German Economy Minister cancels COP28 visit due to budget crisis
German Economy Minister cancels COP28 visit due to budget crisis

German Economy Minister cancels COP28 visit due to budget crisis

German Economy Minister and Deputy Chancellor Robert Habeck did not fly to the COP28 climate summit in Dubai on Monday as previously planned, a government spokesman said.

Habeck, from Germany's Greens party, was originally scheduled to fly to the annual climate summit and then move on to Oman, Israel and Saudi Arabia, amid severe turbulence in the region given the conflict in Gaza.

However, he was asked by Chancellor Olaf Scholz to postpone the trip so that he could focus on the government's negotiations for a 2024 budget, after its original spending plans were deemed illegal by the constitutional court. 

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"Robert Habeck is cancelling his planned trip to COP and the region in consultation with, and at the request of, the federal chancellor, and postponing it to the next possible date," the spokesman said. 

Scholz and Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, also a member of the Greens like Habeck, were able to travel to COP28 on the German government's behalf earlier this week.

The three-party coalition government is running out of time to find an internal agreement on how to plug a hole in the budget — estimated by Habeck to total around €17 billion (roughly $18.5 billion) for 2024 — and to then get it through parliament.

The three leading negotiators at present include Habeck and represent each party in the coalition. Chancellor Scholz is a Social Democrat (SPD), Habeck represents the Greens, and Finance Minister Christian Lindner leads the Free Democrats (FDP). 

"I am very optimistic that we are well on the way to reaching an agreement," Habeck said on ARD public television late on Sunday.

Most of the lights were left on in the chancellor's office in Berlin, the Kanzleramt, late on Sunday, seemingly indicating out-of-hours emergency work on the impasse. 

Kevin Kühnert, general secretary for the SPD, said on ZDF public television on Sunday night that negotiations were in progress as he was speaking. 

"Every free minute is being used by members of the government to create a draft budget for 2024 that satisfies the terms of the constitutional court ruling from Karslruhe," Kühnert said.  

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