“Don’t underestimate this country, don’t underestimate its people,” Scholz said. He reacted to the statement of the head of the opposition coalition Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister Christian Social Union (CSU), Friedrich Merz.
In an opening speech to today’s general debate on the budget, government policy and the new relief package, Merz said with irony that the Scholz government had done a masterstroke by deciding to keep two of Germany’s last three nuclear power plants in standby until the spring instead of leaving them all working. Towards the end of the year, Germany planned to withdraw from nuclear energy. According to Economy Minister Robert Habeck, all reactors will indeed be disconnected from the grid, but at the same time two nuclear power plants will be kept in operational reserve for possible critical situations.
“Stop this nonsense,” Merz urged the government. He said that the last three German nuclear power plants are the most modern and safest in the world, so it is necessary to keep them fully operational for the time being in order to have enough electricity and lower its price.
“You got out of everything, but you didn’t get into anything. You were incompetent in building renewable resources. You prevented the construction of every wind power plant,” Scholz objected to the conservatives. He stated that Germany keeps nuclear power plants in reserve as a security. He recalled that due to gas savings, the country has reactivated backup coal-fired power plants and is rapidly promoting the construction of renewable energy sources.
“We have passed laws that will accelerate the construction of offshore and onshore wind farms. And we will pass more laws to support them,” Scholz said. “If we behaved as irresponsibly as you do with the gas reservoirs, we would not be 85 percent full today,” he said.
“We are in a completely different situation than last year. We have gas reserves and we can overcome the coming winter despite the problems. No one could have said that three, four, five months ago,” said Scholz. He added that he instructed the relevant ministers to prepare for limited supplies of energy raw materials from Russia already in December, when he took over the government from conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel. “It was arranged before you even said it,” he added to the Conservatives.
Among other things, Merz criticized the government for not keeping its promise to increase spending on armaments to at least two percent of the economy’s output and for unnecessarily introducing blanket energy bonuses that should have been focused on the truly necessary. “Do you, Mr. Chancellor, need a 300 euro (CZK 7,400) energy bonus? Do we need them?” Merz turned to the MP.
Scholz also rejected this criticism and said that the latest and the third package of energy and inflation relief in the amount of 65 billion euros (1.6 trillion CZK) is correct and necessary. “I said we will not leave anyone alone. That is also the motto of our government,” he said. He added that from October the minimum hourly wage will also increase from 10.45 euros to 12 euros (296 CZK), which was Scholz’s main pre-election promise.
Scholz also objected to his government’s insufficient support for Ukraine in defense against a Russian invasion. He said that Germany will continue to provide Ukraine with effective weapons, but only in agreement with the allies, as they will not accept the threat of a conflict between Russia and the North Atlantic Alliance. He added that this is also the position of US President Joe Biden.
The unusually fiery speech, which the chancellor interspersed with forceful gestures, caught the attention of the media and the public. Scholz is known for speaking in a calm and monotonous manner at all times, for which he is regularly criticized. “Impressive. Our chancellor really gets going after a good cup of coffee. Please don’t slow down!” wrote one of the twitter users. Another said that he would like to see Scholz, rich in content and emotions, more often. “It doesn’t matter what Comrade Scholz wore today, but let him do it every day. That’s how I imagine my chancellor,” added another, who used the term comrade to address the chancellor. It is used in Germany not only by the post-communist Left, but also by the Social Democrats.