When you enter the casting bay of Sayner ironworks in Bendorf, near Koblenz, the huge space with its cast iron arches and curved windows seems almost religious. At the same time, the site’s industrial heritage can be felt everywhere, the hard work that was carried out in the heat of the blast furnaces of this industrial monument. At the beginning of the seventh Chancellor Dialogue, Federal Chancellor Scholz summed up his impressions as: “See how the times are changing.” He also added “Yet Germany will remain a country with a successful industrial base, both despite and also because of climate change.”
Putting health first
As with every other Chancellor Dialogue, the guests could ask questions about their political concerns. The first question came from a man who expressed his concern that a small hospital near where he lived was not being kept going. The Federal Chancellor explained that a change in how hospitals are paid in the form of a basic allowance would put fewer hospitals at risk than had been the case previously where hospitals were paid per case.
A woman suffering from long Covid said she hoped to see quicker approvals for medications. Olaf Scholz said this was an important issue for him personally and that he and the Federal Health Minister wanted to boost research in this area, stressing the need to increase the pace but without compromising safety.
Another woman took a critical view of Coronavirus vaccines. The Federal Chancellor responded that he accepted there were different attitudes towards vaccinations. However, he personally could see a benefit from the many lives which the COVID-19 vaccines had saved. He also said he was happy that a business from Mainz in Rhineland-Palatinate had invented the vaccine.
From child benefits to pensions
A woman asked if the basic child allowance was coming. Scholz assured her that “it says in the coalition agreement that it is coming”. Increases to child benefits and supplementary child allowances had already made important progress, he said. He stressed that the Federal Government wanted to simplify the process so more families could apply for the allowance.
What could pensioners expect given rates of inflation? Pensions follow trends in salaries. “The next time pensions are increased, higher salaries will be channelled into pensions,” Scholz said. Old age poverty must be prevented. Scholz explained that better pension rights, the basic pension and increased reduced earning capacity pensions have already brought about change.
Who came by car today?
Federal Chancellor Scholz and one audience member agreed that the expansion of the rail network must be speeded up. However, he also stressed the need to acknowledge that many people like driving their cars. Scholz also noted that most of the guests had travelled by car that evening, despite the provision of a shuttle bus. Industry intends to and must produce more affordable electric cars so that transport can make a bigger contribution to climate protection, he said.
What are the next steps in climate-friendly heating? Scholz explained that no-one would be asked to undertake an impossible task, and that there were already exceptions in place for older people and people who do not have much money when it comes to converting heating systems. He also added that everyone should find the best technology for their needs. Scholz said it was not just about heat pumps but also about solar energy on the roof or pellet heating systems. In addition to expanding the gas network, a hydrogen network is also to be constructed in Germany.
Red lines for aid to Ukraine?
Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine also featured as a topic during the evening. “Where is the red line for support for Ukraine?” one woman wanted to know. Federal Chancellor Scholz stressed that Germany only acted jointly with friends and allies. He added that it was a priority to prevent an escalation of the conflict or NATO becoming involved.
Germany had announced it would invest 2 percent in defence. One citizen asked when this would happen. Scholz noted that it was often a matter of years between order and fulfilment. He explained that this was why the aim was to ensure ongoing production of main weapons in Germany. The Federal Chancellor also said there would have to be reallocations in the budget in order to reach the 2 percent figure.
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.