"Good afternoon," said Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz as he welcomed the 150 or so guests to the Mark Fortress in Magdeburg for the second Chancellor Dialogue, “I am delighted that we can all gather here together to discuss these issues – that is an essential aspect of our democracy.” Dialogue is still the best way to tackle the questions of the future "that move you, the concerns that we all have", the Federal Chancellor said.
In response to the first question of the evening about what he associated with Saxony-Anhalt, Scholz said: "Being from Hamburg, the river that connects everything, the Elbe, that's something that's also a special thing for me."
The Federal Chancellor said the following ...
… about further relief measures
Kristin Musche, a young mother from Magdeburg, who is currently on parental leave and is considering whether or not she should return to full-time work, asked the Federal Chancellor how he planned to curb rising inflation to which Scholz replied: "We have said that we will not abandon our citizens, which is why we started initiating relief measures at a very early stage; so many, in fact, that no one can remember them."
These, he continued, include the nine-euro ticket, the three-month petrol station discounts, the abolition of the EEG levy, the monthly child supplement, the one-off child bonus, the one-off payment under the basic income support scheme, the heating cost subsidy, the flat-rate energy price allowance for employed persons liable to income tax, the reduction of VAT on gas, and the increase in the employee and commuter allowance.
"And what I want to assure you of now," the Chancellor said, "is that it doesn't stop at what I just listed. We are working very hard to launch a third relief package because nobody can simply take that on the chin, except for those who really have a lot of money. But that's not the majority in our country.
... on support for pensioners
The situation of pensioners would also be carefully scrutinised, said Scholz. When quizzed by a pensioner as to where his demographic group stood in terms of relief efforts, the Federal Chancellor said: “When considering the third relief package, we also want to ask ourselves whether we are taking everyone into account and who else needs to be considered." In addition, he continued, a major housing allowance reform was being planned, which would also expand the circle of those entitled to it. "We are currently working out how exactly to do that and how best to do it in such a way that not only will there be support available, but that there will also be many more who benefit from it than is currently the case, because that is fair," Scholz explained.
... on the war in Ukraine
Michael Fischer from Magdeburg expressed his concerns and asked whether the arms deliveries to Ukraine were also gradually increasing the risk of war for us. In response, the Chancellor assured him that Germany would continue to act in a prudent and carefully considered manner: "Because in everything we do, our goal is to support Ukraine, but also to avoid any escalation of the war, which would then no longer be a war between Russia and Ukraine, but a completely different war. And you can rest assured that we will always have the prudence, the clarity of mind, and the firmness to take decisions in accordance with this principle."
... on the energy supply
One participant also expressed her concern about the gas supply issues and the situation of small businesses, to which Scholz replied: "Naturally, we are also working to ensure that businesses are maintained, jobs are preserved, and that we get through this period, not only with the relief packages we have already talked about, but also by introducing other support measures specifically for businesses."
In addition, he continued, as early as last December, Germany had looked closely at the question of what would happen if gas supplies were to be cut off. "We then looked into it and by the time the war started, we had already learned a great deal and were in a position to take decisions. We took the decision, for example, to start building pipelines to the coasts of northern Germany at breakneck speed which involves a lot of legal changes, and to build terminals so that we can have gas delivered to us by ship, like most countries in the world."
In addition, a number of other measures were adopted concerning such things as the filling of the gas storage facilities: "Currently, we are already at over 80 percent and still want to reach 85 and 95 percent. We have already announced that we will be restarting the coal-fired power plants that were previously shut down but are ready for operations, and that we will also continue to use lignite for a little longer. We're even looking into whether it would make sense for the three remaining nuclear power plants to use a little of the remaining power they have.” Scholz said he was hoping we would get through the winter in good shape with all of these aids and measures.
... on sanctions against Russia
"Can we actually afford to give up trade with Russia?" asked another participant during the Chancellor Dialogue. "Along with many other states, we did not decide on these sanctions because we had always wanted to. In fact, we really struggled with the decision. But the way we see it is that we are supporting Ukraine so that they can defend themselves. We want to avoid any escalation of the war." This included using the effective instrument Germany had at its disposal to convince Russia that things couldn't go on like this, said the Federal Chancellor
"The sanctions are very, very effective,” said Scholz. No country in the world would have a future if it were excluded from economic and technical progress, he added. "And when a country such as Russia, which has very few enterprises and technologies that are as advanced as ours, can no longer participate in this, then the effect is extremely dramatic. And the intention is to help bring an end to the war."
... on the future of bus and rail
A young man from Magdeburg asked the Chancellor about the future of the nine-euro ticket and of trains as a whole. The Federal Chancellor responded by saying that now that many citizens had made use of the nine-euro ticket and found it a great improvement, the Federal Government wanted to develop it into something new. "Volker Wissing, Minister of Digital Affairs and Transport, is currently looking into how we might be able to develop something in collaboration with the federal states and the municipalities that will help ensure that rather than continuing with the nine-euro ticket, we end up with something that is just as attractive and that makes use of the benefits and the knowledge we gained in the process," said Scholz.
With respect to the future of bus and rail, the Chancellor said that it involved many long-term investments. "But we want to do it by investing more money in German rail transport and ensuring that rail travel becomes more attractive."
... on the legalisation of cannabis
20-year-old Karsten-William Müller from Magdeburg was interested to know when cannabis was going to be legalised, to which the Federal Chancellor had a clear answer: "In the current legislative period," adding that he readily admitted to having had to bring himself to feel confident that this was the right thing to do: "Firstly, because I have never smoked weed and secondly, of course, I think that there are problems with all drugs" – and consequences for one's personal health. "But we came to the conclusion that times are changing, which is why we are going to do this. And the plan is for it to happen pretty quickly, too."
Participation by lottery
It was left to the 150 or so participants from Magdeburg and the surrounding region, who were selected via an independent lottery procedure conducted at the Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg in which citizens aged 16 and over were able to participate, to decide which topics and questions they wanted to discuss with the Federal Chancellor.
"It was a good and very intelligent discussion"
Participants had the opportunity to take a souvenir photo with the Federal Chancellor at the subsequent meet & greet session. Summing up after his second Chancellor Dialogue, Olaf Scholz said: "It was a good and very intelligent discussion – and it was an enjoyable evening for me, too".
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. The first Chancellor's Dialogue was held on 11 July 2022 in Lübeck (Schleswig-Holstein), and the next citizens' dialogue event is scheduled to take place in Essen (North Rhine-Westphalia) on 1 September 2022.