Berlin After the flood disaster, the German government wants to put its money where its mouth is. Those affected are to receive money quickly. The reconstruction of houses, roads and bridges will be really expensive. Will the federal and state governments soon be unable to agree on the costs?
Fast, unbureaucratic, generous: the federal government and the affected states want to help the people and regions affected by the flood disaster on a grand scale. When Chancellor Angela Merkel chairs the cabinet meeting again this Wednesday for the first time after her vacation and trip to the U.S., emergency aid of at least 400 million Euro is to be provided. Given the scale of the destruction, she said, this could be used to alleviate acute hardship, particularly in North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate. The federal government and the affected states will share the costs at 200 million Euro each, government sources said on Wednesday. If necessary, the funds could be increased. Finally, the destructive flood has spread to parts of Bavaria and Saxony. So it could soon become clear that the 400 million Euro is only a first markup.
The emergency flood aid, which is to be paid out locally by the municipalities, is part of a major package of measures being drawn up under the leadership of Finance Minister Olaf Scholz (SPD), Economics Minister Peter Altmaier (CDU) and Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU). This will include a billion-euro reconstruction fund for destroyed infrastructure in the flooded areas. In addition to the federal government, all 16 states are to contribute financially to this fund.
Federal government does not have to take out new loans
There is talk of holding a virtual conference of minister presidents with the chancellor in the next two to three weeks. In addition to financial issues, it must be clarified whether and how the Bundestag will be involved in the planned national show of strength. The Greens called for a quick special session of parliament and a supplementary budget. "Fast action is now vital," said the Greens' budget policy spokesman, Sven-Christian Kindler. "The ball is now in the Bundestag's court to decide on an aid fund." This fund will have to include "several billion Euro." From the government it is said that one assumes a double-digit billion amount. Whether 12, 15 or 25 billion would be needed in the end, no one can seriously say today, they say. According to Scholz, the federal government does not need to take out new loans for the flood aid for the time being: "We can do what is necessary now with the funds we have at present."
In addition, according to information from our editorial team, the federal government wants to waive the actual mandatory reimbursement of the costs for the operations of the Federal Police, the Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW), the Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance. In the 2013 flood disaster, around 36 million Euro were incurred for this. The states are also not to be billed for the current Bundeswehr missions. Eight years ago, the Bundeswehr's domestic disaster mission on the Danube and Elbe rivers had cost around 24 million Euro.
Federal Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner, who comes from Rhineland-Palatinate, is urging that flood aid also benefit agriculture. Damage to agricultural land, buildings and infrastructure in the affected areas is "in some cases threatening the very existence of the industry". Grain stocks have been destroyed in many places, livestock drowned and facilities of wineries and winegrowers' cooperatives destroyed. Economics Minister Altmaier is promoting a flood lump sum of up to 10,000 Euro to help self-employed people and small businesses that have already suffered heavy losses in the pandemic. This could benefit owners of ice cream parlors, bakeries and restaurants, for example, whose store fittings were destroyed and who now once again had no sales. As in the case of the 2013 Oder flood, Germany could also apply to the EU Commission for emergency funds from regionalization and solidarity funds to support affected municipalities. It is clear to all decision-makers in Berlin, Mainz or Düsseldorf - reconstruction in the flooded areas will take years.
(Original text: Tim Braune / Translation: Mareike Graepel)