Germany coalition bickers over military and aid spending

Germany coalition bickers over military and aid spending

BERLIN – Agence France-Presse
Germany coalition bickers over military and aid spending

Bickering broke out within Chancellor Angela Merkel’s hard-fought coalition on April 2, as German budget plans left the defence and international development ministries out in the cold.

With tax revenues expected to rise in coming years in step with economic growth, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz might have expected a warmer reception for plans to raise federal spending by 37 billion euros ($44.4 billion) by 2022, to 367.7 billion.

“Germany is in a good economic and financial position today,” the Social Democratic Party (SPD) politician said, allowing him to offer a budget stuffed with extras for families, the unemployed and the education system.

Scholz even managed to sketch the increased outlays without planning to borrow any new funds -- sticking to his predecessor Wolfgang Schaeuble’s “black zero” policy.

But Merkel’s conservative ministers for defence and development were disappointed with the plans, which see only small increases in their budgets.

In a veiled criticism, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), called for a “solid financial basis” for the Bundeswehr [German army] immediately after the cabinet meeting that approved the new budget, suggesting more cash could still be negotiated in parliament.

Like other NATO countries, Germany promised in 2014 to lift defense spending within a decade to 2.0 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) - or around 66 billion euros based on last year’s 3.3-trillion-euro figure.

But Scholz’s scheme includes a military funding increase to just 41.5 billion euros next year.

“I see no contradiction” Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters, saying that “we have started down the path” towards the NATO goal.