AOn Thursday, ngela Merkel took up a suggestion from her successor Olaf Scholz to slow down the fourth wave of the corona pandemic and prevent others. The day before, the future Chancellor of the SPD had announced the establishment of a federal-state crisis team. She therefore listened very carefully, said Merkel. And: “I made it clear to him today that we can do this together in this transition phase.”
The term “crisis management team” sounds promising because it promises quick decisions under uniform leadership. In connection with the sixteen federal states, however, it almost seems like a contradiction in terms. So what is the idea behind Scholz’s crisis team?
According to the SPD, it is by no means about a constantly meeting of the Prime Ministers’ conference, or about preparing the next meeting of the state leaders with the federal government. Rather, a coordinating body is to be created to deal with practical issues. On the federal side, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of the Interior and – due to the deployment of the Bundeswehr in the Corona crisis – the Ministry of Defense, as well as other specialist ministries, if necessary. In addition, the representatives of the federal states are to be added.
The model for the advisory group is not the crisis team that the Ministry of Health and the Interior Ministry set up in the early phase of the pandemic. Rather, one wants to orientate oneself on a set of instruments from the times of the refugee crisis. At that time there was a body in the Federal Ministry of the Interior under the CDU politician Thomas de Maizière, which was headed by State Secretary Emily Haber, who is now Ambassador to Washington.
Virologists and psychologists should advise
It was set up in late summer 2015 when around 10,000 refugees arrived in Germany every day. It was about directing the flow of those arriving, providing special trains and buses and ensuring that people were accommodated. The states were represented by their authorized representatives in Berlin or by department heads from state ministries.
Even today, such a committee that would meet digitally would probably include around 50 people. According to the SPD, it is important that the participants in this crisis team are authorized to make decisions so that problems can be resolved quickly. The fact that the committee is connected to the Chancellery serves in the event that the executive floor needs to be alerted quickly.
In addition to this crisis team, an expert council will be set up in which virologists, epidemiologists, sociologists and psychologists will share their views on pressing issues relating to the pandemic, announced Scholz. Such questions could be, for example, whether schools should be closed when the incidence is very high, whether Christmas markets should be kept open or whether the 2-G-Plus rule is sufficient to significantly reduce the number of infections. Certain questions, such as school closings, would likely be answered differently by a virologist than by a school psychologist.
Nevertheless, the body, which should not meet daily but should meet at shorter intervals, should ideally agree on a recommendation for politics. The previous practice, in which virologists presented their point of view in a hearing at a conference of ministers presidents and then answered questions from the minister presidents, is viewed as inadequate in the SPD. Scholz wanted to set up the bodies quickly after his election as Federal Chancellor, which is planned for the week after Nicholas. Now, the executive chancellor wants things to go even faster.