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Global Economy

Erhard in green?

Sometimes big changes are reflected in small things: there used to be two charging stations for electric cars in the Economics Ministry on Invalidenstrasse. That was enough to date, as electric cars have tended to be avoided in the ministry's fleet.

In the future, however, the new Parliamentary State Secretary Oliver Krischer is likely to use a charging station. By ordering his company car, the Green politician had caused a bit of a stir in the house.

Krischer was actually supposed to get the company car his predecessor had just ordered, a Mercedes S-Class – at least that's what Krischer says himself. But he canceled the order because he only drives electric cars.

In other respects, too, Krischer is not necessarily the kind of employee you are used to in the Ministry of Economic Affairs. The house was in the hands of the CDU for a long time and is considered to be rather conservative. When he started, however, everyone was very nice and approachable, says the Green politician. In his opinion, this is also due to the fact that many of the 2,300 employees in the ministry have now understood that climate and economy must be thought of together.

More climate, less economy?

That is above all the mantra of the new Minister Robert Habeck. As the first green economics minister, it was his will to turn the economics ministry into a super department of economy and climate, which is why part of the environment ministry has now moved to Invalidenstrasse.

But now some have the feeling that it's the other way around: a climate ministry in the shell of the old economics ministry, with the foreign trade department only acting as an appendage.

As the first major official act, Habeck presented his climate plans and then began a trip through the federal states to campaign for the expansion of wind power with the prime ministers. He made his inaugural visits abroad only now.

"Little or nothing has been heard so far on the extremely important question of which foreign trade policy the new government wants to pursue to secure global sales markets," criticized the President of the Association of German Machine and Plant Manufacturers (VDMA) recently in the "FAZ". Foreign trade must be high on Habeck's agenda, according to VDMA boss Karl Haeusgen.

Everything is connected for Habeck: climate, economy, foreign trade. He wants to lead the German economy into a climate-neutral future and also sees the opportunity for German companies to be one step ahead with their innovations in the global competitive situation. Habeck likes to rave about "opportunities" when he talks about a gigantic challenge.

Habeck wants to "write history"

Also in his inaugural speech as minister: "If we can do it, we will make history together," he said to the employees. Habeck gave the speech in the Ludwig Erhard Hall. The "father of the social market economy" is still omnipresent in the ministry. In the entrance area, visitors are greeted by a photo of Erhard.

And some people in the ministry secretly hope that Habeck will bring the house back to its old meaning. A "Ludwig Erhard 2.0" era, so to speak. And the self-confident Habeck also likes to refer to Erhard's work himself. In his inaugural speech he spoke "of the change from the social to the ecological-social market economy", on Instagram he congratulated Erhard on his 125th birthday, even "if the habit of the cigar-smoking gentleman is no longer really up to date".

Many men

There is still a certain personnel chaos in the ministry. Habeck had filled a number of top positions – at the level of the state secretary, mainly with men, which led to astonishment and even criticism. A final organizational chart does not yet exist. The restructuring of the ministry is not yet complete. The new staff should help put the ministry on track to lead the German economy into a climate-neutral future.

However, it is far from clear whether Habeck will ultimately become a green Erhard or whether he wants to become one at all. Some people point out that Erhard's vision of the state as a regulatory framework for the economy does not fit the idea of US economist Marian Mazzucato, who sees the state more as an actor. According to Habeck, he has studied Mazzucato's writings intensively and considers the economist to be one of the best.

Hardly any time for visions

It is questionable how much time the "super minister" has for big economic visions, since hardly any cabinet member has as many construction sites as Habeck: Corona aid, gas prices, taxonomy, wind power expansion, to name just a few.

He also managed to arouse a lot of resentment in a very short time by stopping all state subsidies for energy-efficient buildings overnight.

Recently he seemed rushed and also a little surprised at the abundance of construction sites he suddenly has to deal with. It's a long way to really make history as a minister.

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