Popular Unrest over Price Inflation Growing in Germany
Given the government’s stubborn intent to stick with its energy transition and the EU’s Green Deal, in spite of a few forced concessions, Germany is much more vulnerable than the rest of the European Union to the inflation of energy prices, which is making gas and electricity unaffordable for the population and industry. As a result, the EU’s largest economy is facing a growing wave of protests.
Economy Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) has made himself a prime target of the anger, with his empty re-assurances and incompetent talk about economic realities. For example, during the popular talk show Maischberger on Sept. 6, asked whether he expected a wave of insolvencies at the end of winter, Habeck answered with an unequivocal “no”. But then he got completely confused in his ensuing explanation: “I can imagine that certain branches will simply stop producing to begin with. Not become insolvent.” And it got worse from there, as he admitted that bakeries and other small shops could have problems because consumers, with less money available, would have to buy cheaper bread and other goods from discounters. But then, “the small shops would not automatically become insolvent, but they might stop selling.” When the interviewer asked how they could avoid shutting down, if they continue to pay wages, but no longer sell anything, Habeck tried to save face by saying that companies may have to give up their activity, if the government provides no remedy, but that does not mean a wave of insolvencies.
The videoclip of Habeck’s incompetent blathering went viral, and calls for his resignation came not only from the opposition but also from members of the government coalition.
Meanwhile, craftsmen and the owners of restaurants, hotels, and small and medium enterprises, whose energy bills are rising by a factor of 10 or more, have been issuing daily calls in the media for urgent government intervention to stop the inflation. But politicians prefer to stupidly repeat that “Russia is to blame”, while refusing to address the root of the problem. If the many professional associations that are considering further actions go beyond their traditional sectorial boundaries and join forces, a “hot autumn” is indeed in store. This would also lead the labor unions, which have remained relatively quiet in order to avoid putting too much pressure on a social-democratic Chancellor Olaf Scholz, to take a stance openly. Whether the ruling coalition in Berlin, whose popularity was just slightly above 25% last week, could survive a wave of protests, is doubtful.