Starting next year, German parties in the Bundestag will receive an additional €25 million in taxpayer funding. It's not the first time the Bundestag has passed a costly bill during a major soccer tournament.
German lawmakers on Friday voted to up party funding by an additional €25 million per year, taking the total amount of taxpayer money flowing into German political parties to €190 million.
Lawmakers justified the funding hike, saying that digitalization posed new and expensive challenges. Parties needed greater investment to adhere to the latest online and data privacy regulations, while the era of online communication required each party to operate around the clock.
Although they also stand to benefit, the four opposition parties in the Bundestag — the Free Democrats, Left Party, Greens and Alternative for Germany (AfD) — protested against the latest spending hike. The accused the government of, first, neglecting to find a common line with the opposition and, second, ignoring the necessary two-week legislation process, as is customary for any amendments to party financing.
However, Germany's two largest parties, Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Social Democrats (SPD), stand to benefit the most from the law, as the funds are distributed based on local and national election successes. Last year, around two-thirds of all party funds went to the CDU, SPD and the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU).
Exploiting the World Cup distraction?
It's not the first time the German government has capitalized on a major soccer tournament to see through controversial bills that would have otherwise risked public fallout.
In 2006, as Germany hosted the World Cup and the public was captivated by the national team's "Sommermärchen," (summer fairy tale), the Bundestag and the upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat, agreed to raise the value-added tax from 16 percent to 19 percent. The law came into effect the following year.
In 2010, on the day Germany faced Spain in the World Cup semi-final in South Africa, the governing CDU/CSU-FDP coalition introduced a new law raising tax contributions for statutory health insurance from 14.9 percent to 15.5 percent.
Chancellor Angela Merkel will have another reasons to cheer during this summer's World Cup in Russia
In 2012, some 30 million Germans sat in front their televisions to watch Germany's World Cup semi-final against Italy. Among them were obviously several lawmakers. Nevertheless, as the match was underway, 26 parliamentarians gathered in the plenary chamber to pass a controversial law that allowed public authorities to sell citizens' data to private companies. When the rest of the Bundestag assembled again after the tournament, the law was scrapped and a more consumer-friendly bill was passed.
Just hours before Germany's World Cup quarter-final match against France in 2014, the Bundestag passed sweeping new life insurance reforms, forcing existing customers to pay more and lowering the guaranteed interest rate for new customers.
In 2016, as the European Championship's Round of 16 was preparing to get underway, the Bundestag outdid itself by passing three controversial new laws. First, all taxes for inheriting business assets were slated to be scrapped (although this bill failed to pass in the upper house). Second, a new anti-terrorism package saw a major increase in policing powers. Finally, a new fracking bill would allow for energy groups scientific tests to determine in which regions in Germany boasted the greatest shale resources. However, fracking still remains illegal in Germany.