Berlin May 10th is about billions. In view of the increasing number of refugees, Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) and the Prime Ministers are meeting. The federal states and municipalities are demanding more money from the federal government, which Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP) strictly rejects.
In the run-up to the summit, both sides are now collecting figures for their arguments. The federal government is referring to the many billions that it is already making available.
The federal government is spending almost 27 billion euros this year to deal with the refugee crisis. This emerges from an internal template from the Federal Ministry of Finance, which is available to the Handelsblatt.
The federal government is using a total of eleven billion euros to combat the causes of flight. The federal government spends 9.5 billion euros on social transfers after asylum procedures, 2.82 billion euros go to the federal states and municipalities as relief. Last year, the federal government spent 30 billion euros in this area.
The data will be included in a report on refugee and integration costs, which is expected to go to the Federal Cabinet at the beginning of May, shortly before the special summit.
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According to the Federal Ministry of Finance, the figures show that the federal government “is not leaving the federal states and municipalities alone to deal with this extraordinary situation”. And this despite the fact that, according to the constitution, it is the responsibility of the federal states to take in, house and care for refugees – “also from a financial point of view”, as the Ministry of Finance emphasizes.
The federal government feels excluded from the states
Even before the summit on May 10, the tone between the federal and state governments regarding the financing of refugee costs has become sharper.
For example, in the new monthly report, the Federal Ministry of Finance distributes heavily against the federal states with a view to the total payments by the federal government. “The imbalance in the distribution of finances between the federal and state governments is increasingly restricting the federal government’s options for action,” says the report. The federal states and the local authorities would have to strengthen their personal responsibility again and finance their “original tasks” themselves. “The federal government will not be able to continue to provide further financial relief for the states and municipalities.”
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The Bundestag now wants to put a stop to further aid to the federal states. At the end of March, the budget committee passed a resolution in which the budget politicians rejected all demands from the federal states for more money.
The budget holders point out that the federal government is already transferring many funds to the states. The total relief for states and municipalities from federal funds in 2023 has now totaled around 70 billion euros.
That is why there must be a “change of course” and the state levels have to return to a “tax distribution that takes the interests of the federal government into account”, the budget politicians are demanding. The federal states should finance themselves “more independently again in the future”.
State finance ministers are calling for support with integration
This in turn angered the state finance ministers. In a joint Handelsblatt guest article, five responsible ministers from the SPD and the Greens wrote Earlier this week, “we as Northern finance ministers and senators can only advise against this course.”
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The integration of refugees is a “great challenge”. According to the finance ministers, only the long-term funding of services gives everyone involved the urgently needed planning security – whether with the Good Day Care Act, local public transport or even with refugee financing.
The municipalities also refer to figures that are intended to underpin the fact that the federal government is by no means as generous as it always does, and that in the end it is the states, cities and municipalities who bear the costs.
In the previous year, the costs for asylum seekers and refugees from the Ukraine amounted to around 4.5 billion euros, according to the German District Association. The situation has deteriorated significantly this year. Asylum applications increased by almost 85 percent in the first two months.
Municipalities expect high burden because of the refugees
Against this background, the district council expects costs of around 6.4 billion euros for the year 2023 for asylum seekers alone. If the expenses for the Ukraine refugees remain constant, about one billion euros will be added. The bottom line is that the total costs are around 7.6 to eight billion euros.
And there could be more. These costs also included, for example, unspecified expenses for unaccompanied minor refugees, basic security benefits and integration in day care centers and schools.
The general manager of the German Association of Towns and Municipalities, Gerd Landsberg, explained that the reimbursements from the federal government to the states and municipalities for refugee costs were “far from sufficient”.
Too little attention is paid to the fact that the municipalities are not only responsible for the accommodation and care of refugees, but also have to create additional daycare places and capacities in schools “on a large scale”. “At the same time, the prices for apartments or the necessary conversion measures for real estate are rising unchecked,” said Landsberg.
It is also completely open what funds the municipalities will receive in 2024. “But that is indispensable for the necessary planning,” said Landsberg. If a municipality wants to convert a property in a commercial area today, it needs to know what costs will be reimbursed next year.
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“It is therefore correct that the federal states expect a significant increase in federal participation,” emphasized Landsberg. After all, it is “a task for society as a whole”. And it needs a long-term strategy.
There is therefore a “permanent” need for more initial reception facilities from the federal and state governments that can be used at short notice. “This would also have the advantage that in the event of natural disasters, such as in the Ahr Valley, short-term living space can also be made available for those affected,” explained Landsberg.
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