Politics took centre stage on Tuesday evening in a venue usually reserved for concerts, comedy, and cabaret. Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz responded to questions from around 150 members of the public from Cottbus and the surrounding region at the Cottbus Town Hall, the largest building of its kind in Brandenburg. Many participants expressed concern about such things as the war in Ukraine and German arms supplies.
The Federal Chancellor said the following about ...
... the war in Ukraine and arms deliveries
Any country that is attacked had to defend itself, according to Scholz. That was why Germany was supporting Ukraine with such things as spare parts and ammunition. At the same time, he said, the various issues were always weighed up carefully. "The objective," said Scholz, "is to see an end to this terrible war" and to avoid escalation between Russia and NATO. "Everyone can rest assured that I will continue to pursue this balanced course." Also, he said, he would continue to talk with Russia's President Putin. Putin had to be shown that this imperialist goal of "gobbling up part of the neighbouring country" did not work.
The war had also changed our attitude to defence policy and the Federal Armed Forces. For example, he said, the goal now was the continuous production of armaments in order to avert a shortage of ammunition.
... medical care
Some members of the public also expressed concern about medical care, particularly in rural areas. The Federal Government, Scholz explained, was reacting by creating rules that would motivate doctors to settle in rural regions. This would include more training opportunities. "The important thing," the Federal Chancellor said, "is to ensure that basic services are available everywhere."
... the shortage of skilled workers – especially in the care sector
It was important to create incentives in the care sector, he said. "That's why we need to keep doing what we're already doing," said Scholz, which was making training more attractive, increasing wages, and improving working conditions. This was to be achieved through the care sector reform programme.
Regarding the shortage of skilled workers in general, Scholz said that he hoped this shortage would be reflected in salaries, adding that he was very much in favour of companies committing to tariffs, or at least using them as a guideline.
... retirement provision
When asked about how to deal with old-age provision, the Federal Chancellor said that the aim was to ensure that the situation was fair and added that he wanted to campaign for more justice for pensioners. "We have to defend our pension system. It's worth holding on to into the future."
... accommodating and managing refugees
One member of the public complained that local authorities needed more support in dealing with refugees. Many ordinary citizens had done great things, said the Federal Chancellor, including accommodating people in need of protection in their own homes. This was a "great community achievement". In addition to providing housing, the Federal Government had already provided the Länder with more than three billion euros in support. The important thing, he said, was to work together to provide the support needed.
Above all, he continued, it was important to conclude agreements with the main countries of origin when dealing with people fleeing their homelands. There was a need for legal channels that are in line with labour market requirements and take affect before people set off unsuccessfully or "embark on wobbly boats", Scholz said..
... the basic child allowance
"We want to ensure that no children live in poverty," said Federal Chancellor Scholz. That was why, he continued, the child supplement was introduced in addition to the child benefit, which had been increased to 250 euros per child. This was intended to support low-income families. However, he added, the current goal was to simplify the application process. The basic child allowance should be in place by 2025, even if there were still "a few problems to be solved".
... expediting bureaucratic processes
One member of the public mentioned that the Federal Chancellor had referred to the "new German speed" at the opening of the new liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal and asked whether this would also be felt in other approval procedures. "This is the pace we need to set and we must persevere in pushing it forward," Scholz emphasised. "We have to see that the pace we set is reflected in quality."
... dealing with disagreements
One audience member wanted to know how the Federal Chancellor dealt with disagreements in everyday political life. "The only way to avoid disputes is to do nothing," said Scholz. Of course, he said, with a coalition of three parties and a major issue – the war in Ukraine – to deal with, disputes were bound to arise. He added, this was an interesting time in terms of new opportunities for the future, for example in the field of renewable energy. "You could talk about certain issues all night long," says Scholz. "And you’ll only catch wind of a tiny bit of it." However, he continued, he preferred to tackle difficult discussions and issues head on, even if the discussions sometimes did get rather heated. "And if I had my way," Scholz added, "preferably with a little less bluster."
Dialogue series in all federal states: The Chancellor Dialogue is a series of public dialogues led by the Federal Chancellor in all 16 of Germany's federal states. The Federal Chancellor wants to discover what concerns people in their everyday lives, hear about their worries and what they expect from politicians, and respond to their questions. This new format gives him the opportunity to explain his policies in a face-to-face dialogue. The participants decide which issues and questions they would like to discuss with the Federal Chancellor. It is about listening to one another, mutual respect, and openness.