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Winter of 2022 is a challenge for Germany because of gas shortage: Berlin India scholar  

Energy crisis is an opportunity for innovation for new technology, says Henning Rehbaum

September 25, 2022 01:55 am | Updated 07:50 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Dr. Stefan Tetzlaff (left) with MP Rehbaum (right)

Dr. Stefan Tetzlaff (left) with MP Rehbaum (right) | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The war in Ukraine has affected German economy like other major economies of the world but the situation is expected to worsen in the coming months as the energy sector is facing a crunch, said a leading German historian of modern industry and economy. In an exclusive interview to The Hindu, Berlin-based Dr. Stefan Tetzlaff, who is an advisor to opposition Christian Democratic Union (CDU) MP Henning Rehbaum said that „the energy crisis represents a very bleak period, but it also offers opportunities for diversification and technology innovation.“ The CDUs pragmatic approach is to support the diversification and build-up of new energy sources at home and from abroad.  

“The war in Ukraine, inflation and global trade issues like supply chain problems have impacted countries across the world in different ways. The German economy so far is better-off than many other economies, but the worst is yet to come. Gas shortages in the winter months are projected to hurt industries and private consumers in Germany,” said Dr. Tetzlaff.   

The war in Ukraine confronted Germany with a problem as it had to take a call on the consensus politics over energy relations with Russia that had progressively become a part of the governments under SPD Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and CDU Chancellor Angela Merkel. This continuity was expected to be upheld even as Germany voted for a new coalition government under Social Democratic Party (SPD)‘s Chancellor Olaf Scholz following the exit of Ms. Merkel who had a stint from 2005-2021.  

However, the war that erupted on February 24 “has turned much of this understanding (consensus) on its head”, said Dr. Tetzlaff. He said that the Germany-Russia partnership grew during Schroeder-Merkel years because Berlin had felt attracted to “Russian gas as a cheap alternative to other energy sources.“ This partnership also arose as a result of the energy transition away from fossil fuels and atomic energy towards green energy, in which gas represented a bridge technology. 

The growing security concerns of Germany after the beginning of the Russian campaign had a reflection in the victory that the CDU achieved in May in Schleswig-Holstein state election. The victory of the centre-right party was seen as a response to Chancellor Scholz’s handling of the Ukraine crisis. In the Schleswig-Holstein election, the ruling SPD came third after the Greens and CDU. “Today, 7 months into the Ukraine conflict, we speak from an entirely different standpoint. Now Germany and the EU are increasingly aware that Russia uses energy dependency and other trade matters in coercive ways, trying to push EU countries to the brink of social disharmony and collapse,” Dr. Tetzlaff said.   

The German historian and policy advisor pointed out that apart from the growing realisation about Russia’s economic and energy tactics, CDU continues to have a strand of pragmatism in economic and energy questions that had become prominent especially during the Merkel era. But today, the CDU favours economic sanctions on Russia, support for Ukraine and policies that decrease energy dependency“, said Dr. Tetzlaff. 

The CDU, Dr. Tetzlaff says, is more generally stressing “pragmatic, market-friendly and technology open approaches in energy, transport and industry sectors.” This demand is important at a time when Germany’s world-famous large corporations as well as its SMEs - often called “Hidden Champions” for their high-quality product engineering and global market success - need to “expand their economic relations with new partners around the world to keep up market shares and growth potential”. 

“The CDU would certainly encourage Germany and India to negotiate on these aspects and foster new initiatives,” said Dr. Tetzlaff. 

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