In the fight against high fuel prices, Federal Economics Minister Robert Habeck is sticking to the proposal for a so-called excess profit tax, which the FDP rejected, but at the same time is promoting an alternative he has put forward.
A tax on excess profits does not seem to be able to win a majority in the coalition, said the Greens politician on Deutschlandfunk on Monday and referred to the rejection by Federal Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP).
“I don’t know if anything is still moving there,” said Habeck. However, he cannot and will not take the idea off the table because he thinks it is right. He will submit a proposal “that has a similar effect on target.” That is why it is now important to reform antitrust law as quickly as possible, said Habeck: “We are making antitrust law with claws and teeth.”
On June 1st, the energy tax on petrol and diesel was reduced significantly to relieve motorists. But this was hardly noticeable at the pumps. About half of the reduction was passed on, said Habeck, which was “of course not at all satisfactory”. Habeck used a considerable part of the approximately ten-minute interview for a less clandestine settlement with Finance Minister Christian Lindner and the FDP.
Habeck called the original concept for the tank discount “quasi an invitation to foray against the state”. The tank discount was an idea by FDP Finance Minister Christian Lindner in mid-March. “Scholz makes another deal with Lindner and we can swallow it,” was one of the angry reactions from a leading Green shortly afterwards.
The concept was highly controversial in the coalition for days until a compromise was reached. With which the Greens can obviously live badly.
Against this background, Habeck also said that assigning blame to who within the government alliance of SPD, Greens and FDP was responsible for the tank discount that had failed so far would not help. He dodged a corresponding question as to who was responsible for the tank discount. At the same time, he emphasized that this tax cut was never the proposal or wish of the Greens. “But if a not-so-good idea goes badly, then of course you still have to help.”
There have been enough warning voices, said Habeck with a view to the so-called tank discount. But now it’s about looking ahead and “not letting yourself be maneuvered into complete helplessness”. And further: “If a not so good idea goes badly, then of course you still have to help.”
Habeck said he himself had warned against implementation. But now he wants to “look ahead”. So he will take responsibility “to make the mess a little less big,” said Habeck. “We are all entitled to it together now.”
Habeck now wants to give the Cartel Office more opportunities to intervene in order to be able to take more effective action against oil companies. This should also make it easier to siphon off profits when companies abuse their market power.
According to Habeck, profits can theoretically already be skimmed off under current antitrust law. But this is difficult to apply because it has to be proven that there is a cartel. In order to facilitate this proof – “ie this bequeathed market”, which functions like a cartel, the antitrust law must be reformed.
There have already been demergers in Germany, said Habeck. “Politics is not as defenseless as one sometimes thinks.”
Meanwhile, Lindner has defended the tank discount despite all doubts about its effectiveness. The fuel prices would be “significantly higher” without the tax rebate, said the FDP politician on Sunday evening on ARD and ZDF. In principle, Lindner also approved of Habeck’s initiative to tighten antitrust law. The FDP leader continues to strictly reject an excess profit tax to skim off extra profits from the mineral oil companies
“It’s good that Robert Habeck has now picked up this ball,” said Lindner in the ARD “Tagesthemen” on the subject of antitrust law. It is the task of the cartel office to check how exactly the fuel prices are composed.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz also sees a partial effect of the tank discount. A government spokesman said on Monday in Berlin that the Chancellor’s assessment was that the tank discount was partially effective. It’s not that the tax cut didn’t do anything. It can be assumed that the prices at the gas stations would be significantly higher if the tax reduction did not exist. There are no considerations to change or cancel the tank discount.