"Germany will still be Germany"
"Liberty, security, justice, solidarity" – these are the values for which the German government is working, in order to give the people in Germany genuine prospects, declared Chancellor Angela Merkel during the budget debate in the German Bundestag.
The 2017 budget is a budget that will shape the future, and provide answers to the problems of our time – but without any new borrowing. The Chancellor stressed that the German government will be spending more for everybody in Germany, not only for refugees.
A year of major decisions
Angela Merkel began by thanking the huge numbers of full-time helpers and volunteers. "Many many people have become involved and many of them have excelled themselves." Germany is in a much better position than it was at the peak of the refugee crisis one year ago, said the Chancellor. Rules and regulations have been revised, processes reconsidered, decisions made more swiftly. "We have now reached a point where refugee movements in Germany are orderly and properly managed," said Angela Merkel. The number of refugees arriving in Germany has dropped significantly. "And we are still meeting our humanitarian responsibilities at national and international level," she underlined.
Funds for integration and tackling the causes of displacement
The draft 2017 budget earmarks almost 19 billion euros for addressing migration and tackling the root causes of displacement. About one billion euros are to be made available for the reception of asylum-seekers and the swift handling of asylum procedures. Federal funding available for integration courses is to be doubled to 610 million euros. In 2017 more than 1.5 billion euros will be available for labour market integration, a sum of 410 million euros for occupation-specific German courses and 300 million euros for job opportunities in refugee integration measures. And the Federal Foreign Office and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development are to receive an additional 2.8 billion euros to help them address the root causes of displacement.
A lot must still be done to integrate refugees, however. Angela Merkel cited the need for them to learn German and the imperative of integrating these people into the labour market. Given the large number of refugees, processes have been improved at the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, while the legislation governing asylum too has been enhanced. It has been a real national effort, she said. More too is being done to assure the safety and security of people in Germany, said Angela Merkel, with a view to the attacks of the summer. A total of 4,200 new jobs are to be created within the federal police force.
She stressed that the problem of terrorism did not enter Germany for the first time with the refugees. At the same time though she reaffirmed that people with no entitlement to stay in Germany must be told bluntly, "You will have to leave our country; otherwise we will not be able to cope with the workload we have."
Once again Angela Merkel affirmed her support for the refugee agreement between the EU and Turkey. If human rights are violated in Turkey we will say so, and when a military coup is attempted, we will condemn it too, she said.
"The agreement with Turkey is a precursor for other agreements of this sort," said Angela Merkel. She gave the examples of Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, which could help destroy the business model of human traffickers and smugglers.
To protect the EU’s external borders and ensure freedom of movement within the EU it is essential to talk to neighbouring countries, said Angela Merkel. Solidarity within Europe leaves a lot to be desired, she criticised, with a view to the refusal of some EU states to accept refugees. More work is needed here, she said.
Giving people prospects
At times of uncertainty in particular, she said, politicians must give people genuine social and economic prospects. The starting point is good, because Germany’s economy is healthy, said Angela Merkel. More and more people are finding jobs and benefiting from the achievements of society. Social welfare is being strengthened, and "we are investing in the future of Germany as a location for business, because we are very well aware that the rest of the world is not sleeping," said the Chancellor.
The world is in a critical state, said Angela Merkel, but in Germany financial order rules, the economy is robust and social cohesion is good. That is indispensable and also helps give the people in Germany support and orientation, as well as genuine prospects.
Private consumption is the driver of Germany’s growth, she continued. Angela Merkel pointed out that unemployment is at its lowest level for 25 years. Purchasing power has risen, as have old age pensions and student loans. Social spending has risen to 187 billion euros. The Chancellor stressed, "We have used our robust income to strengthen social welfare."
At the same time the German government is investing in the future of the country, she said. The Chancellor pointed to increases in funding for research and development, traffic and transport, extending broadband coverage and other strategically important areas including microelectronics.
"Change is not a bad thing "
"What sort of a country do we want to be in the 21st century?" asked the Chancellor, and pointed out that since the Federal Republic of Germany was founded, Germany has changed repeatedly. "Change is not a bad thing. Change is an essential part of our lives," said Angela Merkel. The preconditions for Germany’s strength are reflected in liberalism, democracy, the rule of law and our commitment to the social market economy. And that will not change, declared the Chancellor.
Angela Merkel closed her speech by pointing out that "Germany will still be Germany, with all that is precious to us."