Federal Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) has publicly promised state aid from the Federal Republic for seamless continued operation of the PCK refinery in Schwedt after the waiver of the embargo on oil from Russia. And so on, “until things are running economically again. Then the state can withdraw again, ”assured Habeck, who spoke to around 4,000 people at a rally in Schwedt on Wednesday evening and was initially whistled and booed. A sign was also shown at the demonstration that read “Greens to the Eastern Front”.
The Schwedt ophthalmologist Konstanze Fischer, one of the organizers of the demo, had the guarantee promise of the Federal Minister of Economics sealed with a handshake, Habeck struck. “The answer is yes!” said the minister. “The commitment is given.” The federal government is ready to step in if no more Russian oil comes from the “Drushba” pipeline, from which the plant with over 1,000 employees has been supplied so far.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) had announced together with Poland that Germany would stop using Russian pipeline oil from the end of 2022. With this, Germany is going beyond the EU embargo against Russia for tanker oil.
The rally, one of the largest in the Uckermark since 1990, was organized by a local alliance. The union IGBCE, local politics, SPD and left called for participation. The AfD was also present. It was a difficult performance for Habeck, the mood in the region is heated.
A few weeks ago he had already appeared on site at the plant and had made promises to the workforce. Far too little has been done since then, even Brandenburg’s state government had criticized it. The ex-director of the Uckermark theaters, Rainer Simon, called the oil embargo a mistake and accused the federal government of governing badly.
Habeck initially had trouble making himself heard against the whistles and boos. “Clapping for an end to the war is cheap if you don’t do anything about it,” said the minister. Habeck emphasized that the embargo was necessary in order to do something against the perpetrators of this war of aggression. “It hits Russia hard.”
Incidentally, in Germany it is not only Schwedt that is affected by internal effects. He warned that Schwedt – as shown by the cuts in Russian gas supplies – must be prepared for Putin himself to turn off the oil tap.
Habeck pointed out that an alternative supply chain for Schwedt was being worked on, that in May there was an oil delivery from Rostock from ships via a pipeline to Schwedt for the first time and that the capacity of this route is now to be increased in the short term. The federal-state task force on Schwedt, headed by Habeck’s State Secretary Michael Kellner, will meet next week.
Once again, Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) was not the addressee of the protests, although he had decided not to use pipeline oil from Russia, which primarily affects the refinery in Schwedt. Nevertheless, Prime Minister Dietmar Woidke (SPD) and the state SPD have been targeting Habeck for weeks, with demands for guarantees for Schwedt and security of supply for East Germany.
Several SPD district administrators took part in the rally, such as Marko Köhler (Potsdam-Mittelmark) or Rolf Lindemann (Oder-Spree). The SPD regional group in the Bundestag – Scholz is a member – published a statement of support. “Today all of Brandenburg is Schwedt. The country stands together,” said Woidke, who received applause for his speech. “Brandenburg knows that it has to fight.”
It is clear that the federal government has to bear the consequences of the political decision. “This includes a guarantee for the location, for the region, for the employees that there will be no structural break like in the 1990s,” said Woidke, without mentioning Scholz. “We need a guarantee for the continued existence of the PCK.”
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The head of government renewed his demand for “one to two billion euros” from the federal government to deal with the structural change in the Uckermark, which could become a model region for climate-neutral production.
PCK Managing Director Ralf Schairer thanked Schwedt, the workforce, the region and the state government for standing together, which is a “unique selling point in Germany”. “If anyone manages the transformation to a climate-neutral refinery, it’s this site,” said Schairer. For the transition, in which the work will initially be in deficit, “decisions, means and clarity are necessary”.