by Julia Dahm
As Germans scramble to reach holiday destinations, struggling with overcrowded trains and cancelled flights, top politicians have been taking private jets, conspiring with luxury carmakers, and puzzling over the emissions of the government vehicle fleet.
If any German going on holiday this year was not yet in need of a break, they probably will be when they finally arrive at their destination. Travelling is no easy feat this summer, as chaos besets airports throughout Europe.
The so-called ‘nine euro ticket’, which temporarily allows residents to use public transport and regional trains for a flat rate of – you guessed it – €9 a month, has eased the burden on travellers’ wallets in times of rising prices.
However, the cost reduction has pushed Germany’s already precarious railway system beyond its limit. Thanks to the cheap ticket, trains are bursting, to the point that some trains have had to throw out passengers before being able to leave the station.
Some may assume that the Berlin political elites are having an easier time of it than ‘ordinary’ Germans on their holiday odysseys. Alas, no.
Just like us, top personnel from both government and opposition have been facing their own problems in their pursuits of the summer sun.
Take conservative opposition leader Friedrich Merz, for example.
As we all do from time to time, the down-to-earth millionaire, who considers himself “upper middle class,” took his private jet for a spin to travel to Finance Minister Christian Lindner’s recent wedding on the luxury island of Sylt in the North Sea.
Little did unassuming Merz know that, at a time when households and industry alike scramble to cut Russian oil and gas wherever possible, many would be less than amused by the jet set escapade.
“I do not regret having flown to Christian Lindner’s wedding,” Merz said in an interview this weekend.
“With my small aircraft, I use less fuel than some service cars used by members of the government,” he added, a claim that was quickly debunked by fact-checkers.
A retort also promptly came via Twitter from Green Agriculture Minister Cem Ozdemir – so publicly a cycling enthusiast that he wore a bike helmet to his inauguration ceremony in December.
“My service car is electric and thus uses no fuel at all – and neither does my bike,” he said.
Meanwhile, the newly-wed finance minister contented himself with a modest classic Porsche for his nuptials.
The stylish car played such a central role in the wedding ceremony that Lindner might as well have married the vehicle rather than his journalist fiancee, some observers quipped – only to be proved somewhat right, as information emerged on his close ties to the Porsche group.
According to documents leaked last week, Porsche boss Oliver Blume boasted during an internal meeting that he was in “very tight contact” with Lindner throughout last year’s coalition talks, which were otherwise kept strictly confidential.
The luxury carmaker was thus able to “play a major role” in the coalition parties’ decision not to prepare for a full phase-out of internal combustion engines, but rather continue to allow so-called e-fuels, according to Blume.
Lindner “updated me almost hourly” on the course of the coalition talks, Blume was cited as saying.
So while ‘ordinary’ Germans sweat and struggle through airports and train stations, political leaders have demonstrated that pedestrian routes can always be avoided, with just a small purchase of a chic Porsche or an ‘eco-friendly’ private jet.
*first published in: www.euractiv.com