After the ruling on the climate fund: Budget and stick together

After the ruling on the climate fund: Budget and stick together

There is widespread agreement in the federal government about the planning block. But the uncertainty is affecting the coalition.

The Federal Ministry of Finance on Niederkirchnerstrasse in Berlin Photo: Schöning/imago

Cohesion in the federal government is currently similar to budget planning: the situation currently appears to be secure, but there are no commitments to future liabilities in the coalition. “I would consider it negligent to give up now in this situation,” said SPD parliamentary group leader Rolf Mützenich on Tuesday. Many members of the governing coalition currently see it similarly. But with the partial budget freeze imposed by Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP) on Monday evening, all ministries now have their backs to the wall.

The co-chairman of the left-wing group D21 in the SPD parliamentary group, Erik von Malottki, sees the traffic lights in a “test of endurance” after last week’s Karlsruhe ruling on the reallocation of Corona funds. It is now important that everyone shows the will to pull themselves together and find a common solution. “Previous statements from the FDP, however, make me doubt whether this will exists within the FDP,” said von Malottki to the taz.

Reason for the budget freeze: Last week, the Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe declared the establishment of the Climate and Transformation Fund to be unconstitutional. Because 60 billion euros are now missing from the federal budget, the federal government’s entire accounting and project planning is in disarray.

However, the block does not affect the ministries’ current funds, but rather future obligations. Lindner’s ministry said that the payment stop for new projects that would have been planned for this year is intended to avoid previous charges in the following years.

The Finance Minister’s actions appear to have been agreed upon in the government. Robert Habeck’s (Greens) Ministry of Economics found the budget freeze to be “correct”. “The step corresponds to the necessity of the situation,” the ministry said. FDP Minister Volker Wissing’s Digital Ministry made similar statements, but spoke of new priorities that now need to be set in the budget.

Social benefits should not be at risk

The Ministry of Labor acknowledged its ongoing commitments. “Social benefits are not at risk,” Hubertus Heil’s department (SPD) told the taz. “Statutory pensions, unemployment benefits and basic social security benefits will of course continue to be paid out on time and in full.” The house, like all departments, is currently examining what the block in the “2023 federal budget means in detail”. The social policy spokesman for the SPD parliamentary group, Martin Rosemann, also told the taz: “Nobody needs to be afraid of a shutdown like in the USA.”

With the announcement of the planning freeze for this year, the Ministry of Finance did not send any guidance on where the budget could be cut or whether the debt brake should be suspended again for the current year. The Ministry of Finance said it was currently evaluating the Federal Constitutional Court’s ruling and “examining possible effects”. A timetable was still unknown.

In order to close the billion-dollar gap in the budget, the FDP would prefer to make cuts in the social sector. “The costs for the welfare state will fall if we bring more people into the job market,” explained Jens Teutrine, spokesman for citizens’ benefits in the FDP parliamentary group, to taz. To achieve this, placement in work in particular would have to be significantly improved. “Anyone who can work and refuses to do so should not be able to count on solidarity,” said Teutrine.

On the other hand, there were increasing statements from the SPD about suspending or reforming the debt brake. In an interview with the taz, SPD co-chair Saskia Esken called for “the debt brake to be suspended for 2023 and 2024”. Due to the huge tasks of climate change and demographic change, the debt brake must be reformed. The SPD leftist von Malottki said that there would be no cuts in social services with his party. He therefore expects the Chancellor “to now present clever solutions that bear a social democratic hallmark.”

As a consequence of the ruling, the Union again called for the resolutions on the 2024 budget to be postponed. According to the traffic light coalition’s planning, the discussion on this should be completed this Thursday in the budget committee and the budget should then be approved by the Bundestag on December 1st. Regarding calls to suspend the debt brake, for which the Bundestag would have to cite an emergency as justification, the deputy leader of the Union parliamentary group, Mathias Middelberg, said: “What Mr. Mützenich senses is a political emergency.” That is not enough to suspend the debt brake.


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