Shortly before the refugee summit, the tone between the federal and state governments is intensifying: the federal states accuse the Chancellery of incorrect calculations in an internal paper. In fact, the federal government has even scaled back its aid in recent years despite rising numbers of refugees, according to the 15-page paper of the Finance Ministers' Conference, which is available to the Reuters news agency. It was sent to the other 15 states on Sunday evening by the Lower Saxony Presidency of the Minister-Presidents' Conference (MPK). On Wednesday, Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz will meet with the 16 state premiers.
The argument that the federal government has an ever-decreasing share of tax revenues is also disputed. "According to the delimitation of official statistics, in 2021 the federal government's share of tax revenue was 41.2 percent, while the state share is 40.5 percent," the paper says. "With all understanding for the inconveniences of fiscal policy in times of tightening financial leeway, the federal government must finally begin to solve its budget problems in its own expenditure positions and not conduct a sham debate that the states are to blame for its budget problems."
Countries demand 1000 euros per refugee
For its part, the federal government rejects an increase in allocations demanded by the states, arguing that, according to the Basic Law, the states and municipalities are responsible and that the federal government has voluntarily taken over benefits in recent years that would already amount to 2023.15 billion euros in 6 via various pots.
While the federal government points out that the number of asylum seekers is now at about the same level as in 2014 – i.e. before the federal government massively invested in financial aid – the new state paper argues differently: In 2022, there were 244,000 asylum applications (initial and subsequent applications), a lower number than in 2015/16. However, it is significantly higher than in all other years. In addition, reference is made to the dynamics: The number of asylum applications (excluding Ukraine war refugees) since 2022 has already been more than 20 percent higher than in 2014 and in the first three months of 2023 another 80 percent higher than a year ago.
The paper even flatly denies the federal government's account: "The previous peak of federal payments to the states in the context of refugee financing was 2016.9 billion euros in 1. In 2023, the federal government will provide a total of 2.75 billion euros in refugee-related benefits to the states. In 2024, the amount will fall to €1.25 billion and will remain unchanged at this level under current law."
Among other things, the states are calling on the federal government to return to a lump sum per case per refugee. Instead of the previous lump sum of 670 euros per month, however, they now want a higher amount. "An update on the latest data basis would result in an amount of about 1000 euros per refugee," the paper says.
Green Party chairman Ricarda Lang joined the demand of the federal states for more money from the federal government. One of the "real problems" on the ground is "above all the lack of money," Lang said on Sunday evening in the ARD program "Report from Berlin". "Now it's a matter of protecting particularly burdened communities."
Federal government apparently against significant increase in financial aid
Lang told the "Stuttgarter Zeitung" and the "Stuttgarter Nachrichten" that the municipalities had "done an incredible job last year". She thinks it would be "wrong for the federal and state governments to point at each other and emphasize what they have already done," she added. There is a common interest in ensuring that good solutions can be found on the ground. "If support is needed for this, the federal government must help, including financially," said the Green Party chairwoman.
Lang's stance on the financing of the costs contradicts a draft resolution of the traffic light government, which was presented to the ARD capital studio. Accordingly, the federal government is not planning a significant increase in refugee aid for states and municipalities. The paper states that the federal government is already providing billions of dollars in support, while states and municipalities are recording billions in surpluses.
North Rhine-Westphalia's Prime Minister Hendrik Wüst (CDU) called on the federal government to cover at least half of the costs for accommodation and integration of refugees. "The 16 states have agreed across party lines that the federal government and the states should share the costs, i.e. at least 50:50," Wüst told the Düsseldorf-based "Rheinische Post" and the Bonn-based "General-Anzeiger".