Lower Saxony’s Prime Minister Stephan Weil (SPD) sees his state well positioned – despite the coronavirus pandemic and climate change. An interview.
Hanover – Lower incidences, lower death toll and often pioneers when it comes to sensible tightening of the corona rules: Lower Saxony is getting through the pandemic relatively well compared to other federal states. The reason for this, what long-term economic consequences the state expects from the crisis and how he wants to make the state climate-neutral in the long term, is what Lower Saxony’s Prime Minister Stephan Weil (SPD) tells in an exclusive interview kreiszeitung.de*. The conversation also deals with the challenges posed by climate change, the future of the automobile and the upcoming state elections in Lower Saxony in October 2022.
|Position:||Prime Minister of Lower Saxony|
Interview with Stephan Weil: “Corona pandemic is the biggest crisis in the country’s history”
The coronavirus pandemic has been with us for almost two years now. What did you learn about yourself and the people in your federal state during this time, Mr. Weil?
The coronavirus pandemic is the biggest crisis in the country’s history and a very difficult time for me personally. We have been in permanent crisis management for almost two years. My attachment to our state of Lower Saxony has grown even deeper as a result of the crisis. I also notice that when I’m out and about in Lower Saxony – it’s always touching for me when people approach me and say thank you for our work despite all the pressure.
In your New Year’s speech, you said that we “did it all together quite well” in Lower Saxony. What do you think is the reason why Lower Saxony is getting through the pandemic comparatively well?
Clearly: To the people! The majority of Lower Saxony residents have been behaving very responsibly and considerately for almost two years. We also have Monday walks, but they are smaller and quieter than in other countries.
And how did you contribute politically?
Politically, we were always cautious as a team. And that will remain so. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have had the second lowest number of infections and, above all, the number of deaths. The forecasts for the economy in Lower Saxony are above the national average. That’s also plausible: if you weren’t quite so deep in the crisis, you’ll get out of it a little faster. We definitely didn’t do everything right either, but we probably did some things.
SPD Prime Minister Stephan Weil in an interview: “Lower Saxony will still be a car country in 20 years”
The corona virus is a major challenge for many companies. How is Lower Saxony’s economy doing?
We are currently having problems with supply chains and a lack of material in Lower Saxony, but also worldwide in the industrial sector. The order books are often quite full. However, some sectors are particularly suffering from the consequences of the corona virus, especially retail and gastronomy and of course the event industry. Forecasts say that Lower Saxony has a chance of ending 2022 with above-average growth. This would then bring us back to the good tradition that we had before the pandemic. Because between 2010 and 2019, Lower Saxony was extremely successful economically. And we would very much like to do that again.
With VW, the automotive industry is a mainstay of Lower Saxony’s economy. Where do you see the future of the automobile?
Over the next twenty years, I expect an era of electrically powered cars in connection with a rapid expansion of digitization in cars. Both together make an absolute revolution. This can currently be observed well at the VW locations in Lower Saxony: billions are currently being invested there, Volkswagen wants these challenges as the market leader approach. And the Group has the potential to master change well. However, small and medium-sized supplier companies that have previously specialized in the combustion engine have had major problems with this. the The combustion engine is certainly not a future model and these companies have to adapt a lot. Conversely, there are also many new lines of business and jobs, for example in the area of battery production and digitization.
What does that mean for Lower Saxony?
I assume that in twenty years Niedersachsens will still be Autoland, but the cars will be completely different. We will then be able to be on the road with a significantly better driving experience – and with a clear ecological conscience.
The increasing focus on sustainability brings with it far-reaching changes for the economy. How can we bring business and climate protection together in the long term?
It’s true, climate protection requires a massive restructuring for the entire industry and large parts of the economy. For some, the sparkling wine or seltzer question arises. Take the steel sector, for example, which is a huge CO2 emitter. Those responsible know how to make the steel industry more sustainable and that is also technically possible: by switching to green hydrogen. However, that costs a lot of money. At the same time, our industry must remain competitive under the new conditions on the world market. Fundamental changes are only possible if the state actively supports companies. So far, there is no real alternative, not even for the climate. If we stopped producing steel ourselves in Germany, it would happen elsewhere – and this steel would then certainly be produced under much worse conditions than here.
Prime Minister Stephan Weil in an interview about climate protection and the state elections in Lower Saxony in 2022
With increasing climate protection measures, the cost of living also increases. What can socially just climate protection look like?
We are currently experiencing noticeable price increases and this is hitting people with a small budget particularly hard. If we want affordable climate protection, we have to make sure that we make green electricity from renewable energies cheaper. The abolition of the EEG surcharge is a sensible first step. The costs arising from climate protection must be shared as socially just as possible. Also the Heating supplement for those entitled to housing benefit is a good measure.
But is that enough in the long run?
Of course not. We have major expansion projects ahead of us, for example the expansion of the power line, which ultimately should also be financed by consumers. And and and. So it will be one of the most important tasks of the Federal Minister for Climate Protection Robert Habeck be able to draw up a coherent financing concept.
However, other aspects are also important when it comes to climate protection: Firstly, the consumption of fossil fuels is very expensive for society – keyword climate change and the associated drastic changes in our living environment, including catastrophic weather events. Second, the expansion of renewable energies will boost the economy and ensure a secure energy supply in the long term. In other words, in my opinion, in the long term we will not only live better but also more cheaply than we are doing now. First of all, however, we have a difficult transition period ahead of us, which will certainly last ten to twenty years.
Stephan Weil on the 2022 state elections in Lower Saxony: “Politics that don’t talk much, but convince with the results”
The state elections in Lower Saxony are scheduled for October. What chances do you reckon?
If there were state elections in Lower Saxony today, I would think the SPD would have a good chance. Apparently there are many people who, all things considered, feel well governed. But the state elections are still many months away. The only conclusion I can draw from this now is quite simply to continue working intensively on the citizens’ issues. My impression is that many people in Lower Saxony want one thing above all politics, who doesn’t talk much but convinces with the results. And that’s exactly how I want to continue.
Since the beginning of the corona pandemic two years ago, Weil has been on the federal political stage – out of necessity. Because the Prime Ministers have to explore the joint approach in countless Corona summits. The Lower Saxon developed the reputation of a reminder right from the start. The 63-year-old consistently implemented the uniform specifications. Because of this, he was repeatedly traded for higher posts in Berlin, but Weil always waved him off. On the occasion of his 60th birthday three years ago, he made it clear that his place is in Lower Saxony. And in October he wants to prove it to everyone again: he is aiming for re-election in the state elections. It would be his third success. *kreiszeitung.de is an offer from IPPEN.MEDIA.
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