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Aid focus in German budget debate

September 8, 2015

Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble's 2016 budget address in parliament has prompted opposition demands that Germany boost its aid spending in refugees' countries of origin. Schäuble again said he would not go into debt.

Deutschland Haushaltsdebatte Merkel mit Schäuble
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/M. Kappeler

Opposition Left party spokesman Dietmar Bartsch accused Chancellor Angela Merkel's government of heading into Europe's refugee crisis with "eyes open" by failing to tackle migratory causes in crisis regions such as Syria.

"We must do more abroad, to tackle the causes of flight and migration," Bartsch said during Tuesday's Bundestag budgetary debate. "You are administering [the problem], instead of developing solutions."

Bartsch added that Berlin's drive to implement a common EU policy on asylum displayed none of the tenacity it had shown recently in rescuing Greece and the euro.

Germany must again show "strong leadership," Bartsch insisted.

Far short of aid development quota

Dietmar Bartsch Bundestag Haushalt
"We must do more abroad, to tackle the causes of flight and migration": BartschImage: picture-alliance/dpa/M. Kappeler

Sven-Christian Kindler, the opposition Greens budgetary spokesman, said increased development aid funding in Schäuble's 2016 budget was still not sufficient to keep Germany at 0.4 percent of Germany's gross domestic product (GDP).

He reminded parliament that in 1970 an Overseas Development Aid (ODA) quota of 0.7 percent had been promised.

Instead of using robust revenues to fix social woes, Schäuble was "faintheartedly administering" the budget, Kindler asserted.

A recent chart (in German) showed Germany in 2013 at 0.38 percent. An estimate issued by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in March put Germany's ODA quota for 2014 at 0.41 percent equating to 12.2 billion euros ($13.6 billion), 1.5 billion euros more than in 2013.

Kindler's remarks coincided with a call by the German Foundation for World Population that Germany lift its GDP quota to 0.7 percent.

Investment in development worked, said foundation chairman Renate Bahr in Hanover, citing success in campaigns to reduce AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

Last week, the foundation published survey results from the pollster TNS Emnid showing that 81 percent of Germans wanted Germany to tackle poverty by fulfilling the long-pledged 0.7 percent.

Visiting refugee projects in Jordan on Sunday, Stuttgart's Catholic bishop Gebhard Fürst said Germany should tackle misery at the source with a 10-fold increase in its development aid.

Break-even budget

In his budgetary address, Schäuble said refugees and asylum seekers should not be considered in terms of cost-accounting, adding that his provisional 318-billion-euro budget for 2016 - like 2015 - would break even.

Dealing with the refugee crisis had "absolute priority" where possible, Schäuble said, but "without new borrowings" - in a reference to an extra 6 billion euros for refugees in Germany agreed on Sunday by leaders of Merkel's coalition.

Parliament speaker Norbert Lammert, a senior member of Merkel's conservatives, drew applause from parties across the floor on Tuesday by thanking many German citizens for their "professional and voluntary" contributions amid a "humanitarian emergency."

Sahra Wagenknecht 4.6.2014
Wagenknecht said the US should send cash to help deal with Europe's intake of asylum seekersImage: Getty Images

"Your commitment is the most convincing answer to hollow prejudices and xenophobia, which also exists," Lammert said.

Left demands US cash contribution

On Sunday, the Left's deputy leader Sahra Wagenknecht, together with Bartsch, had demanded that the United States send cash to help deal with Europe's intake of asylum seekers.

"Western nations under the leadership of the US have destabilized whole regions" by creating conditions for terror groups in regions such as Iraq and Syria, they claimed in a party position paper, which also called for an end to German weapons exports.

Entwicklungsminister Gerd Müller in der Zentralafrikanischen Republik
Tackle problems at source, urges MüllerImage: picture-alliance/dpa

In March, German Development Minister Gerd Müller said the world community must tackle humanitarian problems by not waiting until crisis situations emerged but instead helping rural populations to feed themselves in the long-term.

Müller announced a joint plan with the UN's World Food Program to set up 12 centers in poor countries to train small-scale farmers and improve infrastructures.

His ministry is currently featuring refugee issues on its website.

ipj/cmk (dpa, KNA, Reuters, AFP)