Berlin. It is not true that the German plan against expensive gas is anti-European in fact and in spirit. It is also not true that Germany has bucked the trend compared to other countries. At the end of the Brussels Energy Council, Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck argued with the other member states. “This is a criticism I cannot accept because other countries have long since taken similar measures.” The number two from the Berlin government mentioned France, Spain and Portugal and their attempts to impose a price cap on electricity. “We are doing the same thing that other countries have been doing for a long time,” affirmed the Green politician, but conceded that the new German plan was “broader in scope”.
However, there are differences: while Madrid, Paris and Lisbon have focused on an ‘upstream’ mechanism, i.e. trying to keep electricity costs under control before they impact the market, the German plan appears to be ‘downstream’ unbalanced . . The aid that Berlin provides for companies runs the risk of becoming subsidies; that is, state aid for companies to swim through the storm. As far as the term “broader” is concerned, it must be said that EUR 200 billion is a very substantial sum that only Germany can afford. And if on the one hand it is self-evident that Olaf Scholz’s government is trying to maintain social peace, it is rather curious how his government has so far returned the proposals to regulate energy prices at European level to the sender.
Mario Draghi had already proposed a price cap for the 27 last May: we are in October and this mechanism is still a long way off. Germany’s European partners also fear that after receiving the subsidy, German companies will not use it to cover energy supply costs, but for other expenditure items such as investments, from which they can then draw new competitive advantages.
Oddly enough, the compactness with which Germany proceeds in Europe does not correspond to any inner compactness. In fact, the majority of Chancellor Olaf Scholz has been arguing for months about measures to be taken in connection with the energy crisis. Habeck had proposed a surcharge on the gas bill that should have applied today, and which the Liberals of Finance Minister Christian Lindner torpedoed. The Liberals, on the other hand, want Habeck to give the green light to maintenance at Germany’s three remaining nuclear power plants: three plants that a 2011 law calls for the Fukushima state of emergency, rather than the energy crisis, to be closed by the end of the year. Habeck defends himself as best he can: First he said no, then he left three plants on standby, then he let two out of three plants run, but only until next spring and above all without the state buying new fuel .
Despite all the indecisiveness, the Germans have instead stated that the new plan’s 200 billion are not budgeted, but come from a special fund. The President of the German Federal Audit Office, Kay Scheller, criticized the election as an opaque way of turning debt into a dirty word that reminds Germans of Italy and other non-virtuous countries without calling it by its name.