Money Grab

Budget Row Brewing in Berlin

reufgees in line-michael kappeler-dpa
Billions of euros will be needed to pay for the influx of refugees.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    German lawmakers have made clear they’re not going to allow the government to spend its 2015 budget surplus on anything other than the refugee crisis.

  • Facts


    • Thanks to buoyant economic growth, the government reached a budget surplus of €12.1 billion in 2015 — twice as much as had been expected just two months ago.
    • The government wants to use some of that money to boost defense spending and introduce purchase subsidies for electric cars.
    • Lawmakers have vowed to prevent extra spending despite the surplus, saying it must all be set aside to cover the costs of the refugee crisis.
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The 41 lawmakers on Germany’s budget committee are powerful people, at least nominally. They make a show of their strength every November when they make cabinet ministers wait outside their meeting room, often until late into the night, before calling them in to draw red lines through their spending plans.

It’s up to the lawmakers, not the finance minister, to approve every single cent of expenditure for the ministries. But they have had their wings clipped over the past year, and they’re angry about it.

First, they were all but forced to sign off on billions of euros of fresh guarantees for Greece that Chancellor Angela Merkel had pledged in European Union talks to stave off a Greek default and a possible disintegration of the euro zone. Now, they’ve got to make further billions available to pay for the influx of refugees, which totalled 1.1 million in 2015 alone and is continuing this year at the rate of some 4,000 people per day.

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