Schleweis: Financing energy independence has priority Intake of refugees is a litmus test for Germany
16.03.2022 - Press release Nr. 11
In the view of the Savings Banks Finance Group, the experience of war in Ukraine must be seen as a wake-up call for Europe to free itself from one-sided energy, raw material and digital dependencies and to achieve greater European sovereignty. “Globalisation will not end in 2022; however, it will have to be re-assessed”, said Helmut Schleweis, President of the German Savings Banks Association (DSGV) at the financial press conference of the Savings Banks Finance Group in Berlin today.
Schleweis criticised the fact that Germany and large parts of the EU had become dependent in recent years – and hence open to blackmail – above all on the supply of fossil fuels from Russia. This strategic error should be corrected as soon as possible. “Apart from diversifying our supply relationships, we will need to switch to renewable energy sources and – more importantly – save energy. Anyone still unconvinced of the importance of combating climate change must by now support efforts to achieve greater energy independence”, said Schleweis. This would have to happen much more quickly and would require much more capital than previously planned. For the Savings Banks Finance Group, it was a national duty to focus its business policy on expanding renewables and on improving the energy efficiency of buildings.
Schleweis observed that a fundamental conflict between democracies and autocratic or, worse, dictatorial regimes is increasingly apparent around the globe. In his view, Europe’s access not only to energy but also to strategically important raw materials is not secure enough. However, key future technologies depend on them. For this reason, Schleweis proposed reappraising China’s “New Silk Road” strategy.
The DSGV President called on German companies to think about realigning their supply relationships. Relocating strategically important manufacturing back to the EU or to the western world, diversifying supply relationships, boosting domestic production and reviewing just-in-time deliveries in favour of bigger inventories were current issues that could not be ignored.
Schleweis argued that the sanctions have affected Russia’s economic and financial survival. They were indispensable. However, they would also have a significant impact on German businesses and consumers. While the direct effects were manageable in view of Russia’s low share of German exports, significant second-round and third-round effects were expected due to anticipated price rises for energy, food and logistics and to the disruption of supply chains. For this reason, Schleweis welcomed the German government’s plans to cushion high energy costs, to introduce an initial low-income supplement and to provide selective assistance for hard-hit enterprises.
In the next few weeks, Germany also expected to take in the biggest wave of refugees since World War II. The challenges would be much greater than in 2015. Receiving and integrating the refugees would be a litmus test for the entire country. These people would probably need to stay longer than they themselves would like. It was all the more important to enable these mostly highly skilled and extremely industrious people to enter employment quickly. Since Savings Banks are local institutions, they support local authorities, in particular by providing bank accounts, which are crucial for obtaining access to government benefits. It is already possible, he added, to open an account with a Ukrainian ID card.
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