Olaf Scholz chose the pathetic word at the weekend. He would like to see a “patriotic majority” in the Bundestag when the Bundeswehr special fund is put to the vote. In other words, the sub-budget with a volume of 100 billion euros, which the Chancellor announced almost single-handedly in February and which is to be anchored in the Basic Law.
Which is why he has to include not only his own coalition but also the Union in the patriotic majority. Negotiations have been going on for weeks. The voting date in the Bundestag was planned for next Friday, and Scholz may also have thought of a government statement with patriotic tones.
The planned Friday date has now been cancelled. There is now a government statement on Thursday about the European Council, which, however, will not take place until the end of May. The blame for the further delay is passed back and forth.
The Union sees the coalition as divided. CDU/CSU parliamentary group leader Friedrich Merz has also identified where the problem lies: with the Greens. He speaks of an agreement between his party and the SPD and FDP. The Greens are “not yet ready to make a decision”.
Green boss Omid Nouripour takes it easy. The talks were held in “good style and tone,” he emphasizes. “But you don’t have to break it over your knee either.” The vote will now only take place at the beginning or even at the end of June.
It is primarily about the points of contention that have been mentioned for weeks. The Union and FDP agree that the funds in the special fund should only go to the armed forces and that this is formulated in the law.
Greens and part of the SPD parliamentary group advocate the formulation proposed by the traffic light, that the money should strengthen Germany’s “alliance and defense capability” – which would also allow spending beyond pure weapons and equipment projects. The Greens in particular want this because they are oriented towards a “networked concept of security”.
The fact that the Foreign Office was recently included in the talks between the parliamentary groups and no longer just the Ministry of Defense indicates that there is an increased search for compromise. Investments in more cyber security are one of the ways out here.
It is also still a question of whether and where the two percent target – the spending ratio that NATO wants measured in relation to gross domestic product – should be in the Basic Law or in the law establishing it.
In the background, however, very specific implementation problems are being discussed, and that is lengthening the timetable. Such an ancillary budget must usually be provided with a business plan in which all planned financing projects must be listed in more or less detail for years to come, backed with concrete expenditure and so-called commitment appropriations. However, this is not available to the parliamentary groups, is a top priority (Chancellor’s Office) and is likely to be the real reason for the delay.
Because of course there are significantly more potential projects and wish lists than can be financed with the 100 billion euros in the coming years. Some projects are known and already occupy a large part of the sum: the US jet F35, a new transport helicopter, new naval ships.
The fight for the remainder of the expenditure is hard, especially since the Ministry of Defense started a broad survey in the defense industry weeks ago to find out which projects could be implemented in a relatively short time. Many might want a piece of the cake.
As it is said, there are considerations to vote on the special fund if necessary without a business plan. But that would amount to asking Parliament to sign a blank cheque.
But a very concrete economic plan also has a disadvantage: Since it can only be changed once a year together with the respective federal budget, there is not much leeway for short-term changes – what with the plan to use the money in just a few years primarily for purchases ” off the shelf” can also be a hindrance. And nothing is left in store.
Another question: The Union would like to have an advisory body for the expenditure in the special fund, over which it can have a say in the details. Of course, this is not in the interest of the traffic light, which at best wants to accept a less direct form of support for the special fund. But she just needs the black voices.
The negotiators agree on one point: the Bundeswehr’s procurement system must be improved. That’s what the conversations are about. According to information from the Tagesspiegel, a third law with a view to the special fund is now under discussion.
A procurement acceleration law should bring improvement. The coalition has just launched something similar for the rapid expansion of liquid gas supply, the LNG Acceleration Act.