What can chemistry do for mining
Dear, dear Mr. Vassiliadis,
Ms. Conference President,
ladies and gentlemen,
dear Jürgen Trittin,
As is well known, all good things come in threes. And so I don't think it's so bad that I am here for the third time at your federal congress. I think that with a total of six congresses, that's a good quota to put on the table. But that also has to do with the good cooperation that we have with all differences of opinion. I would therefore like to start by congratulating you, Mr Vassiliadis, on the fact that the delegates have reaffirmed you as chairman of the IG BCE. You have just spoken about tripling your votes against. I got very sad and asked what had happened, but the number was still in the single digits. In this respect, I am not worried about the cohesion of IG BCE, I offer my warmest congratulations and look forward to working with them.
Of course, I also congratulate all the other elected members of the main board as well as the commissions and committees and say explicitly: In view of the great challenges that we as an industrialized country Germany have in a rapidly developing world, I wish for a strong IG BCE, which in the social partnership finds the right solutions for the employees here in Germany, but also ensures good framework conditions in other countries of the world in which Germany invests, and thus makes a contribution to shaping globalization in a humane way.
Second, I would like to congratulate you on your anniversary. The mining, chemical and energy industrial union has existed in this form for 20 years now. I still vaguely remember the hour of birth. Of course, it is clear that the roots of the individual components of IG BCE go much further back. I think IG BCE is a union that has shown the dramatic change in the framework conditions. Of course, when the union was founded, things were very different. Working conditions, working hours, earnings - all of this left a lot to be desired. Over the decades you have repeatedly fought for better conditions for employees, but as a union - and this is what distinguishes IG BCE - you have always made sure that tomorrow's employees continue to have good conditions. You always had the future in mind.
So now I would like to say: As IG BCE, you also have a part in the fact that Germany is in a very good position today in the snapshot when it comes to our economic situation. The upswing - that is what the forecasts say at the moment - is continuing. But we have all learned in the last ten or 15 years how little one can believe forecasts and how quickly they can change. Nevertheless, such forecasts are better than others. The number of jobs subject to social security contributions has risen by almost 5.5 million since 2005. You know best what this means for the people and families involved. The number of unemployed has halved. For young people - you are also familiar with this in your companies - it is now much easier to find an apprenticeship position. Sometimes it is difficult to get enough young people interested in taking up apprenticeships. Real wages have also grown in recent years.
In the last few years within the grand coalition we have been able to improve a number of other things in addition to the economic framework, for example when I think of improving the disability pensions. It has always been a concern of yours, especially, that pension improvements are made for people who can no longer work for health reasons after decades of work and that the deductions are no longer so high. We did that twice; and that will certainly play a role again in the upcoming coalition negotiations.
But we also noticed during the election campaign: 2.5 million unemployed are 2.5 million too many; many people who have work are also not satisfied with the conditions. Many are concerned that the constitutionally given mandate of equal living conditions is not being adequately fulfilled. That's why you can't put your hands on your lap at all. There are many, many tasks waiting for the next federal government. Indeed, this also includes the cohesion of our society, for which the economic situation plays a role. But this is not the only task we need to keep track of.
Now you know that I cannot speculate much - with the presence of Mr Trittin, I certainly cannot do that here - what the formation of a new government will look like. There will be the first explorations in the next week - first bilaterally and then also in threes or fours, if one goes after the parties CDU, CSU, FDP and Greens. It is clear that forming a government will not be easy. After the election results, the Social Democrats declared that they were not available to form a government. We must now accept this situation as it is.
I go into the exploratory talks with the clear stance that voters have given us this task. I have a great deal of respect for the statements made by the voters. That is why we also have a responsibility to at least try to do what is possible to put together a government that not only looks at Germany's problems, but above all solves them. Thank you for calling on us to do so, although of course IG BCE also knows what points of conflict are waiting on the way. But we know that unfamiliar constellations can of course also offer the opportunity to find a solution to previously seemingly unsolvable things. So we have to sit down on our pants and see what we can do.
I was very pleased, dear Mr Vassiliadis, that in your speech that you gave here yesterday - I would have liked to have attended your concert; but that did not happen - also took a very clear look at global developments. On the German side, we have tried to make a contribution with our G20 presidency in difficult times. Unfortunately, we weren't able to convince all 20 of us to continue to support the Paris Agreement on climate protection together. But at least 19 of the 20 G20 participants clearly agreed to do so. The next Conference of the Parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change will take place on German soil, although the Fiji Islands will be the organizers, which we will of course actively support. I would particularly like to thank the Mining, Chemical and Energy Industrial Union for their strong support for sustainability and the Paris Agreement.
You have made a clear commitment to Europe. That, too, is extremely important in these times. That will also keep us busy. You yourself spoke about your contributions to focusing on the Franco-German engine during development and to set a supportive example through trade union cooperation.
Let me come back to the global challenges. I mean, the urgency of sustainability is evident. We can see from the migration and refugee movements, we see from the terrible disasters that exist in the Caribbean as far as the United States, and we see from the developments in Europe as well, as far as the weather is concerned, that there are serious changes due to climate change surrender.
You have, dear Mr Vassiliadis, also pointed out, with great, strong criticism, the disorderly procedure in connection with the energy transition from your point of view. There will certainly be a lot to be said about this in the upcoming talks. But I would like to point out that we have achieved success in some areas. I can still remember when we talked about phasing out hard coal mining - the major source of subsidies in Germany, so to speak. It was wise to have staggered the exit over many years. We did this with great social agreement and were able to avoid some breaks, although sadness can still be felt and the structural development of large parts of the former hard coal mining areas of course also leaves a lot of tasks for us.
If we are talking about the second topic today and of course you are also talking about it - I take that from the question “What happens next with lignite?” - then I recommend that we really do this with the local people and with the representatives of the Busy doing. The question of what takes the place of partly monostructural conditions - when I think of Lusatia, for example - cannot and must not leave us indifferent when I think about the other big task, namely the cohesion of society and equals Living conditions. - I think I even see a nod from Mr Trittin here; That pleases me. - We have to strain our heads there. We have to think about how we can manage things in such a way that people can really grasp and understand them, but also look to the future.
We have ambitious climate protection goals. This will also have to be discussed now, since 2020 falls into the next legislative period. It was always clear, if I may put it that way, that if you save 20 percent in CO2 from 1990 to 2010 - that was the early days of German unity, in which many industrial production facilities in the former GDR ceased to exist or were much more efficient were designed -, with reasonably good economic development from 2010 to 2020, it is not all too easy to save a further 20 percent CO2. Its obvious. That is a very ambitious task. I don't want to say goodbye to the goal here, I just want to say: I'm not surprised that we don't achieve it without effort, but rather put in a lot of energy. That is why it will also play a major role in the upcoming talks.
In recent years, we have set the course for the energy transition, which should also be good and right for you, for example bringing what is now the largest area of energy generation, namely renewable energies, up to the conditions of the market economy. By putting the expansion of renewable energies out to tender, we will have much more market-economy conditions. With the so-called energy expansion areas - well known here in Lower Saxony - we have the situation that we are not expanding at the same speed everywhere, but are at least in some way coupling the expansion to the expansion of the electricity lines. That too is a right and sensible decision. That's why I think we've come a long way.
The first tests during the tenders have also shown that we can drop the prices considerably and that the subsidies are now close to zero in a number of wind energy generating areas. I still remember my days as Environment Minister from 1994 to 1998. In terms of both wind energy subsidies - as we have been able to cut them down so far - and solar energy, something that we have achieved to this day seemed completely unimaginable to me. So it turns out that a certain amount of start-up help can really lead us into free-market production conditions.
Ladies and gentlemen, we will of course continue to work in the area of the energy transition. I am skeptical when you say that the EEG surcharge should now also be reduced through tax measures. If I add up all of the tax proposals from your speech, I will be terrified. But so be it, we will continue on this path; and the energy transition is, so to speak, unstoppable on the way.
I would also like to point out once again - precisely because Mr Trittin is sitting here - that we have achieved great things in connection with final disposal and with the question of how we deal with this social responsibility. That too was only possible by consensus. Here, too, it proved to be one of the great strengths of the Federal Republic of Germany to be able to solve complicated problems in the end to some extent in agreement with the companies - not completely, but almost. We still have a lot to do to implement everything that has been decided, but I think we have also found solutions that make working with the legacies of certain energy sources much easier for us.
Ladies and gentlemen, I come to another topic that also concerns you, at least indirectly: that is the entire area of mobility. The chemical and automotive industries are closely related. The automotive industry is facing huge challenges. You are also familiar with this from your colleagues at IG Metall. The things that happen around the diesel - I am expressing myself a little cautiously in Lower Saxony; but you can also say: the scandal that is going on - is really troubling us. Since the automotive industry as a whole is in a phase of upheaval with regard to digitalization and alternative drives such as electromobility, we now have to see that we can lead this important branch of the economy well into the future. Politicians must of course make a contribution to this, even though we cannot make up for wrong business decisions simply through political action; these are different responsibilities.
It must be said that there are over 800,000 jobs in Germany in the automotive sector, which accounts for around 20 percent of industrial added value. If this branch of industry falls behind in its global importance, it would be a huge challenge for all of us here, either directly or indirectly. I therefore dare to predict that we will be dealing with this in the next few weeks, especially since it is a huge challenge to find an answer to the question "How can we avoid driving bans in view of NOx pollution?" We will also get new CO2 targets for the automotive industry in Europe. That, too, will entangle us in intensive discussions, I predict.
In connection with the question of sustainability, another area that also affects you because you produce insulation materials in the chemical sector is the heating market for buildings. We have by no means exhausted our potential with the old buildings. Here you can really still speak of low-hanging fruits, as you could still achieve a lot here very easily. After we have managed so much in Germany, it is actually a mystery to me why it has not yet been possible to obtain tax subsidies for thermal insulation. In my opinion, that would enable us to make many, many investments. I hope that the potential coalition partners are perhaps a little more open-minded than they have been up to now - although that was seldom down to the federal level, but ultimately always to the situation in the federal states. In any case, we have to make another attempt here.
In addition to the challenge of sustainable, climate-friendly development for Germany, we now have another major challenge, namely the challenge of digitization. We have taken important steps with our digital agenda in the last four years and have set good standards, especially with a view to Industry 4.0; and far beyond Germany. We have to state that Germany has certainly opened up to digitization in the industrial sector, but that we are still at the beginning or at best in the middle of the development in other areas.
On the part of the European Union during the Estonian Council Presidency, we had a digital summit in Tallinn and can say: The life of an Estonian citizen is decidedly different from that of a German citizen, as all administrative questions can be handled digitally via a citizens' portal. There are many good arguments for this, especially since the processes - whether it concerns health files or other questions - can be done much more safely and also much more easily. When it comes to balancing work and family and saving time, things are going much better there than we are.
In the difficult talks about the federal-state finances, we made an amendment to the constitution, which is important and decisive for the municipalities, states and the federal government to jointly develop a citizens' portal over the next four years. I see huge tasks ahead of us. And I would be happy if the unions would support us in this.
- Very good, almost the majority.
It is about the question that every citizen has access to all levels of government with a portal.Because the citizens are actually not interested in whether the registration at the kindergarten falls under municipal jurisdiction, something second in state jurisdiction, something third in the jurisdiction of the district and a fourth in the jurisdiction of the federal government. Rather, people want their contacts with the state to go through one entrance, so to speak. Since every federal level in Germany is naturally proud of its independence, we have to discuss this with one another so that we can learn to think from the perspective of the citizens. Other countries have shown us that. It is important that we can do that in Germany as well. Germany is of course a country with a well-developed administration; everything works somehow - unless you try to get an appointment in Berlin at the citizens' office; but otherwise it works somehow. That's why you think: Oh, it can go on like this. But then one day we will wake up and realize that things are now very different and much faster in many other countries. Therefore, from my point of view, this is a huge task. We also need a social discussion about this, because data protection and data security naturally also play a decisive role in this.
We can develop huge potential in Europe if we create a digital single market. We are working on that. But every single task turns into an extremely difficult challenge. For example, it is about the new real-time transmission network 5G. The Member States must work together so that when you cross a national border in the area of free movement you don't have different frequencies everywhere. It is also about having an electronic signature that is not only valid in one country but in all European countries. That is why - I just discussed this with President Tusk yesterday - we will now really bring the digital agenda forward again. I don't even want to talk about copyright protection and such questions, on which we have now become almost incapable of making decisions. These are no longer party-political questions at all, but are often questions of very different assessments of what digital access means on the one hand and what, for example, protection of intellectual property means on the other. But we have to bring that to a decision. In the next four years, important steps must be taken.
I know that IG BCE has always been very concerned with the question of qualification and further qualification. This challenge will only increase in the digital world of work. I would like to make a commitment here that I hope we can anchor in our new government program, if a government comes into being: I believe that social partnership is at this time, in the 21st century, in the current industrial upheaval at least as important as it was in the past. That is why I will in any case do everything to increase the collective bargaining coverage in Germany again and not to restrict it any further. Because with a view to the flexibilizations that will be necessary - in terms of working hours, in terms of accessibility - we will be able to work much better if we have collective bargaining partners in the companies and if we also have broad collective agreements. That's why it's a goal that I've set myself for the future. I know that IG BCE has shown through a large number of collective agreements how responsibly one deals with the various challenges.
That is why, when there is a new government, I will try to convince the coalition partners that our regular dialogues in Meseberg were good and important dialogues. - I read that you already have a subject that you want to put on the agenda there; namely the demographic change. - Such dialogues have advanced us overall and have given me, in particular, many insights into the realities of life and challenges in modern industrial areas.
Ladies and gentlemen, we will have to talk about the subject of continuing education and training, also under state responsibility. I just want to make it clear here that I will also strongly promote that we start early with digital education. On the one hand, I say that there must be clear responsibilities between the federal government and the federal states - education policy for schools is first and foremost the responsibility of the federal states - but, on the other hand, I also say that we as the federal government must provide support in certain areas. It starts with helping financially weak municipalities to modernize and refurbish schools. We have already set 3.5 billion euros for this in the federal budget. But above all, we are also concerned with digital education and thus connecting schools to broadband internet. Sure, above all we have to subsidize that in the rural regions. I specifically use the word “subsidize” here. We get subsidy reports every year; and then there is always general outrage about what the federal government is subsidizing again. Ladies and gentlemen, expanding the Internet in rural regions is a matter of general interest - just like access to electricity, water and sewage. If you cannot find any economic providers there, then the state has to incentivize this with grants. This is not a subsidy in the bad sense, but it is about equality of living conditions in the good sense; and we won't let ourselves be talked out of that either.
So we will connect the schools to broadband internet. Together with the federal states, we will be ready to provide digital teaching content from which the federal states and schools can then choose their things, and to maintain this digital teaching content again and again. The crucial point - and here we must also speak to your colleagues from the education union - is the further training of teachers. It is of course a rather dramatic situation today when the 12 to 15 year olds come to school happily, jingling on their smartphones and tablets, but the teachers who studied ten, 20 or 30 years ago, not getting the training they need to train students in future skills. I predict: In addition to reading, writing and arithmetic - what you still have to be able to do in the future is still a little neglected these days - you will also have to program and understand the variety of digital media. That is why new educational content is required. We cannot simply leave the countries alone, because that is at least a challenge of the century.
I believe that what happens to our society as a result of digitization has dimensions of change similar to that of book printing in Gutenberg's time. There are completely new ways of accessing knowledge, experience, exchange and thus a completely new organization of society. I think you can see that in your union work too. We also notice this in our party work, we notice it in the question of the accessibility of society. Incidentally, people's wishes are also changing. We love being able to reach out to our party members once every few months if we know their email addresses. People today are used to the fact that after they have been shopping somewhere, they keep getting a message with all the new offers. The work of all social organizations will also change massively. But there is also the great danger that you can wonderfully gather together in groups of the same opinion, so to speak, and end up thinking that everyone thinks like you do. And then you are completely amazed when you meet someone who has a completely different opinion .
Ladies and gentlemen, we will have to deal with all of these questions. Of course we have to be careful that we are at the forefront with the hardware, so to speak, with what we produce, with what we manufacture, with what we distribute. The question “How can we continue to be the best in the world?” Is one of the central questions. If you look at how the world is developing and then look at the situation in Europe, you can see that typical developments in Europe do not always correspond to typical developments in the world. The world population is growing, the German population is tending to shrink. In any case, the European population is on average getting older. The number of people of working age available will decrease significantly by 2030, for example. This could - as Labor Minister Andrea Nahles also told us in a report - also be helpful for the switch to digitization, because some jobs may no longer exist in the future. But the fact that we have fewer young workers will of course also be a major challenge. In any case, we will only be able to remain world leaders if we think European, if we also improve our competitiveness across Europe - I have already mentioned the digital single market - and if we make sure that we are innovative, not only in Germany. When I see what is being invested in certain areas in China, then we must not let up.
It's good that we've more than doubled our research spending in recent years. Many researchers have returned from abroad because they can find reliable framework conditions with us. We have tried to strengthen the universities, which are essentially financed by the federal states, by taking over the BAföG benefits. In addition, we have done a lot to better bring research together with industrial development. One of our plans - at least on the Union side - is to introduce tax research subsidies at least for small and medium-sized companies, to say to these companies: You have to invest in innovations, because otherwise we won't have good work in Germany, otherwise we will just be an extended workbench be.
I see the greatest challenge when it comes to future relationships between companies and their customers, because we are in a race here. We have social media, we have large American and Asian providers that have a great deal of data on citizens - be it anonymized or, in some cases, personal data. We have our classic industrial production method, in which we are really strong. We also get along very well with digitization within production. But now the question arises: What will the connection between the customer and his producer look like in the future? Whoever wins this battle, who can say that they have the best relationships with all conceivable customers, will succeed. Our claim must be that it is the producers and not those who collect the data on the individuals, because otherwise we will become an extended workbench.
I would like to continue talking to you about this, Mr Vassiliadis. Of course, I also keep in touch with entrepreneurs. But I am not entirely sure that we are not thinking too small. Thinking in terms of platforms, for example, is a matter of course for citizens. In the future, citizens will no longer ask: Where is my car? Where is my train connection? Where is my bike? But they will say: I want to go from A to B; please give me three or four different complete offers. We will have to deal with the question of whether our competition law is even suitable for this. Or doesn't that mean that agreements are constantly being made between people who are actually not allowed to make agreements with one another? We don't just have to organize platforms nationally, we also have to organize some of them at European level. So there is a lot to do when we talk about the connection between the manufacturer and its customers. I hope that we are a good example in Germany. Because we have the industrial strength. Our industrial share in the gross domestic product is still very high. We want to keep that. I am making a clear commitment to an industrial society, even in the 21st century. Services are important, but industry remains important, ladies and gentlemen.
Now I suspect that much of what I have spoken of here has moved you very much yourself. This naturally includes your bread-and-butter business: collective bargaining - the development of wages - which, however, have long since ceased to focus solely on the issue of wages, but also in relation to further training, pension issues, etc. We have one in the election campaign Dissent about the further development of pensions. But one thing was always clear: none of the parties - I hope I am not saying the wrong thing about the Greens - at least neither the SDP nor the Union has presented a pension concept beyond the year 2030. In any case, that will be one of the major tasks of the next legislative period, because of course we have to create security. There will be a multitude of tasks, especially with a view to the many self-employed people who have no or no verifiable retirement provision today. This does not affect all self-employed people, but many. In this respect, we will certainly continue to have controversial, but I believe, fruitful discussions in the future.
I am pleased that you invited me here. I can assure you that in every new government we will work to ensure that Germany is not only strong for the people in its own country, but that Germany is also a strong partner in Europe. In Europe life has returned - fatally only after a sad decision; namely the decision of the British to leave the European Union. Negotiating this is important. We will lead them, and lead them in such a way that there is as little damage as possible for us here in Germany.
But, ladies and gentlemen, the other 27 Member States - this was also shown by the speeches by Jean-Claude Juncker and Emmanuel Macron - are really determined to develop Europe further. With a view to migration and refugee policy, we have taken many steps that have been unthinkable for years and decades. We now have joint external border protection with Frontex. With a view to a common defense policy, we have taken steps within a year and a half that would have been unthinkable ten years ago. In this respect, we would be pleased if you not only cheer us on to do something for the people in Germany, but also for a unified Europe and for a human shaping of globalization.
Thank you very much. You still have good days at the congress, intensive consultations and a good, critical, but constructive and sometimes uniform cooperation. Thank you very much.
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