German minister says Corona shows no need to move ministries from Bonn to Berlin

German minister says Corona shows no need to move ministries from Bonn to Berlin

The rise in remote working during the coronavirus crisis means the German government should no longer consider shifting its entire federal administration from Bonn to Berlin, Environment Minister Svenja Schulze has said.

“The corona crisis has shown that digital tools are efficient and that government work is also possible via videoconferences,” Schulze — a member of the Social Democrats, the junior coalition partner of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives — told media.

Bonn, a mid-sized city south of Cologne, was the federal capital of West Germany during the Cold War. Shortly after German reunification in 1990, the decision was taken to make Berlin the seat of government, a move that shifted tens of thousands of jobs across the country.

But under a 1994 law known as the Berlin/Bonn Act, all ministries had to retain offices in both cities — and some, such as the health and defense ministries as well as Schulze’s own environment ministry, kept their headquarters in Bonn.

While the Bundestag moved to Berlin in 1999, thousands of staff still remain in the old capital. By the end of 2015, some 37 percent of government jobs were based in Bonn, according to a 2017 government report.

According to the Federal Ministry of Finance, this division of government offices costs taxpayers at least €8.6 million each year, for example in flight fares for officials’ business trips.

But the pandemic has changed this dynamic. In 2018, for example, 18,730 business trips where made between Bonn and Berlin, of which two thirds were by plane. In March 2019, there were 352 flights between Bonn and Berlin. But in March 2020, as the pandemic hit, only 42 flights took off.

But Schulze, pointing to the recent reduction in flights, said: “I see no reason why anyone should talk about moving [from Bonn to Berlin] anymore.” Not everyone believes the corona-related move to remote working will put an end to the debate.

The Taxpayers’ Federation wants the government to give up the Berlin-Bonn separation and move all ministries to the capital.

Photo Credit : https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:2493ri_SPD,_Svenja_Schulze.jpg

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