The heads of the East German states struck up a sweeping blow with the Chancellor: Specialists, medical care, representation of East Germans, settlement of research – but the meeting was dominated by energy policy.

The East German federal states are demanding support from the federal government in converting the energy supply away from Russian crude oil.

At their meeting on the island of Riems near Greifswald, the prime ministers also called on the federal government to examine and implement relief for pensioners, the self-employed and students in view of the rising energy prices. Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) also took part in the conference of heads of government on Monday.

Energy policy was the dominant theme of the meeting. For historical reasons, eastern Germany is particularly dependent on Russian energy supplies. According to the German government, the refineries in Schwedt in Brandenburg and in Leuna in Saxony-Anhalt are to be able to do without Russian pipeline oil in the future as a consequence of the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine. Brandenburg’s Prime Minister Dietmar Woidke (SPD) demanded with a view to Schwedt: “I expect that there will be no naivety as far as the consequences are concerned.”

The Thuringian head of government Bodo Ramelow (left) called for “a federal effort so that the new states do not get an additional blow”. He referred to thousands of jobs in the energy-intensive glass industry in his state.

Measures to promote East Germany

At the conference, the Federal Government and the East German states agreed on a series of measures to promote the East. According to a statement published on Monday, for example, an interest group for hydrogen in East Germany (IOW) is to be set up, a summit for experts in East Germany is to be held this year and public acceptance of the expansion of renewable energies is to be strengthened. The so-called Riemser Declaration was published after the Ost-MPK.

According to the chairwoman of the Ost-MPK, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania’s Prime Minister Manuela Schwesig (SPD), a particularly large number of people with lower incomes in the east are affected by the current price increases. This aspect was also emphasized by Berlin’s Governing Mayor Franziska Giffey (SPD). Many people in Berlin would have to limit themselves in their daily lives. “Another step that I am in favor of is the introduction of an excess profit tax in order to be able to counteract excessive profits made from a war and crisis situation.”

Kretschmer: “Valley that we have to cross”

With a view to the energy transition, Saxony’s Prime Minister Michael Kretschmer (CDU) said: “This decade is a valley that we have to go through. If we get it wrong, we’ll ruin the economy.” In view of the intended renunciation of Russian energy, the further use of existing nuclear power plants should be discussed. It must also be made clear that the lignite phase-out will remain in 2038. “This federal government is avoiding it.”

According to the Riemser Declaration, the settlement of research institutions in the east should also be promoted, medical care in rural areas or the representation of East Germans in management and leadership positions should be strengthened.

The chairmanship of the Ost-MPK changes every year. The heads of government of the five eastern German states and Berlin usually meet once a year for a separate consultation.