As Germany’s government is scrambling for a solution to plug the budget gap created by the Constitutional Court ruling on the reallocation of COVID-19 funds, a majority of Germans oppose taking on new debt, according to a survey published by public broadcaster ZDF on Friday.
Almost two out of three respondents spoke out against easing the so-called debt brake, a German law that limits the allowed new debt except for crises, according to the representative Politbarometer survey of more than 1,200 eligible voters.
Last week, the Federal Constitutional Court found that the German government’s decision to use 60 billion euros (65.4 billion U.S. dollars) from a COVID-19 relief fund for measures combatting climate change was void.
The law, under which the funds were retroactively shifted to the Climate and Transformation Fund (CTF) at the beginning of 2022 for the previous year’s budget, “does not meet the constitutional requirements for emergency borrowing,” the court ruled.
The ruling followed a complaint by the conservative CDU/CSU, the largest opposition. The governing parties sharply criticized the CDU/CSU. “It’s unacceptable that an opposition wants the government’s defeat more than the country’s success,” Green Party Co-Chair Omid Nouripour said on Thursday.
Due to the ruling, green transformation projects that were to be financed with the funds have been put on hold for the time being. In 2024 alone, the government wanted to invest 57.6 billion euros from the CTF in areas such as transport, buildings and the switch to renewable energies.
Although the government wants to formally suspend the debt brake for the current year, no new debt is to be taken on. Instead, “only the funds that have already been used to overcome the crisis will be put on a secure legal basis,” said Minister of Finance Christian Lindner.
A possible reform and extension to 2024 are also being discussed. The debt brake must not become a “brake on the future,” Saskia Esken, leader of the ruling Social Democratic Party, said on Friday. “We are still in a crisis situation, the effects of which will also be felt in the coming year.” (1 euro = 1.09 U.S. dollar)