Germany's lower house of parliament is debating the compromise plan for aid and reconstruction to the areas hit by one of the worst floods in recent memory. The debate comes as Germany's election campaign heats up.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel took to the floor at the beginning of the Bundestag session Tuesday, with a summary of the flood disaster relief efforts and an overview of the impact of the floods on the areas affected.
In a speech focusing on the issue of solidarity, Merkel said she found it hard to put into words the dismay and compassion she felt during her trip to the flooded region, where she had met the people who had lost everything. The chancellor stressed that she found it admirable how people had stood together in this time of crisis.
“That is why we need to help fast and in a non-bureaucratic way,” she said to a round of applause from the entire legislature.
Federal and state governments agreed last week to provide 8 billion euros ($10.5 billion) to cover flood damages. The legal framework for the agreement will be clarified no later than July 5, before the government's summer break.
Germany's state and federal governments will jointly fund the aid, which aims to open a quick path to relief in areas damaged by the country's worst flooding in over a decade.
The federal government will finance all the so-called "reconstruction aid" upfront. The states are to pay back 3.25 billion euros through debt retirement and interest payments over 20 years.
The federal government will alone bear the infrastructure costs, such as highway repair. Those infrastructure costs come to 1.5 billion euros, reducing the amount split with states to 6.5 billion euros.
The farming sector as well as infrastructure reconstruction would take priority, Merkel told the Bundestag.
To the laughter of opposition parliamentarians, the chancellor said that her government could finance the reconstruction efforts without needing to raise taxes, because her government had achieved a good budget situation in Germany through its financial policies over the past years.
Merkel pointed out that the issue of flood and disaster prevention was a pan-European issue and that cooperation had been intensified across borders.
rg/dr (dpa, Reuters)