In his government statement on February 27, Olaf Scholz announced a special fund for the Bundeswehr worth 100 billion euros. The Union insists that this money only goes to the armed forces. The Greens have other plans.
On Tuesday evening, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht and Finance Minister Christian Lindner sat at a long table in the Ministry of Finance on Wilhelmstrasse with their respective state secretaries, the head of the CSU state group Alexander Dobrindt and some Union MPs. At a late hour they negotiated the formulation of the special fund for the Bundeswehr.
It was an arduous conversation. The third in ten days. And again there is no agreement in sight. Because, as is so often the case, the devil is in the detail – especially when it comes to money.
The background: Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced in his government statement on February 27: “Better equipment, modern equipment, more staff – that costs a lot of money. We will set up a special fund for the Bundeswehr.” The federal budget for 2022 will provide this special fund with a one-off amount of 100 billion euros. “We will use the funds for necessary investments and armaments projects,” said Scholz in the Bundestag.
The Union now wants to ensure that the planned sum is spent exclusively on the armed forces. On the traffic light side, on the other hand, there is a proposal to plan the money in the necessary law for “alliance and defense”. A crucial difference.
If the law states at the end that a special fund should be explicitly available for the armed forces or the Bundeswehr, then the 100 billion can only be used for this. That would limit the expenses very much. The wording “alliance and defense”, on the other hand, encompasses a more flexible framework. For example, this could also include expenditure for the Foreign Office or the Federal Ministry of the Interior, as long as they serve the stated purpose in a broader sense.
The Greens in particular are very interested in this. Still, while the CDU and CSU enthusiastically applauded the chancellor when he announced an increase in the defense budget on February 27, the Greens reacted differently. More money for defense does not make the party, whose core has long included the peace movement, jump for joy. Nevertheless, the group has so far held back. However, only under the condition that the special fund is linked to the additional money being used sensibly. The Union and the Greens have different opinions about what makes sense.
The CDU and CSU fear that loosening the term will open a door that will allow the traffic light to use the special fund to cover costs that they believe must be financed through the regular budget. In addition, there is a warning from the ranks of the Union: The more that can be financed through the special fund, the less effective the justification that it is an exceptional loan. You would then create a steep template for other departments that could also ask for exceptional loans.
In fact, even within the traffic lights, namely in the SPD and FDP, the opinion prevails that one could give in to the Union here and agree on the term “armed forces”. After all, the Federal Chancellor himself spoke of a budget for the Bundeswehr, according to FDP Circling: Defense Minister Lambrecht (SPD) is also likely to have an interest in the money only being spent on her troops Speaking out in favor of the Greens would in all likelihood cause her problems in her own house.
But the Greens remain stubborn. The traffic light was originally said to be under time pressure. Actually, the special fund should be voted on in the Bundestag this week. But there can be no question of a consensus with the Union at the moment. At 10 p.m. the talks ended without a result on Tuesday evening and were postponed to the coming weekend. It is possible that the greens will be put under pressure again within the traffic light. Scholz himself knows that he needs the Union here. Because the planned financing cannot be realized within the framework of the applicable debt rule of the Basic Law. The traffic light needs support for a constitutional change.
Scholz will intervene sooner or later. And being reprimanded by the chancellor would look extremely unfavorable for Baerbock, Habeck and their people. It would be better for her and her party if there were a compromise beforehand that you can then show to your own party. But it’s not in sight yet.