The German Minister for the Economy, Peter Altmeier, was meeting this morning with representatives of 40 economic organizations to which he wanted to inform that the restrictions in force in Germany still have a long way to go. But if until now it had had the collaboration and acceptance of the country’s business and union leaders, today it has found a host of complaints and reproaches that augur the end of acquiescence with Merkel’s measures. “He tries to appease us with new financial aid, but he refuses to understand that for many businesses their survival is at stake; aid is not enough, they need activity “, one of the participants commented after the videoconference,” it was a very tough meeting on a personal level but very healthy on a political level.
Trying to summarize the severe criticisms that Minister Altmaier has been forced to listen to, they can be grouped into five sections. The first would include reproaches for the slowness with which the vaccination campaign is running. The number of people who have received the first dose of the vaccine in Germany is 2,736,109, 3.3% of the population, while 1.75 of the inhabitants have already received the second dose. In terms of the economic outlook, immunity continues to be seen only as a mirage in the distance and almost 13% of the German economy is “brutally affected” by the current shutdown.
Several participants in the meeting have also complained that “the aid is on the front pages of the newspapers, but not in the bank accounts of those affected”, in reference to the fact that the federal budget contemplates 39,500 million euros in direct aid from the that only around 5 billion euros have been spent. A third group of complaints focused on the lack of effectiveness of the aid due to design defects. According to the Federal Statistical Office, retailers in Germany had adjusted sales of 9.6% less in December 2020 than in November 2020. The reason for the sharp drop is the total closure of the trade in force since 16 December, while the aid is calculated according to the income obtained and declared by the companies in November 2019, when there was no such closure.
There is a fourth set of interventions that have pointed to Austria as an example. In the neighboring country, Foreign Minister Kurz has already decreed the opening and the children have returned to schools, all supported by a wide campaign of free tests. “Sebastian Kurz is showing you how to do it,” said one of the spokesmen to Minister Altmaier, who has also had to listen to repeated criticism about “arbitrary” and “non-evidence-based” government measures by mainly the textile trade and of household appliances, which does not understand that customers can go to the supermarket safely while being forced to keep their doors closed.
There are also the multiple criticisms of the border closure with the Czech Republic and the Austrian Tyrol that has come into force this Sunday. The Federation of German Industry (BDI) has publicly warned of its dire consequences. “There is a great risk that supply chains will break across Europe in the coming days,” said its president, Joachim Lang, who foresees “chaotic conditions that generate great uncertainty in companies regarding their supply situation and availability of personnel “. Lang has called on the German government to comply with the “Green Lanes” regulation recommended by the EU to maintain the free movement of goods. “The border crossings must remain open for all cargo vehicles”, he demands, and suggests “test options throughout Europe.” It is useless “to require negative tests at the entrance of a country without providing adequate test infrastructures at the borders.”
The Federal Association for Transport, Logistics and Disposal of Goods (BGL) has also publicly demanded free passage for goods. The controls on truck drivers are “nonsense,” said their spokesman, Dirk Engelhardt. “If a trucker in transit through the Tyrol drives in isolation in the driver’s cab, why does he have to test negative?” He planned, “Altmaier must ensure that the government immediately lifts border controls for truckers.
The German employers’ association (BDA) has diagnosed that “the government has learned nothing from the uncontrolled border closures of the first wave” and points out that “for the European internal market, both the free movement of workers and the smooth transport routes, the business travel and cross-border provision of services is essential ”. “The open borders in the Schengen area must not be lifted unilaterally”, insists the BDA, “and much less without respecting the proportionality in the measures adopted”.