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POLITICS

What we learned from Angela Merkel’s Bundestag debate speech

One of the most important dates in the political calendar took place in the Bundestag on Wednesday - the general budget debate. Here are what Chancellor Angela Merkel's top priorities are.

What we learned from Angela Merkel’s Bundestag debate speech
Angela Merkel in the Bundestag on Wednesday. Photo: DPA

Climate protection took the top spot in the chancellor's speech on Wednesday during a debate in which she was grilled on her policies.

Merkel said the fight against climate change was a “task for mankind” as she spoke to a packed-out audience in one of the Bundestag's most anticipated highlights.

The chancellor also used her time in the spotlight to promote digitization, stronger ties with the EU, integration and the rise of intolerance in society.

“Climate protection will cost money,” Merkel said on Wednesday during the lively debate on Germany’s 2020 budget. “This money is well spent. If we ignore it, it will cost us more.

“Doing nothing is not an alternative.”

In order to tackle the climate problem, Germany must rely on innovation, research, technical solutions, but also on the mechanisms of the social market economy, said Merkel.

She called for a further expansion of renewable energies, including an acceptance for wind farms, which tend to be built in rural areas and often cause friction among communities.

Merkel warned against any “arrogance” among city dwellers towards people in rural areas and called for a “new alliance of city and countryside”.

The speech comes after elections in Brandenburg and Saxony where Merkel's centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU) suffered heavy losses and the far-right Alternative for Germany made gains.

READ ALSO: Five things to know about the AfD surge in German regional elections

'We have to become better'

She said moving forward with digitization is crucial to maintaining Germany's prosperity. 

Germany is known for lagging behind on digital infrastructure, with patchy internet coverage around the country. However, Merkel insisted it was a priority and that the country was moving forward.

“We have to develop a strategy of how we provide blanket coverage, including for farmers and many others, to have access to broadband internet,” she said.

“We have to become better, faster, and keep up in the area of artificial intelligence. We have developed a strategy and invited internationally recognized professors to come to Germany to work.”

READ ALSO: Brandenburg elections: In east German rust belt, economic fears boost far-right

'Prepared' for a no-deal

As The Local reported, Merkel also discussed Brexit and closer cooperation within the EU in the face of changes. 

Speaking to the Bundestag, the German leader said there was still time to hammer out a deal.

“The EU will in a few months experience the exit of an important member, the exit of Britain,” Merkel said.

“I am firmly convinced that we still have every chance to do it in an orderly way and the German government will work toward making this possible until the very last day.”

However she added that if the EU and Britain failed to agree on terms for Brexit, Germany was “prepared” for a disorderly divorce.

Merkel also referred to the economic slowdown in Germany but insisted there was no shortage of money for investments in infrastructure.

READ ALSO: 'Seniors rescue the established parties': German grey votes fight far-right

The chancellor came under fire from opposition parties.

AfD faction leader Alice Weidel accused the government of pushing the country into recession. She warned: “The crisis is not coming, the crisis is already here.”

She also accused the coalition of “deindustrializing” Germany with “green-socialist ideology” based on “climate madness.”

Dietmar Bartsch, co-leader of The Left (die Linke) parliamentary group, accused the government of setting the wrong priorities in the budget.

Dietmar Bartsch of Die Linke in the Bundestag. Photo: DPA

“A strict debt brake instead of necessary investments, military instead of increasing social security contributions and allowing mass poverty among children and the elderly: that is the priority in their budget.”

'We need to find answers'

Merkel also called for more action against hate and intolerance in response to comments from the AfD on the government's immigration policy.

“We know that in Germany people have concerns, that people feel left behind, that development between the town and the country are very different,” Merkel said. “We need to find answers to that.”

Merkel went on to say that racially and religiously motivated attacks, as well as violence and hate speech, happened every day.

“We have to fight against that,” she said, adding that “proper co-existence is not possible” while there is still tolerance for racism and hatred.

Member comments

  1. Merkel , I’m afraid, takes after Obama with whom she was buddy buddy. Climate change is a natural phenomenon and we poor mortals can scream and use it to control others by telling them what they can and cannot do but we cannot change the weather. She would be better advised to spend her time attempting to help those in need. She has already guaranteed the destruction of the German nation by opening the borders to the mass influx of Middle Eastern refugees. These people are going to take over all of Western Europe. France will be the first to fall. Then Holland and then England. After that Germany.

  2. I think you are looking at the problem the other way around, the entire climate change issue is that the development of mankind has indeed changed the weather (deforestation, unsustainable meat consumption and water use, etc.). As the human population keeps increasing (we will be 10 billion people in 2050) we should try to affect the weather (and the planet) as little as possible by living in a sustainable way.
    Regarding the refugees, a little more love among us humans would go a long way 😉

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POLITICS

Civil servants ‘getting burnout’ over energy crisis, says German minister

Public sector workers trying to tackle Germany's ongoing energy crisis are suffering from illness and burnout, Economics Minister Robert Habeck has said.

Civil servants 'getting burnout' over energy crisis, says German minister

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has unleashed economic turmoil in Europe, placing Germany’s new coalition government under pressure to firefight multiple crises.

Perhaps the largest of these is the energy crisis, which has prompted fears of gas shortages in the winter months and seen prices for fossil fuels soar for both households and businesses.

According to Economics and Climate Minister Robert Habeck, the staff at his ministry – who are charged with tackling the energy crisis – are struggling to cope with the extraordinary pressure that they have been under in recent months. 

“People, at some point they have to sleep and eat too,” the Green politician said at a congress of the Federation of German Industries (BDI) in Berlin. “It’s not bullshit I’m talking now: people get sick. They have burnout, they get tinnitus. They can’t take it anymore.”

READ ALSO:

In the last nine months alone, the Economics Ministry has produced 20 laws and 28 ordinances, Habeck revealed. He said this was likely more than the ministry produced over the entirety of the previous four-year legislature. 

Highlighting the strain that his staff were under, Habeck explained that it was always the same people in charge in drafting new laws in the battle to secure the energy supply.

To say that the Tourism Ministry could help restructure the electricity market would be like “telling the artist who made the sculptures that he can be the president of the Federation of German Industries,” the Green politician added. 

Batting off criticism that the ministry had occasionally been slow to act, Habeck said: “Of course you could say, ‘why didn’t you do the regulation a week earlier’. But it’s not because people are sleeping, it’s because there is a limit to their physical capacity.”

Gas levy criticism 

Germany has had to cope with an ever intensifying energy emergency over the past few months, culminating in Russia reducing supplies and then turning off gas deliveries via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline entirely in September. 

Most recently, the government took steps to nationalise its largest gas supplier – Uniper – in a move to prevent the collapse of the country’s energy infrastructure. Uniper has suffered losses of billions of euros this year due to the costs involved in replacing cheap Russian gas supplies at short notice. 

Habeck, who has appeared increasingly world-weary and exhausted in recent months, has faced sharp criticism for a number of decisions made during the crisis. 

Most controversially, his decision to implement a gas levy to bail out major energy companies has been met with consternation from both the opposition and the Greens’ coalition partners, the Social Democrats (SPD). 

On Friday, SPD leader Lars Klingbeil reiterated concerns about the fairness of the gas levy at a time when many are struggling to pay their energy bills.

SPD leader Lars Klingbeil

SPD leader Lars Klingbeil speaks to the press during the ARD Summer Interview in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Fabian Sommer

In a situation where the government is facing multiple decisions in a short space of time, ministers also require the strength to “reconsider and correct their path”, Klingbeil told RND.

“(The gas levy) is about supporting the gas supply infrastructure,” he added. “However, this must be done fairly.”

In spite of the nationalisation of Uniper, Habeck has confirmed that the gas levy – which adds 2.4 cents per kilowatt hour of energy onto gas bills – will still be introduced on October 1st.

However, on Thursday he announced that there would be changes to Energy Security Act to ensure that only companies who needed the bailout would benefit from the levy.

According to the ministry, the changes are set to be passed by the cabinet on September 28th.

READ ALSO: Germany to push ahead with gas levy plans

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