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UKRAINE

Majority of Germans ‘support temporary Autobahn speed limit’

Most people in Germany support the introduction of a temporary general speed limit on the country's Autobahn network as well as sanctions on Russia, according to a survey.

Drivers on the Autobahn in Lower Saxony.
Drivers on the Autobahn in Lower Saxony. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sina Schuldt

Despite the noticeable economic effects of the Ukraine war on Europe, sanctions against Russia continue to be supported by the majority of people in Germany, according to the latest ARD-DeutschlandTrend.

Around six out of ten Germans (58 percent) currently support the measures, even if it means disadvantages for people in Germany. One in three (33 percent) do not support the sanctions.

The poll found that support for sanctions on Russia is higher in the west of Germany than the east. 

While in western states almost two-thirds (63 percent) support the sanctions even if they lead to problems with the German energy supply and a decline in economic output, in the states that make up the former East Germany just over half (51 percent) would not support sanctions in this case.

Among the supporters of the ‘traffic light’ coalition parties (Social Democrats, Greens and Free Democrats) as well as the CDU/CSU, a majority in each case is in favour of the sanctions, irrespective of possible negative effects. Most supporters of the far-right AfD, on the other hand, believe that disadvantages for Germany should not be accepted.

Since the outbreak of Russia’s war against Ukraine and its economic and energy policy consequences, various measures have been discussed in Germany to save energy and cut down dependence on Russia.

One possible step is the introduction of a temporary speed limit on German Autobahns. Germany is famous for being the only country in Europe where people can drive as fast as they want in many stretches of the motorway.

In May environment ministers across the German states said that a general speed limit should be introduced as a “cost-effective, quickly to implement, and immediately effective measure” that would mean the country could consume less petrol and diesel, and becomes less dependent on oil imports.

According to the poll, 59 percent of Germans think a temporary speed limit is the right way to go. Meanwhile, 35 percent do not support the move.

READ ALSO: German Transport Minister snubs Autobahn speed limit in climate plans

Interestingly, this measure is particularly controversial among 18 to 34-year-olds. As people get older, the approval of the speed limit rises significantly.

Unsurprisingly, the introduction of a Tempolimit is seen as a good move by supporters of the Greens and the SPD.

But there is also a majority in favour of this measure among the ranks of the CDU/CSU supporters. 

The majority of those who back the liberal FDP – and especially the AfD – on the other hand, think the introduction of a temporary speed limit is wrong.

READ ALSO: Germany ‘doesn’t have enough signs’ for Autobahn speed limit, says minister

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ENERGY

Germany to thrash out details of €200 billion energy support package

Chancellor Olaf Scholz is meeting with Germany’s 16 state leaders on Tuesday to work out the details of the country’s energy relief packages and a cap on the price of gas. But a few questions remain open.

Germany to thrash out details of €200 billion energy support package

What’s happening?

With power bills more than doubling in some cases, German federal and state leaders have decided more support is needed. Chancellor Scholz last week announced a €200 billion package to cushion the blow for people in Germany yet further.

One of the most expensive planned measures is a Gaspreisdeckel – or a cap on the price of gas households would pay this winter.

That comes on top of a combined €100 billion in relief spending over three spending packages already passed in the Bundestag. The last one, amounting to €65 billion, was passed only about a month ago.

Those packages are paying or have paid everything from the popular €9 nationwide public transport ticket, a VAT cut on gas bills, to one-off energy and cost of living relief payments.

But that wasn’t enough for many state leaders, who began calling for a gas price cap.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Everything Germany is doing to help relieve rising energy costs

These calls also come from across the German political spectrum.

Both Markus Söder, the Bavarian premier from the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU) and Berlin mayor Franziska Giffey of the Social Democrats, have been particularly vocal in their support for a gas price cap.

Is a gas price cap coming?

Households in Germany are very likely to see a cap on their gas bills of some sort this winter.

What’s not clear yet – and what federal and state leaders are hammering out Tuesday – is how precisely it will work in practice, when it might come in, how long it will last, and how it’ll be paid for.

The SPD-led government of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania and national Green co-leader Ricarda Lang want a gas price cap that would cover 80 percent of what households use.

German state leaders attend the conference on Wednesday.

German state leaders attend a conference. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Bernd von Jutrczenka

Under a plan like that, 80 percent would be termed a “basic consumption” requirement and capped in price for the average consumer. The other 20 percent would float according to the market rate for gas – to help encourage people to still save energy.

Söder’s Bavarian CSU has previously advocated for a 75/25 percent split between the capped portion and the floating portion to encourage more energy saving.

The government is then on the hook to pay the rest.

READ ALSO: Why did Germany make a U-turn on gas levy – and what do the new plans mean?

The cap is likely to last for the winter months at least, although this depends on Tuesday’s government talks, which also cover the thorny issue of how the government intends to pay for the cap.

The German Institute for Economic Research’s Marcel Fratzscher told broadcaster RTL and ntv last week that a cap alone could cost anywhere between €30 and €50 billion.

The Scholz government wants to pay for this primarily by running up government debt, something Finance Minister Christian Lindner has reservations about, as it would mean suspending Germany’s constitutional debt brake.

The federal state governments would be expected to pay for at least some of it, and any disputes Tuesday could hamper an agreement—potentially delaying the start of any cap or further relief measures.

A €9 ticket successor and relief for small businesses. What else do Germany’s states want?

Germany’s 16 federal state leaders are also bringing in a list of other measures they want to see from Scholz’s promised €200 billion in relief spending.

Chief among these is the unresolved question of how to pay for the planned successor to Germany’s popular €9 nationwide public transport ticket this summer.

Politicians are floating the idea of a more expensive €49 ticket, although the price could reach above €60, depending on how much money federal states are willing to kick in for it along with the federal government.

READ ALSO: Germany to set out plans for €49 transport ticket in October

North-Rhine Westphalia premier Hendrik Wüst is also calling for the federal government to make more money available for refugee housing, particularly as around 1 million Ukrainian refugees have arrived in Germany since the Russian invasion began in February.

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