Why Gifhorn? Many of the participants of the fourth citizens’ dialogue asked themselves this question on Tuesday night. The district town in Lower Saxony with its population of around 43,000 is, after all, the smallest stop of the Chancellor Dialogue series to date. “Germany doesn't just consist of big cities,” Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz said, adding that this was why it was important to him to answer the questions of citizens in other communities, too. “So I am happy to be in Gifhorn today.”
Around 150 citizens from Gifhorn and the surrounding region had 90 minutes in which they were able to ask Federal Chancellor Scholz questions.
And this is what the Federal Chancellor said ...
... about the issue of energy supply
Ensuring energy supply had been a major task in the current situation, he said. It had been managed successfully, based on a range of measures, explained Scholz, pointing out that the gas storage facilities were now about 98 percent full, which was a far higher level than last year. The Federal Government had also arranged for Germany to be able to import more gas from other countries, such as Norway and Belgium, he said. In addition, the Federal Government had decided that the three remaining nuclear power stations would continue to operate over the winter, Scholz pointed out. The Federal Chancellor continued to explain that Germany was also expanding its import capacities for gas on the coasts of Northern Germany. “At the same time we're doing all we can to reduce energy prices, because we're focussing on what will be the cheapest solution in the long run – and that's renewable energies.”
... about climate change
“We must do everything to protect our climate – and it's high time we took action here.” The Federal Chancellor stressed that climate protection was a global task, and that it was important not to lose hope. He said that he was optimistic that we would be able to “avert the worst”, adding that Germany had a key role to play in the fight against climate change. “We're among the very few countries capable of developing the technologies needed for climate-neutral progress.” He mentioned that it was Germany’s goal to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045, and that the transport sector also played an important role here.
... about the 9-euro ticket and a possible successor
Scholz said that the Federal Government had initiated the 9-euro ticket in summer, and that it had been a great success, “unlike what everybody predicted”. Many citizens had been happy to use the ticket, he said, not only because of the low price, but also because it had made using public transport easier, for example because complicated ticket booking processes had been eliminated. This was why the Federal Government and the federal states had agreed to introduce a nationwide ticket for 49 euros that could be booked digitally and be cancelled on a monthly basis, the Federal Chancellor explained: “The so-called Germany ticket.” He expressed his hope that a large number of citizens would be using this ticket.
... about life as the Federal Chancellor
One participant wanted to know if this was how Scholz had imagined being the Chancellor would be like. “Yes and no,” the Federal Chancellor answered, adding that he had not applied for the position to have a good time, but because he had wanted to serve the country – “and because I believe that I have an idea of what must be done”. The horrific war in Ukraine had now brought big changes for himself and his everyday life as Chancellor, he pointed out.
... about the war in Ukraine
The Federal Chancellor said that like many people, he had thought that the Russian invasion of Ukraine was a possibility, but not the most likely one. It was now important to make balanced, level-headed and correct decisions, Scholz emphasised: “I will not allow myself to be intimidated by somebody making a bit of noise here and there.” Decisions had to be made swiftly, he said, “but we must not be distracted” in this “very dangerous situation”.
... about volunteering
A citizen who is a volunteer fire fighter wanted to know how the Federal Government was planning to promote volunteer work. The Federal Chancellor stressed that volunteering was a tradition that distinguished Germany, and that did not exist in all parts of the world. “I think it's characteristic of our country.” This was why everything had to be done now, he said, to keep this tradition alive. In recent years the Federal Government had improved the financial situation for volunteers in particular, he pointed out, for example through volunteering allowances. “We will continue to work on this.”
... about how much sleep he gets
Another participant asked the Federal Chancellor how many hours he slept on average. “This is a question I never answer for myself, because I’d rather not know,” Scholz replied. “There’s no need to worry too much, though, I still find time to get some sleep” – however, he continued, there were nights when he didn't sleep at all, for example when negotiations continued throughout the night. “But it’s alright, I've been able to handle it so far.”
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.