By Maria Martinez
BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany’s budget committee interrupted final deliberations on the 2024 draft budget early on Friday morning, according to the chief budget officers of the coalition government, after a constitutional court ruling threw negotiations into disarray.
Germany’s ruling coalition is scrambling to fix a large hole in its finances after a court ruling blocked the government from transferring 60 billion euros ($65 billion) in unused funds from the pandemic towards green initiatives and industry support.
The contents of the ministries’ budgets have been finalised during the committee meeting, the budget officers said.
Some specific expenditure allocations, however, will be discussed next Thursday in detail, after a special meeting on Tuesday to discuss the impact of the constitutional court ruling.
Final key budget figures and new debt figures will be made public after the meeting next Thursday, instead of this week as previously expected.
One of the two sections of the budget that couldn’t be finalised contains key projects such as doubling military aid to Ukraine to 8 billion euros in the coming year.
On Wednesday, the constitutional court decision prompted the government to postpone the formal vote of the budget committee until next Thursday.
Despite the court ruling, the 2024 budget is expected to be passed as planned at the end of the Bundestag’s budget week on Dec. 1, according to members of the budget committee.
The chief budget officers of the coalition government accused the opposition of refusing to cooperate in budget deliberations.
“We call on the CDU/CSU to deal responsibly with the court ruling and its consequences instead of blocking work in parliament,” they said.
Friedrich Merz, whose main opposition Christian Democratic Union party is suing the government, said his party is considering a new lawsuit against the 200 billion euro Economic Stabilisation Fund (ESF).
After the verdict, there are three requirements that a fund must fulfil to comply with the constitutional budget rules; one of them is a clear connection between the emergency for which an exemption to the debt brake is invoked, and the spending measures.
The ESF was created in 2020 with the objective of supporting companies amid the coronavirus pandemic but since last year it has focused on the energy crisis.
There are 29 special funds at the federal level, with a total volume of 869 billion euros, according to the independent auditing institution Bundesrechnungshof.
It is not clear which of these funds are at risk, with the exception of the 100-billion euro special fund for Germany’s army, which is covered by a separate constitutional exemption from the debt brake.
For an EXPLAINER on the impact of the budget ruling, see Full Story