Germany unveils new plan to become more immigrant and digital-friendly

DPA/The Local
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Germany unveils new plan to become more immigrant and digital-friendly
Chancellor Scholz before the parliamentary session on Wednesday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) has called for a "national effort" to make the country more modern, efficient and desirable overall. Here’s what’s behind his so-called Germany-Pact unveiled in parliament on Wednesday.


In the Bundestag's general debate on Wednesday, Scholz proposed a "Germany Pact" (Deutschland-Pakt) to modernise the country, which some have dubbed the "sick man of Europe" amid recent economic troubles.

 "Speed instead of standstill, action instead of sitting it out, cooperation instead of bickering. That is the order of the day," Scholz said, wearing a black eye-patch which has sparked pirate memes over the past days. 

"Only together will we shake off the mildew of bureaucracy, risk aversion and despondency that has settled on our country over years and decades."

On behalf of the Christian Democratic (CDU/CSU) parliamentary group, CSU state group leader Alexander Dobrindt accepted the chancellor's offer. 

But he also called on Scholz to first ensure unity within Germany's coalition government, the so-called traffic light coalition composed of the the centre-left SPD, Greens and liberal FDP. 

"First put an end to the squabbles in your own shop," he said. "Then you can talk about whether you can cooperate with us."

In recent weeks, the traffic light coalition had been caught up in massive disputes, especially over the implementation of a costly and controversial heating law (Heizungsgesetz) and the new basic child allowance (Kindergrundsicherung).

In surveys, more than two-thirds of Germans say they are now dissatisfied with the work of the coalition government.

But with the following proposed measures, Scholz wants to turn the tide, ideally allowing for faster implementation and less in-fighting.

He also said he hopes to make Germany a more attractive destination for those from abroad by minimising bureaucracy and speeding up immigration procedures.

READ ALSO: Could backlogs at Germany's foreigners' offices stifle skilled immigration?

Less effort for energy approvals: Up to now, the energy turnaround (Energiewende) has been hampered by the fact that in Germany many approvals have to be obtained from different authorities for new projects - for example, the construction of wind turbines. 

Scholz called for approvals to accelerated, building permits for more, much-needed housing are to be issued more easily, and masts for fast mobile internet be erected faster and more efficiently.


- Lower burden on companies: In order to ease the burden on companies during the transition to more sustainability, they are to be offered investment aid, among other financial relief measures, said Scholz. They should also receive better conditions for depreciation, so that they have to pay less tax. 

Scholz also called on Germany to cast more attention to the research and development of companies aimed at the future, such as those working with artificial intelligence. He called for the establishment of more high-tech production - such as computer chips - and start-ups.

-Modern administration: Public authorities and offices would be further digitalised - by the end of 2024, important services such as applications for a new driving licence or identity card, or for parental allowance (Elterngeld) and citizens' benefits (Bürgergeld), would be possible "end-to-end", or fully, online according to the new plan.

READ ALSO: Is Germany a 'failed state' for public digital services?

- Recruiting more foreign workers: Scholz pointed out that 13 million workers would retire by the middle of the next decade. He appealed for the Skilled Workers Immigration Act - set to go into effect in March 2024 - be implemented right away so that skilled workers would not have to wait months for a visa or a work permit. 

For companies, the biggest factor of uncertainty is the shortage of labour, said Scholz.

READ ALSO: EXCLUSIVE: Germany's new skilled worker law to come into force 'in March 2024'


Are these goals just being announced now?

The goals are not new. What is new, however, is that Scholz is now looking for a broad alliance to implement them. His offer was addressed to the16 state premieres, district councillors, and mayors throughout the country. 

It was also addressed to the "democratic opposition", which Scholz used to refer to all opposition parties except the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD).

 In the Bundestag, these are the CDU and its Bavarian sister party CSU as well as Die Linke, or Left Party.


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