The German economy has long been rooted in the country’s industrial prowess. But with energy prices skyrocketing, many companies face a murky future. Some have begun considering relocation, highlighting a possible long-term threat to the country’s business model.
By Martin Hesse, Simon Hage, Simon Book, Gerald Traufetter, Michael Sauga, Benedikt Müller-Arnold und Marcel Rosenbach
Sep. 21, 2022
German Employers’ Day, the annual gathering in Berlin hosted by the Confederation of German Employers’ Associations (BDA), has long been a target of protesters. Leftists on the barricades, climate activists – most of the people who attend the event hardly even notice anymore.
But even the police were surprised by a small group of demonstrators that turned up last Tuesday to voice their displeasure. It included a dozen men and women in business attire who formally shook hands in greeting before carrying sacks of coal from a green van to prepare for their vigil in front of Berlin’s now defunct urban airport, Tempelhof. Strange times.
The group is called Die Jungen Unternehmer, or “the young entrepreneurs,” and they gathered just in time for the appearance inside of German Economy Minister Robert Habeck, their sworn enemy. The young executives don Habeck masks, grab bundles of fake 50-euro notes and gather around a metal firepit full of charcoal. Three, two, one – then they throw the bundles of money into the pit and launch into a chant in favor of using coal and nuclear to prop up Germany’s teetering power supply. They also hold up signs warning of insolvency and demanding that Habeck put a stop to the “price explosion.” The minister, they say, is burning money instead of coal – money belonging to them and to German consumers.
Inside, BDA President Rainer Dulger’s tone is far from rosy. Only state aid, he says, can prevent companies from going bankrupt due to the rapidly rising prices for gas and electricity. It is a sentiment that can be heard everywhere in Germany as summer draws to a close. Collapse, company relocations, deindustrialization: Those are the terms being used by employee representatives and company executives as they heap pressure on Germany’s political leaders to do something.
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