Angela Merkel has reappeared and gave a little insight into what she doesn’t miss so much in her new life. “I can get through the day without MPK,” she said when saying goodbye to DGB boss Reiner Hoffmann.
As Chancellor, Olaf Scholz also learned that a Prime Ministers’ Conference, or MPK for short, is a rather difficult matter. Especially when suddenly all countries oppose his course. Because of the constraints in the traffic light coalition, at the urging of the FDP, almost all instruments for protection against the corona virus were disclosed. The new magic word was: “Basic protection” – but not only for virologists it seemed like a sham.
In the corresponding MPK on March 17, there was so much tinder that Angela Merkel should have rarely experienced. Baden-Württemberg’s Prime Minister Winfried Kretschmann (Greens) complained: “There has never been such a way of dealing with the states.” The states would be deprived of almost all options, he said with a view to canceling the mask requirements (except for trains, buses, homes , practices and hospitals) and the 2G/3G regulations.
Hesse’s Prime Minister at the time, Volker Bouffier (CDU), called the process “simply unspeakable”. There was no prior cooperation with the countries.
And that is exactly what now leads to the question of how to protect against a possible new wave in autumn? The states are putting pressure on the federal government to use the summer months to prepare for autumn and winter. The heads of state met for the first time since their annual conference in October 2021, in the state representation of North Rhine-Westphalia, before the meeting with Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) was scheduled for the afternoon.
Two things are emphasized in the resolution drafted by the Chancellery and the state heads of government: “In the winter of 2021/2022 it was shown that the ‘booster vaccination’, i.e. a booster vaccination, protects against serious illnesses.”
Therefore, the federal and state governments want to start a major campaign for four vaccinations. “Many citizens go into the autumn completely unprotected”, is emphasized with a look at the booster, i.e. third vaccination, which many citizens have had for half a year or more. There should therefore be more mobile vaccination offers and vaccination centers again.
“The federal government will ensure that there is an adequate supply of vaccines and create the conditions for the vaccination centers and mobile vaccination teams to continue to receive financial support with a share of 50 percent until the end of 2022,” promises the federal government.
But the biggest problem remains the Infection Protection Act (IFSG), which expires on September 23. In the current version, as mentioned, mask requirements are no longer possible indoors, such as in supermarkets, and there are also no access restrictions via 3G/2G regulations, and there are also no test and mask concepts for schools to avoid class cancellations.
The federal and state governments now want to get back to the IFSG in order to expand the very limited toolbox again. “In the Infection Protection Act, the legal basis for any measures that may be necessary for autumn/winter should be created in good time,” emphasizes the federal and state governments. Consultations on this should start as soon as possible.
“In this context, the test strategy and a large part of the temporary regulations issued due to the pandemic are also being reviewed and revised,” it is emphasized.
Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) recently emphasized that the question of whether, for example, wearing a mask indoors should be made mandatory again, had to be discussed. He also thinks it is absolutely necessary “that we open up this possibility for the autumn”. The Infection Protection Act does not describe what should be done, but describes “what precautionary measures and restrictions we can use if it were necessary.” Above all, he has to agree on this with Federal Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP), who is against Lauterbach enforced the current easing.
Lauterbach is currently back in his warning role, he fears the Corona autumn wave. “This is rather a bad development,” says Lauterbach, interpreting the figures from a laboratory operator. Another wave has so far failed to materialize: the flood of legislative initiatives announced for May is tarnishing his reputation. Because beyond the pandemic and some questionable decisions, including the withdrawal of a new quarantine regulation in the TV show “Markus Lanz”, the minister has so far only made moderate progress with structural reforms.
Above all, the relevance of the GKV Financial Stabilization Act can hardly be overestimated. After all, the aim is to fill a gap of at least 17 billion euros in statutory health insurance in 2023 and to stabilize the health insurance funds in the long term. Central to this reform project is the question of whether Finance Minister Christian Linder (FDP) is willing to support the GKV with a permanently increased federal subsidy.
Again and again Lauternach has to postpone the submission of a draft. Lauterbach also said, also at the beginning of May, that he would present a pandemic control concept within two weeks. Two weeks later it was said that it would come “in a few days” – but so far this has only resulted in a kind of political categorical imperative. “We have to be prepared for this in the fall,” the minister tweeted on Tuesday. Lauterbach is also directing the warnings of a potentially dangerous autumn wave of corona, which are currently getting louder again, to the coalition partner FDP, in particular the Minister of Justice Marco Buschmann.
Accordingly, the federal and state governments could only formulate declarations of intent in their draft resolution. One thing is clear: the reintroduction of a far-reaching mask requirement, which Lauterbach is striving for, requires another change to the Infection Protection Act, and most countries would at least like to have the instrument available.
The parliamentary calendar is now working for the FDP, which has so far made no efforts to discuss continuing corona restrictions after September 23. Because an amendment to the IfSG requires a session week of the Bundestag, which must be followed by a plenary session of the Bundesrat, so that the law can come into force. And here it becomes very clear very quickly.
There are only two more weeks of sittings in the Bundestag until July – after that comes the two-month parliamentary summer break. The week of meetings after the break, which takes place at the beginning of September, is traditionally a budget week in which, as a rule, no legislative projects are passed.
The next opportunity to decide on an IfSG amendment in regular operation would be the week of meetings that ends on September 23rd. Problem: The next regular Federal Council meeting would not take place until October 7th, i.e. too late. Then it would only work with a special session.
Lauterbach would therefore have to bring the IfSG amendment to parliament by the beginning of July at the latest so that it could be passed shortly before September 23rd. Above all, there is one tough negotiation in the house again: with Minister of Justice Buschmann, who wants to wait for an expert report planned by June 30th anyway, which measures have actually brought about the pandemic.
The chairman of the conference of prime ministers, the head of government of North Rhine-Westphalia, Hendrik Wüst (CDU), emphasizes on behalf of his colleagues: “It is important that the federal government, in coordination with the federal states, adapts the basics for the fight against the pandemic in good time before autumn.” You have to Draw conclusions as to “which protective measures were successful and will continue to be successful in the future,” he told the newspapers of the Funke media group.
If there is no agreement on an extended set of instruments, it should also become uncomfortable for one of the MPK circles, for Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Then the question would be whether he has his coalition under control and leads enough.