A good four months after the start of the Ukraine war, people in Germany are looking more and more at their own wallets. What does that mean for solidarity with the country?

Chancellor Olaf Scholz wants to support Ukraine for as long as necessary, despite increasing economic problems in his own country. “We will show solidarity – at least that’s my wish – as long as it is necessary so that Ukraine can defend itself against the terrible and brutal Russian attack,” he said on the ZDF program “Maybrit Illner”.

Scholz sees no chance for a fairer distribution of the burden of the crisis through tax increases – even if he were in favor of it himself. However, there is no majority for this in the Bundestag, the Chancellor conceded with a view to the coalition partner FDP. “It’s something where different beliefs exist.”

Scholz answered questions from several citizens on the show. In addition to a couple who were bakers, an intensive care nurse, and a student and climate protection worker, this included the Ukrainian journalist Kateryna Mishchenko, who fled Kyiv with her son. Above all, she wanted to know from Scholz whether he expected continued solidarity for her country in view of rising prices and the impending shortage of gas in Germany.

Scholz defends sanctions against Russia

Scholz replied that Germany was also obliged to show solidarity for its own sake, because democracy and the rule of law were being defended in Ukraine against the Russian attackers. “We can’t accept a country attacking its neighbors and saying I’m stealing a piece of the land, it’s mine now.”

Scholz defended the sanctions imposed on Russia. Politicians from the left and AfD had recently called for punitive measures against Russia to be lifted or for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to be put into operation in order to avert an energy emergency. There are fears that Russia could stop gas supplies to Germany as early as July, on which Germany remains heavily dependent. In the course of the Ukraine war, the prices for energy, but also for food, for example, have risen significantly.

Chancellor promises further relief

Scholz promised the citizens further relief. “But we don’t want to do that somewhere in a room in the Chancellery, we want to discuss it with everyone,” he said, referring to the so-called concerted action in which Scholz spoke to unions and employees about crisis management. Scholz also said: “We will not be able to subsidize all prices (…). No country in the world can do that.”

However, Scholz does not see tax increases, as demanded by politicians from the SPD and Greens, coming. Above all, there is talk of an excess profit tax for mineral oil companies, which benefit greatly from high energy prices. Most recently, SPD General Secretary Kevin Kühnert and Bundestag Vice President Katrin Göring-Eckardt spoke out in favor of this in the “Spiegel”. This Friday, the Federal Council will also vote on a proposal by the states of Bremen, Berlin, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Thuringia to tax so-called excess profits. However, the FDP categorically excludes tax increases.

Scholz: “The national bankruptcy is really not imminent”

Scholz vehemently rejected fears that Germany could be headed for state bankruptcy. “If things continue normally, we will return to the debt level we had before the Corona crisis in a relatively short time, i.e. return to 60 percent of economic output,” he said. The German economy is strong enough for this. “The state bankruptcy is really not imminent,” emphasized the Chancellor. “Compared to other countries, we will come off quite well.”

Climate protector: “Why don’t you bang on the table?”

The student Rifka Lambrecht accused Scholz of losing sight of climate protection and of taking too much consideration of the coalition partner FDP when it came to the traffic turnaround: “Why don’t you really hit the table?” Scholz rejected the allegations: “My commitment to this issue is very, very large (…) Germany will be the country with the fastest pace.”

The Chancellor criticized the green EU label for investments in certain gas and nuclear power plants. “I always thought that was wrong,” he said. The federal government voted against it, but could no longer prevent the regulation. They then made sure “that it still suits us halfway”. Scholz emphasized: “In Germany we are in complete agreement that nuclear energy is not green.”

A majority in the EU Parliament backed the eco-label project on Wednesday. Specifically, it is about a supplementary legal act to the so-called taxonomy of the EU. It is a classification system designed to steer private investment into sustainable economic activities and thus support the fight against climate change.