200-billion-euro relief package warily welcomed in Germany – media opinions
RP Online, Handelsblatt, Süddeutsche Zeitung
The German government’s approval of a 200 billion euro relief package to help business and citizens pay skyrocketing energy prices has been largely received positively in the media, although some point out that the massive credit line will come at a cost.
“The chancellor announced nothing less than the opening of the financial floodgates in this crisis in order to cushion the economic and, most importantly, social consequences for this country,” notes Kerstin Münstermann in RP Online. “That's bitter, but right. But politics must remain honest: it is debt that the country will be chipping away at for a long time. But in contrast to the completely screwed-up gas levy, which would have unilaterally burdened gas customers, it is now a national effort.”
Pointing out that high energy prices have already resulted in a standstill of production facilities, company bankruptcies and entire sectors being brought to their knees, Handelsblatt’s Klaus Stratmann writes, “The rescue operation does not come a second too soon. It is about protecting consumers from financial ruin. And it's about stopping the implosion of Germany's industrial core. The aid measures previously devised to protect the economy alone, in particular the energy cost containment program, could never have achieved this. That had already become apparent weeks ago.”
Henrike Roßbach of the Süddeutsche Zeitung asks, “Are there alternatives? Seen in the light of day, since the beginning of the Ukraine war, this government has usually only had a number of bad options to choose from. Far into the middle class, citizens are currently being hit with exorbitant demands for electricity and gas payments that are keeping them up at night. Craft businesses, medium-sized companies, industrial corporations and municipal utilities are faced with an avalanche of costs. German prosperity is at risk in a way that goes far beyond a mere shift in the comfort zone. In this respect, the answer to the question of whether there are alternatives is: Probably not. Unfortunately.”
The government said it will establish a “defence shield” with a volume of up to 200 billion euros to cushion the impact of expensive energy on citizens and businesses until 2024. The package is to be financed by the “Economic Stabilisation Fund” originally set up to support the economy during the pandemic. It allows Germany to borrow up to 200 billion euros to finance the “gas price brake” (see below), support gas importing companies like Uniper, SEFE and VNG which have struggled with the high procurement prices, and “additional support measures for businesses struggling due to the war.”