Stress tests: Is crisis manager Habeck himself in a crisis?

There are only a few minutes in Sandra Maischberger's program that cause a stir: The talk show host wants to know from Economics Minister Robert Habeck whether he expects a wave of bankruptcies in Germany at the end of this winter.

Stress tests: Is crisis manager Habeck himself in a crisis?

There are only a few minutes in Sandra Maischberger's program that cause a stir: The talk show host wants to know from Economics Minister Robert Habeck whether he expects a wave of bankruptcies in Germany at the end of this winter. The answer of the Green politician: "No, I'm not doing that. I can imagine that certain industries will simply stop producing."

Habeck cites flower shops, health food shops and bakeries as examples because these shops "depend on people spending money". Such companies would then have real problems because there would be a reluctance to buy. "Then they don't automatically become insolvent, but they might stop selling," says Habeck -- causing a mixture of malice, confusion and outrage, especially among the opposition.

Merz certifies Habeck's helplessness

Union politicians accuse him of not knowing anything about his subject. CDU leader Friedrich Merz insists on commenting on the "Maischberger" scenes in the Bundestag: "One can only hope that the majority of German medium-sized entrepreneurs and especially the bakers have already been in bed by this time and slept and didn't have to watch it," says Merz, who certifies that the Economics Minister is helpless in the current crisis.

Habeck's ministry doesn't want to leave it that way. In a longer statement, it says that Habeck wanted to show that the risk of "silent business closures", i.e. business closures without filing for bankruptcy, is a problem for an economy and that the government must keep an eye on both. "Looking at the bankruptcies alone" does not go far enough. For small and medium-sized companies in particular, imminent tasks are a "serious problem" due to the high energy costs. The federal government has that on the screen.

The President of the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) also jumps in with Habeck. Marcel Fratzscher writes on Twitter that his statements are correct. Some hotels would have to close because customers stayed away and costs rose massively. "Temporary closures are not uncommon in the industry."

Habeck has been under pressure for weeks

One thing is clear: Habeck has been under enormous pressure for weeks and months. With the outbreak of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, the energy issue has become the focus of public attention like no other topic. The responsible minister: in permanent crisis mode.

Only recently did he make his first big, obvious mistake: the gas allocation knitted under time pressure. It quickly becomes clear that economically stable gas importers could also benefit from the levy for private households and industry. A design flaw that brings Habeck a lot of malice and urges him to agree to correct the levy. But legally it is complicated. Has the recently popular minister gotten caught in the crisis loop?

Nuclear power plans are not well received

His plan, announced only at the beginning of the week, to keep two nuclear power plants in reserve operation until spring 2023, has met with little approval. But on the contrary:

CSU regional group leader Alexander Dobrindt calls on Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) to stop the plans. "The Federal Chancellor must react now and withdraw the decision immediately and allow the nuclear power plants to continue operating at full capacity," Dobrindt demanded in the "Augsburger Allgemeine". "The Federal Chancellor should pull the plug on (Economics Minister) Robert Habeck." However, Scholz only backed Habeck's plans on Tuesday evening in the face of the criticism that had broken out.

The Isar 2 operator, the Eon subsidiary Preussenelektra, has now stated in a letter to Habeck that it is technically not possible to start up and shut down. This is the hook for Dobrindt's request to Scholz to turn to. However, Habeck had already made it clear that multiple startups and shutdowns were not planned at all - just a one-off decision about the need and then a restart. In addition, in the event of stretching operations lasting several months beyond the turn of the year, the company previously considered a short standstill to be necessary.

Hofreiter: Preussenelektra is about money

Member of the Bundestag Anton Hofreiter, a Green like Habeck, suspects a different motive behind the letter from the Preussenelektra boss about the planned reserve. "Of course he has a very high interest in not doing it that way because: The nuclear power plants are written off - and he earns an incredible amount of money when he comes into automatic stretching," he told the television station Welt.

The President of the Association of the Chemical Industry (VCI), Evonik boss Christian Kullmann, asked Habeck to keep all three nuclear power plants running. "In the current situation, we must not allow ourselves to take power generation capacities off the grid," he told the "Rheinische Post". The stress test for the power infrastructure initiated by Habeck has shown that there is definitely a risk of large-scale power failures.

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