It’s an explosive question: Was the government allowed to transfer 60 billion euros from Corona aid to the climate fund? Karlsruhe will decide on Wednesday – the verdict could tear the traffic light coalition apart.
There are dark days that you are actually afraid of. That you forcefully push out of your thoughts – until they arrive inexorably. There is such a day for the traffic light government this week: today, Wednesday, November 15, 2023. Because today the Federal Constitutional Court will decide whether the federal government has made very expensive nonsense with a spectacular budget maneuver.
It’s about credit authorizations of 60 billion euros. They were passed by the Bundestag in 2021 to combat the economic consequences of the corona pandemic. When the money was not needed because everything went more smoothly than feared, Parliament transferred the billions with the traffic light majority into the Climate and Transformation Fund (KTF), which, the federal government cheers, “is intended to achieve Germany’s energy and climate policy goals “serves. Its value suddenly grew from 40 to a whopping 100 billion euros.
The KTF Hover the years it has developed into a kind of Berlin all-purpose financing weapon. If you don’t know how to finance a future that is somehow relevant to the economy and the climate, the federal government will let you through. The KTF money is not only intended to help to renovate buildings to make them more energy efficient, to decarbonise industry or to build green power plants. It should also advance electromobility, ensure an extensive charging infrastructure, and even promote the establishment of new computer chip factories. And soon it will also be responsible for the tax subsidies for the industrial electricity price that the traffic light has just decided.
Union rails against financial tricks
The CDU/CSU parliamentary group found the rebooking maneuver not clever at all, but illegal. She sued in Karlsruhe. Legally: She submitted an “application for abstract regulatory control”. The Union criticizes, among other things, the fact that the 60 billion euros in lousy money were completely allocated to the 2021 financial year in the supplementary budget.
It’s easy to see why. On the one hand, 2021 was ideal for incurring new debt; because the debt brake, which has been anchored in Article 115 of the Basic Law since 2009, was suspended due to the Corona crisis. On the other hand, the tricky rebooking gave Federal Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP) the opportunity to distribute a lot of money from the KTF in the following years without releasing the debt brake. Because these expenses no longer have to be recorded as deficits in the year in which they are paid out. Many experts call this a “shadow budget”.
Somehow, over the past few months, the traffic light coalition members have become uneasy about their own financial boldness. Finance State Secretary Werner Gatzer (SPD) tried to justify the transfer to the special fund as follows: The KTF also serves to combat the consequences of Corona, after all, after all the lockdowns and delivery difficulties with their severe economic consequences, an economic stimulus had to be provided. The Union counters: Nonsense, the traffic light has rather cheekily set up a “supply fund” in order to undermine the debt brake.
Trembling before the Karlsruhe decision
How the second senate of the Federal Constitutional Court, chaired by Doris König, will decide is unclear to specialist lawyers. “We are breaking new ground here,” said Judge König herself. Ultimately, the court must evaluate the so-called “emergency clause,” which states that the debt brake can be used in the event of “natural disasters or extraordinary emergency situations that are beyond the control of the state and significantly affect the state’s financial situation.” can be suspended by the Bundestag. The Karlsruhe decision is particularly explosive because it is already on Thursday The adjustment meeting for the 2024 federal budget is coming up, the “Night of the Long Knives”. Here, the Bundestag, after a tough struggle with the ministries, finally clarifies what money will be available for in the coming year – and what not.
In Berlin, people have been playing through what-if scenarios for a long time. IIn the best case scenario, Karlsruhe would approve the financial trick and everything would be fine. In the worst case scenario, the Federal Constitutional Court insists on strict compliance with budget spending and the debt brake. Then the 60 billion would have to be booked out of the KTF again – which would be a catastrophe for the traffic light, because all the money has long since been budgeted. Other income also flows into the KTF treasure chest, for example from European emissions trading or national CO2 pricing. But for the time being these will not be enough to compensate for a severe budget slump. As a result, the federal government would have to largely finance its ambitious climate policy in the future without new debt or at least suspend the debt brake. Some politicians are already talking about an emergency budget.
Many experts believe that the most likely solution is an interim solution: the judges will reprimand the traffic lights and formulate guardrails to prevent such budgetary tricks in the future. They could possibly also demand that parts of the 60 billion euros be returned, for example the around ten billion euros subsidy for the Intel chip factory in Magdeburg.
Either way: If things go unsurprisingly smoothly for the traffic light, it will face its next, probably most severe test. The FDP cannot currently ignore the debt brake, nor can it significantly increase taxes to compensate for the new financial hole. The Greens and the SPD cannot afford to scale down climate policy. The next few days of trembling are looming.
I have been working in the news industry for over 6 years, first as a reporter and now as an editor. I have covered politics extensively, and my work has appeared in major newspapers and online news outlets around the world. In addition to my writing, I also contribute regularly to 24 Hours World.