In a bizarre interview on Tuesday evening, German Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck claimed that in order to avoid potential bankruptcy due to the ongoing energy crisis “certain industries will stop producing”.
Appearing on the Maischberger German talk show, Vice Chancellor and Minister for Economic Affairs Robert Habeck said that in light of potential energy shortages and soaring prices in the coming months, some businesses may be forced to close their doors and shut down for a time.
When pressed by host Sandra Maischberger if he expects a wave of bankruptcies throughout Germany in the Winter, Habeck said: “No, I don’t,” adding: “I can imagine that certain industries will just stop producing. [So they] don’t become insolvent.”
Pressing the Economy Minister on his strange logic, the interviewer asked: “How can [businesses] not expect big losses if they pay people but don’t sell anything anymore?”
Apparently flustered by the line of questioning, the Green Party politician said that although some firms “may stop selling” they would only go bankrupt if “you make an ever greater losses with work.”
The German business monthly Manager Magazin surmised that perhaps the minister remained so “vague” during the interview because he was hesitant to commit the government to future bailouts of companies as was done during lockdowns.
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Nevertheless, Habeck’s comments drew swift criticism, with leader of the Christian Democrat Union (CDU) opposition party, Friedrich Merz mocking the Vice Chancellor’s “helpless” performance from the floor of the Bundestag.
“One can only hope that a large part of German entrepreneurs were already asleep yesterday,” Merz jested.
CDU Secretary General Mario Czaja added: “Next chapter: This is not a blackout. We just don’t have electricity anymore.”
The admission from Habeck that industries may need to shut down came just hours before Chancellor Olaf Scholz claimed that Germany is “well-placed” for the Winter, highlighting that the country has been able to fill its emergency storage facilities to 86 per cent over the Summer and that his government has moved to restart coal-fire power plants, an embarrassing move for the left-wing coalition government, but perhaps a necessary one after over a decade of failed attempts to gain self-sufficiency through so-called green alternatives such as solar and wind.
Despite the claims from Scholz, Germany is still facing a rough road ahead. Following the shut down of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline a little over a week ago — largely seen as a retaliatory move against European sanctions — Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened to cut off all energy supplies to the European Union on Wednesday.
The threat from the Russian leader came in response to a proposal from EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen earlier in the day to impose a price cap on Russian energy imports, a move which Mr Putin described as unacceptable.
In a grim turn of phrase, the EU president went on to call for mandatory energy rationing throughout the bloc during peak hours in the Winter to “flatten the curve” of demand, raising comparisons to the early days of the Chinese coronavirus crisis and potentially foretelling of years of energy shortages in Europe.
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