An ongoing crisis – the first months of the new federal coalition in Germany

by Selina Hohensee

 

An ongoing crisis – the first months of the new federal coalition in Germany

It would not be easy. That is what the so-called traffic lights-coalition knew when it started its work on December 8, 2021. The coalition consists of the Social Democratic Party, SPD (25,7%), which won the election on September 26, 2021, the Greens (14,8%) which became third and the Free Democratic Party, FDP (11,5%). Despite many obstacles the leading German politicians were eager to dimmish the social and economic consequences of the Covid19 pandemic, design a plan on how to become climate-neutral within the next few years and advance the energy transition from the old to the renewable energies. Instead, chancellor Olaf Scholz and his ministers had to face the Russian attack on Ukraine in violation of international law. This new situation forced them, the EU and NATO to switch to crisis mode and quickly deal with the persistently consequences.

Regarding the health care sector this meant the provision of medical help for the Ukrainian refugees and medical deliveries for the armed forces. In Addition, Germany will support the rebuilding of the Ukrainian health system.


Covid-19-Pandemic 

Besides the war, another crisis, the Covid-19-Pandemic, has of course been an ongoing issue in the political debate, especially the discussion about a possible compulsory vaccination. In the end, a compulsory vaccination for all citizens had not been passed by the federal parliament, but an institution-related vaccination obligation. Additionally, the new government wanted to get a new Infection Protection Act of the ground which limits more far-reaching protective measures to hotspot areas. The states parliaments are able to install these measures in case the number of infections should increase. This new law caused a lot of conflict and criticism from the federal opposition, states governments and professionals in the health care sector though.


Presentation of a draft of a new Statutory Health Insurance-Financial Stabilization Act  

On 30 June 2022 the minister of health, Karl Lauterbach (social democratic party) presented the new version of the Statutory Health Insurance-Financial Stabilization Act (GKV-Finanzstabilisierungsgesetz), which is designed to close the awaited 17 billion Euros deficit of the statutory health insurances. All affected parties in the health system strongly criticized the new Act because it looks only like a short-sighted austerity measure and not like a real restructuring. Part of the criticism was also directed against Finance Minister Lindner who seemed to interfere quite a bit. Therefore, Lauterbach was also criticized for the fact that he did not take a stand against Lindner. However, on 22 July 2022 the cabinet passed the act with just minor alterations, and it was presented by Lauterbach in a press conference. The minister pointed out, that there will be no reductions in health insurance benefits. Nevertheless, in order to clear the deficit, all groups must pay a certain amount. The pharmaceutical industry, for example, by increasing the manufacturer's rebate from 7% to 12%, and the contributors by moderately increasing the health insurance contribution.


G7 Health Minister Conference in Berlin  

From 19 to 20 May 2022 the G7 Health Minister Conference took place in Berlin, passing the “G7-Pact for Pandemic Readiness“. This pact is about strengthening the early warning systems for effective pandemic preparedness worldwide. In addition, more experts are to be trained and will join forces in networks to detect and limit outbreaks at an early stage. The WHO will remain its coordinating and leading role and the G7 will increase their mandatory contributions by 50 percent in the long term.
Moreover, the G7 Health Ministers want to fight the problem of antibiotic resistance. Because of that they will actively support the research and the development of urgently needed antibiotics and will define certain goals for the proper use of antibiotics. Finally, the G7 countries commit themselves to making their health systems climate-neutral by 2050 at the latest.
Apart from that, the Ministry of Health has also planned a new hospital reform, which will be started next year, as well as the continuous improvement of the digitalisation in the public health service.


G7 Food and Agriculture Conference  

In the Ministry of Food and Agriculture the ongoing crisis are even more noticeable. Two main topics are extremely important: firstly, the development and expansion of the sustainable agriculture in Germany and Europe and secondly the prevention of a worldwide hunger crisis triggered by Russia’s war of aggression against the Ukraine.

Regarding these topics, the Minster of Food and Agriculture, Cem Özdemir (Greens), invited the G7 colleagues to Germany. He emphasized the importance of a sustainable agriculture and the protection of the nutrition systems, which are already endangered, especially in parts of the global south. Therefore, a transformation process is very much needed. For Germany, this means the reduced and more targeted use of pesticides and fertilizers, the development of organic farming but also the reduction of food waste and post-harvest losses. Nonetheless, this transformation process must be environmentally friendly and economically compatible for farmers at the same time.

The most urging problem is without a doubt the current situation in the Ukrainian harbors and therefore the considerably more difficult or entirely prevented wheat exports. This situation has of course serious consequences for global food security. In addition, the prices especially for wheat, corn and oilseeds are rising. The same applies to the costs of animal feed, energy and fertilizers. That’s why the German government has provided aid supplies for the Ukrainian armed forces and seeds for spring sowing.  Furthermore, Germany supports an action plan of the EU Commission, which points out logistic measures on how to transport the much-needed wheat out of Ukraine. 


All in all, the first months of the new German government were indeed crisis-ridden. This also affected the poll ratings of the parties represented in the Bundestag. Especially the SPD lost quite a lot and fell to 19 %, as did the FDP, now at 6-7 %, while the Greens, now at 22-24 %, and the largest opposition party, the Christian Democrats, CDU/CSU, at 27 % made strong gains. These figures partly coincide with the sympathy ratings of the main politicians. Economics and Climate Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) still has the best score (1.6 out of 5), although he has lost a few points (2.1 in May), followed by Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) with 1.2 points. Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who had one of the best ratings in the run-up to the election, on the other hand, lost a lot of sympathy and is now only in fourth place together with Cem Özdemir, both with 0.8 points. Health Minister Karl Lauterbach is in sixth place with only 0.2 points, which is pretty bad considering that he was one of the most popular German politicians in the first year of the pandemic. Among the government members mentioned, Christian Lindner has one of the lowest scores, -0.1. Though not as low as CDU-leader Friedrich Merz (CDU) with -0.4 points, which does not correspond to the Union's high score.


RPP will be observing the further development in German politics. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at any time.

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