BERLIN — Chancellor Olaf Scholz urged Germany's opposition and regional governments on Wednesday to help slash a “thicket of bureaucracy” that slows down Europe's biggest economy, as his government grapples with poor poll ratings and a reputation for internal strife half way through its term.
Scholz told lawmakers that his governing coalition has begun making Germany less complicated and bureaucratic, for example by introducing flat-rate tickets for regional public transport and by building the country's first liquefied natural gas terminals within months after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
But he appealed to highly decentralized Germany's 16 state governments, local officials and the opposition to join in a “pact for Germany that makes our country faster, more modern and more secure.” That would include doing more to streamline notoriously lengthy planning processes, move forward the country's famously slow digitization and speed the building of new homes.
“Only together will we shake off the mildew of bureaucracy, risk aversion and despondency that has settled on our country over years and decades,” he said. “We must clear the thicket of bureaucracy.”
Scholz spoke after opposition leader Friedrich Merz declared that “our country is suffocating in bureaucracy” and accused the center-left chancellor's government of creating more and more of it. He said his conservative party, if in government, would immediately halt any legislation that creates new bureaucratic hurdles — such as a contentious plan to replace fossil-fuel home heating systems.
Scholz, who last week promised that his government will tone down persistent infighting that has dragged it down in polls, acknowledged again that the three parties in his coalition “have argued too much in recent months.”
The chancellor spoke with a black eye patch and a bruised face, the result of a weekend jogging accident.
“I wish Olaf Scholz a good recovery, but I must say that the picture is practically a symbol of the state of the coalition after two years — constant scuffles and arguments,” Jens Spahn, a senior lawmaker with Merz's Christian Democratic Union, told Phoenix television.