BFederal finance minister Christian Lindner (FDP) sees it as the federal government’s most important task to curb inflation. “Inflation is the greatest threat to the economic foundations of a society,” said Lindner on Monday at the European Economic Conference of the FAZ and the European School of Management and Technology (ESMT). It leads to people becoming impoverished and companies being deprived of their economic basis. The state must therefore ensure that the offer does not narrow further and that companies do not have to close. Lindner believes that the state should impose “fiscal neutrality” on itself: “We must not now also provide impetus for demand.”
Siegfried Russwurm made it clear how much pressure German companies are currently under. The President of the Federation of German Industries (BDI) warned in view of the drastically rising energy costs: “The industry will not be able to hold out for long.” Fatalism is not a characteristic of entrepreneurs, which is why they are now thinking about relocating their production to other countries. He hears this himself from medium-sized companies, which he has previously perceived as “warm patriots”, as Russwurm put it. Canada and the USA in particular are attractive locations. The energy costs there are only a fraction, and this under conditions that are no worse than in Germany.
In addition to the high costs, the long administrative processes in Germany are also a problem: “In Germany we allow ourselves a level of complexity that is simply not suitable for crises,” criticized Russwurm. He advocated using every energy source that is currently available. This does not only apply to the three remaining nuclear power plants. “Now let the wind turbines run,” Russwurm demands. So far, some systems have been switched off at night so that some bird species are not disturbed. But he did not get any applause from Environment Minister Steffi Lemke.
New block formation warnings
For the Green politician Anton Hofreiter, one of the greatest challenges lies in a new system of competition between democratic states and autocracies. This could even lead to the formation of a new block. “The most brutal and terrible expression of this is the Russian attack on Ukraine, but that’s by no means the only one,” said Hofreiter. The chairman of the Bundestag Committee for European Union Affairs recalled the threats that China regularly poses to Taiwan. To describe the intensity of global cooperation, Hofreiter resorted to a drastic description of the German business model: “We bought raw materials in a dictatorship,” he said. “And they processed them with great engineering into products that we sold in another dictatorship, namely in China.” That is not a sustainable business model.
He demanded that Germany must assume a leading role in Europe. That does not mean a “Germany-first” policy. Instead, Germany must act as the “custodian and organizer” of common European interests. This is important when it comes to jointly buying natural gas on the world market, supporting Ukraine – also with further arms deliveries – or managing the European expansion process, in which Germany has a geostrategic interest.
According to the FAZ editor Gerald Braunberger, the two-day conference in Berlin is about finding solutions to the many crises in the world. Braunberger warned that Europe is currently experiencing a significant loss of prosperity. “Inflation and recession form an unholy alliance,” he said. In addition to the economic crises, there would also be political conflicts, which could come to Europe as a result of the clear electoral success of the centre-right camp in Italy. ESMT President Jörg Rocholl added that, in addition to the climate crisis, the dangers to biodiversity also made rapid action necessary.