Here’s how Germany will nationalize the energy giant Uniper

Here's how Germany will nationalize the energy giant Uniper

What happens in Germany on Uniper, gas and more. The in-depth study by Pierluigi Mennitti from Berlin

The spokesman of the CDU / Csu parliamentary group Andreas Jung has an easy game when he judges the energy policy of the German government to be “haywire”. One of the pillars of the business support measures – the gas surcharge – launched less than a month ago and which should start in less than two weeks is already being questioned. And not by any member of the government, but by the Minister of Economy and Climate, that Robert Habeck who is entrusted with the management of the energy crisis in person.

To remember what it is, it is better to rewind the tape of the story. The gas surcharge is a new tax of 2.4 cents per kilowatt hour that will be charged to customers from October until the end of March 2024. The aim is to relieve companies that, due to limited gas supplies and then interrupted by the Russia, they have to buy gas elsewhere at significantly higher costs to meet their contracts. It has been nicknamed the Uniper tax, from the name of Germany's largest gas importer who got into trouble precisely because of Moscow's use of gas as a lever of geopolitical pressure: a hypothesis that all the German governments that have succeeded one another until invading Ukraine have always considered it unlikely.

Now that the unlikely is happening, the government has tried to plug the Uniper flaw by imposing the gas tax on its customers (industries and households). But, precisely in light of the dramatic situation of the company, according to what reported by a public television service Ard , the Minister of Economy Robert Habeck would be questioning the surcharge

The broadcaster cited information gathered in the environment of the Greens, Habeck's party, according to which the minister expressed his doubts about the measure during an internal meeting that was held last week.

The Ard service argues that according to the minister any nationalization of the gas supplier Uniper, which the German government is considering, should be accompanied by the replacement of the gas levy with full state aid. According to ARD , Habeck also added that doubts about the surcharge would also be determined by considerations on its compatibility "with the constitutional rules on financial matters". Issue that leads directly to the criticism of the Christian-Democratic opposition, when it speaks of government on tilt. Because if the incorrect assessment of a measure that affects the pockets of taxpayers and the budgets of companies is already a serious signal, it is even more so that of not having considered constitutional constraints.

Of course, as Ard also notes, Habeck could try to turn the tide in his favor. If the nationalization of Uniper and the levy on gas were actually incompatible, the minister could pay for the revocation of the unpopular surcharge just a moment before its entry into force with the justification that there is no other legal way if you really want to save Uniper. . And dump the billions of euros needed for nationalization into the budget of the finance ministry of liberal Christian Lindner. It should not be forgotten that in less than a month there will be a vote for the renewal of an important Land, Lower Saxony, and some energy policy choices do not seem free from electoral interests, as evidenced by Habeck's choice of having kept out of the operational reserve just the only one of the three nuclear power plants still active in Lower Saxony.

But the judgment that the minister himself pronounced when the surcharge was launched: “the best possible option” remains for future reference.

Now the opposition will have even more pressure to present, as announced, a motion in parliament to avoid the entry into force of the surcharge, regardless of any government reversal. "As a central player in the German gas market, Uniper needs targeted help", said the CDU / Csu Jung spokesperson, "the government must now put on the table the alternatives to support Uniper, with all the information and figures relevant ".

The negotiations for nationalization were in fact more tangled than one thinks, because Finland is involved, which with Fortum holds the majority of Uniper. The affair has embarrassed the Sanna Marin government, with the right-wing opposition attacking. The Finnish government "surrendered to Germany without offering due resistance," National Coalition Party (NCP) chairman Kai Mykkänen told Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat , Berlin, "is intentionally lowering Uniper's value and, once it hits the fund, the company will be nationalized and the Finnish taxpayers will have effectively paid the German gas bills. We are bound by international agreements that should protect us from this type of situation, but a country that has invested in another country is now arbitrarily forced to pay billions of euros in losses ”.

Now it seems that the negotiation is in the final stages and the deal is close at hand. This is what Uniper announced yesterday with a statement, later confirmed by the Finns of Fortum. According to information gathered by the German press, the Berlin government will buy the shares held by Fortum and contribute another eight billion euros as a capital increase for the nationalization. This would give the federal government a significant majority stake in Uniper.


This is a machine translation from Italian language of a post published on Start Magazine at the URL https://www.startmag.it/economia/germania-uniper/ on Wed, 21 Sep 2022 05:13:25 +0000.