPD/The Local/bk

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EU ministers urge unity after Germany’s energy ‘bazooka’

EU finance ministers on Monday pleaded for unity after Germany announced a €200 billion plan to help German households and businesses pay for high energy prices, amid accusations that the EU's biggest economy was acting alone.

EU ministers urge unity after Germany's energy 'bazooka'

Europe is struggling with historically high energy prices as it faces an early autumn cold snap and a coming winter almost certainly to be endured without crucial Russian gas supplies because of the war in Ukraine.

Many EU countries have announced national programmes to shield consumers from the high prices. But Germany went the furthest on Friday when it announced its mammoth plan, which will see help pouring to Germans for two years.

Arriving to talk with his eurozone counterparts, German Finance Minister Christian Lindner insisted the spending was “proportionate” to the size of Germany’s economy and said his goal was to use as little of the money as possible.

READ ALSO: Germany to spend €200 billion to cap soaring energy costs

But Germany’s largesse rankled several EU capitals, some of which feared their industries could take severe blows while Germany’s sits protected, deforming the EU’s single market.

Outgoing Italian prime minister Mario Draghi has slammed Berlin for its lack of solidarity and coordination with EU partners.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, without directly criticizing Berlin, called on partners to agree a common strategy against the price shock and for countries to refrain from going it alone.

“The more this strategy is coordinated, united, the better it is for all of us,” he said.

Risk to ‘European unity’

Others pointed to the unprecedented solidarity shown in the Covid-19 crisis in which the 27 EU nations, against all expectations, approved a jointly financed €750 billion recovery plan.

“Solidarity is not only on the German shoulders, I think this is something that we have to deliver at European level,” said EU economics affairs commissioner Paolo Gentiloni.

“We have very good examples from the previous crisis on how solidarity can react to a crisis and also reassure financial markets. I think that this is our goal,” he said.

While a Covid-style recovery plan is not in the cards for now, Le Maire said €200 billion in loans and €20 billion in aid should be devoted to REPowerEU, a programme to help countries break their dependence on Russian gas.

READ ALSO: Will Germany set a gas price cap – and how would it work?

Bruegel, a highly influential think tank in Brussels, called the German plan a spending “bazooka” that many EU countries were unable to match, creating a potential source of animosity.

“If the German gas price brake gives German business a much better chance to survive the crisis than, say, Italian business, economic divergences in the EU could be deepened, and European unity on Russia undermined,” it said in a blog.