MIL OSI Translation. Region: Germany / Deutschland –
Source: Federal Ministry of FinanceDate 05.03.2020Location Science Park Gelsenkirchen [The spoken word applies!] Dear Sir or Madam, Thank you for the invitation, I was very happy to come to Gelsenkirchen. A day in the Ruhr area is always something special because a political view of the future often becomes clearer when it starts with a look at the past of this region. The title of the conference “Strongly Changing” fits in very well. Here, in the area, the industrial heart beat, to which Germany owes a large part of its economic rise – not only with coal and steel, but also many inventions and innovations, for example in mechanical engineering. Here, however, shared values began to grow. The cohesion of the miners “underground” as a community of solidarity, no matter where you came from. And “above ground” caring for one another, fighting for the common interests of the workers with the employers. While the dispute at Hoesch led to mass layoffs in 1874, the subsequent miners ‘strike in Bochum led to the establishment of the first permanent miners’ union. Limitation of working hours was also enforced here in 1905 and then the first collective agreement in 1919. Coal and steel therefore created identities and social cohesion in a very special way in the Ruhr area, the core of which was their own hard work and of which everyone was justifiably proud and could also be proud. This identity can still be felt in the present. So the “Steigerlied” is still played in some football stadiums today and there is also the thought of proposing it to UNESCO as an “intangible world cultural heritage”. This shows that work is more than just earning bread. Proud is also shown in the fact that many a former industrial site has become an industrial monument. Places like the Zollverein colliery – not far from here – are now a magnet for artists and tourists from all over the country, and this strong sense of tradition gives an idea of what the loss of industrial jobs in heavy industry meant for the region. At the same time, new things are growing, including in the areas of health care and logistics. And while 50,000 years ago the region still employed 400,000 people and there were no students, mining has ended today, but there are 270,000 people studying in the area, which was and is not only an economic change, but also a change in life. The historian Lutz Raphael recently described this in his book “Beyond Coal and Steel”. In the district you know what constitutes structural change, so it is important to understand the current and upcoming structural change processes from this point of view. And then at the latest everyone should be aware of the great respect the workers who have mastered this change deserve. The willingness to change and the openness to technological progress are not a matter of course, which is why for all of the measures that we need for successful structural change and about which we will talk today, one principle stands in the foreground: everyone has to be entitled May have a chance that the change will end well for them. Change needs solidarity. We have to tackle the challenges we have before us together and make them fair – although this time only “above ground” and not “below ground”. Political leaders have to take care of this together with the unions. Today it is about digital transformation and the switch to new, climate-friendly technologies. And this development means an opportunity for the regions that have been turning to future technologies from an early age, for example Gelsenkirchen: Today Gelsenkirchen is not only an industrial city, but also a digital model city and solar city. Here, on the roof of the science park, is a roof-top solar system that was considered the world’s largest of its kind in the mid-1990s, when solar energy was still a marginal phenomenon. Opposite is the first climate protection settlement in NRW. Ladies and gentlemen, the use of fossil resources, especially coal in Germany, has not only brought about a considerable increase in prosperity, but also a dramatic increase in CO2 emissions. And there are many emerging economies in Asia and elsewhere that want to achieve our level of prosperity – with household appliances, cars and everything that goes with it. This is understandable: other countries also have the right to develop industrially and also the right to strive for a more comfortable life, but we know that global warming can only be successfully slowed down if not all of them follow the fossil path we have taken. So the big task is to enable more growth with fewer resources, and we have to show that it is possible to have both a climate-friendly and a strong industry at the same time. The reduction of greenhouse gases alone does not create a change in energy and mobility. We can only do this by switching to climate-neutral management. New climate-friendly technologies will also be an opportunity for our export-oriented industry, for new innovations. With our engineers and with our financial strength, Germany is able to become the first industrialized country to get out of both coal-based power generation and nuclear energy long-term focus on renewable energy. But to do this we must continue to ensure the security of energy supply in the future and create good framework conditions for our industry. Let me address three areas in which we have to progress so that we can do it well and which are particularly important for NRW as an energy country. First, we need more clean energy. Now that we have a clear exit path from coal, we also need a clear expansion path for wind and solar energy. For every gigawatt of coal electricity that we take off the grid, we need more than one gigawatt from renewable energy sources. Because in the future we will focus much more on clean electricity in areas in which we still mainly use fossil fuels – like driving a car – keyword sector coupling. Secondly, we will also need a good, stable electricity grid in the future. The expansion of renewable energies and the increase in electric mobility places demands on our energy networks. Today we have to consider that maybe millions of electric vehicles will soon be connected to the grid at the end of the day. We now have to initiate the necessary changes so that our power grids can handle them. Thirdly, it is about our industrial location. Production processes in energy-intensive industries must be climate-friendly and competitive. Hydrogen will play a major role here, for example in the steel industry and in the chemical industry. Now is the time to set the right impulses so that we can get the market ready and enter industrial scale in the hydrogen economy. Investments are key so that the energy transition and structural change work well together. That applies to companies and that applies to the state. The Confederation will spend a good 150 billion euros in this decade so that we can achieve our climate targets. For regions in which lignite extraction and power generation are important economic and employment factors, the Confederation provides up to 40 billion euros. to shape the structural change. Funds for research institutions, training measures and the expansion of the transport infrastructure are at stake. Overall, the federal government is investing at record levels so that we can master our future tasks. In 2019 there were over 38 billion. This year we will again increase investments significantly – by 12 percent – and stabilize them at a high level. We have a long-term and reliable investment perspective for the federal government, and research and development play a very important role in our future tasks. The state and companies already spend 3 percent of our GDP on research and development. We want to reach 3.5 percent by 2025. Anyone who knows a little about public investment knows, of course, that around two thirds are borne by the states and municipalities. One of the strengths of our federal system is that the investment decisions are mostly made locally, because it is best to assess locally what is needed. But when it comes to major challenges facing society as a whole, all levels of government have to help, so that the federal government can make a contribution, we changed the Basic Law last year. Now the federal government can support the federal states and municipalities in building educational infrastructure and in the future in social housing, just as it provides funds for local public transport, for example. I am also convinced that the federal government must also help tackle another problem to solve. Many municipalities are burdened with old debts, which make it no longer possible to invest in a good life for citizens and in the local economic base, which is why I advocate that the federal government – once – only supports these municipalities in dealing with the problem of old debts to manage. This affects just over 2000 of the 11,000 municipalities in Germany. You are heavily in debt. You don’t have enough financial leeway to make the necessary investments. But schools and kindergartens need to be built or renovated, swimming pools and town halls kept in good condition, and libraries need to be modernized, and I want to give these communities breathing space again. The federal government should therefore get the most affected municipalities out of the debt trap with the federal states. We need a consensus for that. And the countries not affected must agree to this without the federal government having to buy their consent. Solidarity should be possible in a country like Germany, and I am not convinced by the objection that old debts are self-inflicted and do not concern others. Ultimately, it is not decisive for what reasons the municipality concerned got into such a situation. We shouldn’t sanction local authorities for past mistakes, so if you say otherwise, you have to explain what the alternative is. In my opinion, it simply cannot be easy to write off places in Germany, nor do I find the argument that the municipalities that have already been able to manage their debt situation to be considered retrospectively is conclusive. Every municipality that has made it itself can be proud of it and does not have to envy others who have not yet achieved it, but a viable concept means that the affected municipalities will not get into the same situation again in a few years. We therefore need a broad solution because the countries have to create mechanisms for local supervision so that no path can lead to a hopeless debt situation, and I am confident that we will be able to do this. And that the state government here in NRW also supports this and that the state makes its contribution. Ladies and gentlemen, investments are an instrument for structural change to work well. The other is to create new cohesion and new trust in a good future. Employees need a reliable perspective to continue doing good work in the future, even if their job changes. And they need trust that their social rights will be respected and defended. This does not work by itself either, it is not only about the regions that are subject to industrial structural change, but also about the change in work as a whole. Digital solutions bring about profound changes at a rapid pace – with opportunities such as mobile work or home office, for example, to be able to reconcile family and work, but also with risks, for example for those whose jobs cease to exist or who are outside of contractual agreements and operational participation are left to their own devices. They need the protection of their rights by the state. We see in many places: professions are changing – through technological change and structural change. For those affected by this, the Federal Government has consistently expanded training and further education and created new opportunities to acquire the necessary skills for their changed profession. We have created the Qualification Opportunities Act, which the trade unions have actively worked on – thanks for that. In addition, there will soon be the extended short-time work allowance with a qualification component, which we will introduce with the “Work-of-tomorrow law”. And by the way, I think that it must still be possible to learn a completely new profession at the end of 40, if that previous activity becomes obsolete. And that has to work in such a way that it fits the living conditions of a seasoned woman or man – with family, home and maybe caravan – but there are also employees for whom a professional reorientation is no longer realistic because they have only a few years left to retire. For older workers who are affected by the phase-out of lignite mining and the generation of electricity from coal, we are therefore setting up an adjustment allowance – similar to the way it already exists for hard coal mining Rights to. Incidentally, with a view to other political positions, this is fundamentally different than alimenting. Only social rights provide the necessary security to seize opportunities and try something new. An efficient welfare state and a well-functioning social partnership are among the strengths of our economic model. As part of the social partnership, we have to work together to shape the changes in the world of work in terms of the social market economy, for which we need strong unions. We need co-determination in industrial operations and we need co-determination in the start-up from the digital economy, which is why conferences like today are about how we can maintain and modernize co-determination in the transformation for the future. This is a big project and probably nothing more for this legislative period, but an important task when we have other political majorities in Berlin. The last major reform of the Works Constitution Act will be 20 years ago next year. It is time to adapt it to the conditions of the digital working world as well, so ladies and gentlemen, let’s work together to shape the structural change with confidence. Let us make sure that the crucial principle that I emphasized at the outset applies: everyone has to have the justifiable prospect that the change will turn out well for us, we want to do all of this together, so I look forward to it later to discuss with you. Thank you!
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is a translation. Apologies should the grammar and/or sentence structure need be perfect.