Brandenburg Finance Minister Katrin Lange in the MAZ interview, Habeck does not take the situation in the East seriously

Potsdam.Katrin Lange (SPD, 50), Minister of Finance and Europe since 2019, represents Brandenburg in the Federal Government Task Force, which deals with the future of the PCK refinery in Schwedt (Uckermark). The working group is scheduled to begin work this week.

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In the MAZ interview, she blames the federal economy minister, Robert Habeck (Greens), for taking “the second step before the first” when it comes to Sweden’s future. Continued operation, supply and affordability must be ensured in a binding manner. “Declarations of intent are not enough. Only when it is ready can the oil tap be closed. ” Sanctions should not harm Germany more than Russia.

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Mrs Lange, inflation and rising prices think many people like no other topic. In supermarkets, the prices of staple foods have risen by more than 8 percent since April. There are price jumps on energy and at the petrol pump. What should the people of Brandenburg be prepared for?

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Katrin Lange: High inflation is not a temporary phenomenon. It was a misjudgment. It could also go up. But that must not happen. As a country, we have very little influence on this. That is basically the responsibility of the European Central Bank. If interest rates rise, it could dampen inflation.

So the spiral continues without end in sight. The help package for “traffic lights” in the federal government should now help. But is it really enough?

none As an immediate measure, the Federal Emergency Response Package is generally useful. However, we do not solve any structural problems with this. As important as an energy expenditure subsidy of 300 euros is, it is only once. Where the deeper meaning lies in using a 9-euro ticket to transform regional transport, which is already often overburdened in metropolitan areas, into sardine cans, is not clear to me – the ticket hardly brings anything to people in the country where it already does. yet there is less traffic.

Will the burdens not first hit the socially weaker layers, in fact the SPD’s core voters?

Inflation of seven to eight percent affects not only the small people but also the broad middle of society. There is a huge hidden potential for conflict. The social question returns with full force. Many have not yet received their elevated heating and electricity bills. I also think it is impossible to urge people to freeze for freedom or save on electricity against Putin now. Those who call for it, like EU President Ursula von der Leyen, will never freeze for freedom. It’s always the others. It’s pure cynicism.

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“Sanctions must not harm us more than Russia”

What do you suggest?

Inflation must fall sharply. And in the energy sector, we need security of supply and affordability for the supply of heating oil, petrol, diesel and petroleum. This security is at issue throughout East Germany without PCK Schwedt. So I do not think an oil embargo is justifiable at the moment. There are too many unanswered questions for that.

However, Federal Economy Minister Habeck has promised to find a solution for PCK and wants the Schwedt site to be preserved.

He will also be measured on this promise. My impression is that the Federal Minister of Economy is taking the second step before the first. Continued operation, supply and affordability must be ensured in a binding manner. Declarations of intent are not enough. Only when this is clear can the oil tap be closed. Not before. Sanctions must not harm us more than Russia. It would be pointless and would not end the miserable war. Therefore: No decisions in the blue. That’s not how it works.

If the embargo comes, then what would be the consequences for Brandenburg?

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I fear that the East German sites in Schwedt and Leuna will be disproportionately burdened compared to the West German sites. There is a risk that a sharp oil boycott will bring large parts of the economy in East Germany to a standstill, with serious consequences for companies and employees.

The trade associations’ interest organization in East Germany warns of an oil embargo that will result in self-destruction of the economy in the East. Do you share it?

Yes, it can not be rejected out of hand. The distortions would be enormous. The Federal Minister of Economy downplays the possible consequences of an oil freeze for the East. Security of supply must be ensured throughout Germany. Green hydrogen is all good, but it is not the answer for now and in the years to come. At the moment, in terms of energy policy, we are simply replacing the high dependence on Russia, which is actually to be brought to an end, with a new dependence on the United States and Qatar.

Should Brandenburg not now make economic advance payments and take precautions to prevent major social upheavals?

The federal states are also involved in the federal emergency relief package. Brandenburg alone contributes 211 million euros through the state economic equalization and tax distribution. This is a little known. It is not a federal package alone. But the country’s room for maneuver is limited.

Why really? Estimates say that around 350 million euros more in taxes will flow into the treasury in 2022.

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We have been in a state of crisis for two years because of Corona. We have incurred massive debt-financed expenses and have constantly said that we will not save up for the crisis. It was right and necessary. But we can not go on indefinitely. The 350 million euros help the budget, but do not create any leeway: This year we are planning new borrowings, a global underspending and a withdrawal from the state reserve of around 650 million euros. Besides, I do not have the money yet, it’s an estimate.

Just like in the Corona period, one could call for an extraordinary emergency in the country because of the extra burdens. Why is the Ukraine war not an emergency?

At present, I do not think that the declaration of the extraordinary emergency resulting from the Ukraine war is justified. For what is meant are always emergencies that are beyond the control of the state and affect the economic situation of the state. However, I can not rule out that this assessment will change. Such an emergency is only justified as an exceptional case. That must not become the norm. According to the motto, some justification will be found: yesterday it was Corona, today Ukraine and tomorrow maybe the climate. It does not work either.

You have just returned from Poland as Minister for Europe. In the Ukraine issue, Germany has been criticized by Poland, which accuses the chancellor of being hesitant. How did you perceive it?

The Poles have always accused us of some naivety in their assessment of Putin and Russia. They now see themselves as confirmed – not wrong, as I must admit. We actually made a bad mistake in some reviews. But I would prefer a chancellor who thinks longer on war and peace, weighs things up and coordinates things with his allies three times more than one who until yesterday was a top pacifist and now pretends to be a great weapons and tank expert.

“SPD is not to blame for Putin’s insane war”

How far does Germany have to go when it comes to arms supplies?

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Ukraine has our solidarity and support. We also supply weapons. But the border is where Germany itself would become a war party. This must not happen under any circumstances. Incidentally, no NATO country has so far supplied Western-made main tanks to Ukraine. Germany does not need to be accused of anything.

Does the SPD need to revise their Russia policy?

Yes, but also others. As is well known, many supported Germany’s Russia policy during the Merkel era. And despite the mistakes, the SPD now has no reason to throw itself into the dust. She is not to blame for Putin’s insane war.

They have always advocated for close ties with Russia. How do you see it today?

I was also wrong: I never thought Putin would wage such an aggressive war against Ukraine. Nor was it wrong to try to involve Russia in a stable peace order. And it’s a terrible accident and disaster that we did not succeed. But it is now up to the Kremlin and Putin, who seem to have lost their minds. Brandenburg has cut off all contact with official Russian bodies. The damage to Russia’s image in the world is enormous – but Putin has certainly praised this destruction of cooperation.

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