Laws for faster procedures are delayed

Construction work on a motorway bridge

The traffic light aims to significantly speed up planning processes and infrastructure projects.

(Photo: dpa)

Berlin The next cabinet meeting of the federal government on November 30 should bring a breakthrough in one of the major problems of this time: Large-scale projects such as LNG terminals should not only be able to be built quickly in times of extreme crisis.

Energy routes, wind turbines, motorways, bridges, airports and mobile phone masts should be able to be quickly planned, discussed, approved and then built in the future.

What should happen quickly, however, is delayed further and further. There was a meeting of several ministers with Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) on Monday afternoon. Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP), Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens), Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP), Environment Minister Steffi Lemke (Greens) and Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) diverged without a result, the Handelsblatt learned from government circles.

The cabinet actually wants to adopt the so-called “autumn package” next Wednesday. This includes a legal reform that will improve the coordination of spatial planning and planning approval processes and that planning and approval processes will be digital in the future. Approval periods for land use and development plans are also becoming shorter, and the public will only be involved digitally in the future.

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According to the reform, environmental and nature conservation data will be archived in a digital portal and will be available via maps from 2023. The replacement of dilapidated bridges and minor construction work on the rail network should be simplified.

“Autumn Pack” becomes “Winter Pack”

However, parts of the overall package are politically explosive: on the one hand, Justice Minister Buschmann’s plan to change the administrative court system. Legal proceedings for infrastructure projects are to be prioritized; minor errors in the approval process should no longer be able to stop the entire process, rather they would be corrected afterwards.

On the other hand, a draft law by Transport Minister Wissing, which he presented in the Monday round, is controversial, according to negotiating circles. The FDP politician wants to define infrastructure projects as “projects of public interest” and thus give priority.

In both legislative proposals, Environment Minister Lemke rejected giving priority to roads, bridges or airports. “Not all projects can be accelerated at the same time, the resources of the administrations and courts are not sufficient,” she told the Handelsblatt. The focus must be on projects for the energy transition, energy security and the transformation to climate neutrality. “Speeding up the construction of motorways or airports does not make sense per se because they conflict with the goal of climate neutrality.”

A dinner between Lemke and Wissing was canceled

In the meantime, the environment department has agreed to be able to heal at least small mistakes afterwards in court proceedings – including in road projects. In return, Minister Wissing wants to accommodate environmental concerns in his draft law, it said.

Lemke and Wissing were instructed in the Chancellery on Monday to come to an agreement at another meeting. Tuesday evening both wanted to meet for dinner and discuss the existing problems. But then the minister had to cancel due to illness. The appointment was cancelled, as was an agreement.

According to reports, the departmental vote on Wissing’s proposals should take several weeks anyway, so that this law can under no circumstances be passed by the cabinet next week.

It is uncertain whether the cabinet will discuss the “autumn package” next week. It was heard from government circles that initially only the reform of the administrative court order would probably be decided. The remaining projects would be postponed to a later date and thus inevitably a “winter package”.

The next possible date for a presentation would be December 8th: On that day, Chancellor Scholz wants to decide on a “pact for planning, approval and implementation acceleration” together with the prime ministers of the federal states. According to the draft, it should ensure “a national effort”. Many of the measures of the “autumn package” can be found in it.

More: Lawsuits against wind turbines and power lines – Federal Administrative Court criticizes acceleration plan.

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