January 19, 2022

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Merkel Follows Through On Her Threat To Limit Powers Of Federal States

4 min read

Angela Merkel has carried out her threats of recent weeks on Tuesday: at a meeting of her cabinet, the federal government of the Grand Coalition – made up of the conservatives of the CDU-CSU and the Social Democrats of the SPD – approved a reform of the so-called law of infection protection that limits the competences of the 16 federal states in fighting the pandemic.

“The federal emergency brake is late, and although it is a difficult decision, today we must again remember that the situation is serious and that we all have to take it seriously,” said Merkel to justify a legal reform not without controversy.

Merkel had repeatedly criticized in the past the inability of the German federal system to deal in a unitary manner with the health crisis and also the prime ministers of the federal states for not enforcing restrictive measures harshly enough, including some of your own party.

With the legislative reform, the federal government intends to apply the same restrictions in all the country’s districts when the incidence exceeds 100 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants within a week. That is the barrier that the German federal executive considers critical to avoid a collapse of the health system.

In those districts in which this incidence is overcome, the regional and local authorities will have to enforce a series of additional restrictions to those already in force throughout the country: limitation of private meetings to a home plus an external person, not counting minors of 14 years; night curfews between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. for those citizens who do not have a justification to leave their home; closure of all leisure or sports venues ; closing of shops and markets with the exception of grocery stores, beverages, pharmacies, opticians, gas stations, among other places considered by the authorities of first necessity;mandatory use of FPP2 masks or equivalent in means of transport and other places considered essential such as hairdressers -in the latter, customers will have to present a negative test that does not take more than 24 hours-; The tourism also would be absolutely prohibited.

School closings
The legislative reform provides for the closure of schools and other educational centers with face-to-face classes from an incidence of 200 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants. In this way, the federal government leaves a little margin in the so-called federal “emergency brake” for families in need of the support of educational centers in order to organize their day-to-day life.

The decision taken on Tuesday by the Ministerial Cabinet led by Merkel has yet to be approved by the Bundestag -lower house- and by the Bundesrat -a territorial chamber made up precisely of representatives of the governments of the 16 federal states-.

“The faster the better,” Merkel said at a press conference in reference to the approval by the legislative power of the reform of the legal body on which the harsh restrictions on individual freedoms contained in the German Constitution are based.

It is taken for granted that the reform passes without difficulty through the Bundestag with the support of the government parties -CDU-CSU and SPD- and with the support of the eco-liberal Los Verdes, who will possibly demand some change in the legislative reform. To see is the reaction of the Bundesrat.

Criticisms of the opposition
The liberal-conservative party of the FDP , one of the voices most critical of the restrictions against the pandemic of the parliamentary opposition, sees serious constitutional problems in the federal “emergency brake” defended by Merkel.

The Left , a formation of ex-social democrats and post-communists, go a step further in their criticism of legal reform, which they see as an attempt to drain Parliament of power. One of the main criticisms of the Left is the curfew, which they consider “ineffective” and “disproportionate.” The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) also rejects the reform and even threatens to take it to court as unconstitutional.

Angela Merkel has already shown in the past not to flinch from criticism for the management of the pandemic or for the harsh and long restrictions that her government is assuming. She also does not seem very concerned about the possible political price that her party, the CDU, may have to pay in the federal elections next September, to which she will no longer run. Armin Laschet , president of the CDU, prime minister of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia and a possible Christian Democratic candidate for chancellor , has been precisely one of the voices that has questioned certain strategies of Merkel in the face of the third wave of the pandemic. For this he received open criticism from the chancellor.

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