As far as the future of the Helmstedt coalfield is concerned, a roller coaster ride of emotions lies behind the district for 2019. And how it will end is also not yet certain. That's because the federal government's Structural Strengthening Act to promote structural change in regions affected by the coal phase-out is a long time coming. "In the current legislative process, there are still some improvements to be negotiated, so the deliberations are continuing and the law is not expected to be passed until February 2020 at the earliest," the SPD member of parliament Falko Mohrs told us in mid-December in response to a question from our newspaper.
According to Mohrs, the federal government's draft bill provides for the states affected by the coal phase-out to receive around 40 billion euros from the federal budget by 2038. Up to 90 million euros are earmarked for the Helmstedt district.
Until this sum was finally put on paper – in the meantime, there had been talk of 150 million euros – it took a tough political struggle in Berlin involving the state government in Hanover. As by far the smallest coal mining district, was Helmstedt possibly simply forgotten or deliberately left out of the table when the funding billions were originally negotiated?? Had the state and Minister President Stephan Weil (SPD) got behind this ie and Helmstedt interests too late? Speculations and speculations of this kind were circulating in the media for quite some time – a clear answer is still missing today.
Minister of Economics Bernd Althusmann (CDU) and Minister of the Environment Olaf Lies (SPD) took part in the rescue attempts and thus in the battle for coal for the Helmstedt coalfield. In addition to Falko Mohrs, Braunschweig CDU member of parliament Carsten Muller and local state parliament members Jorn Domeier (SPD) and Veronika Koch (CDU) also got involved. This did not always look like a powerful alliance – at least to the outside world – despite the repeated arances of all those involved that they should not try to cook party-political soup, but should work together for Helmstedt across party lines.
The struggle for the future of the coalfield brought Gerhard Radeck (CDU), district administrator, several business trips to Hanover and Berlin. Alarm bells first rang when Helmstedt was not included in the interim report of the federal coal commission in October 2018. That changed with the final report, which was presented in January 2019. At the beginning of November 2019, Radeck discussed the project list for structural change in the coalfield with Minister President Stephan Weil.
What is the state of affairs at the turn of the year? When and how the first funds will reach the district is still completely open. This depends on the specifications of the Structural Strengthening Act that are ultimately adopted and on the still-pending concretization of the funding conditions and guidelines.
Here's how the roadmap looks from the district's perspective: Additional funding for projects in the region could flow through the federal "Zukunft Revier" funding program. The Helmstedt Regional Management (HRM) should accompany these projects and "meaningfully dovetail" the various subsidies with the projects.
To the 1. May 2020, the Wirtschaftsentwicklungsgesellschaft mbH of the district is to take over the project support (keyword: handling of the up to 90 million euros). "Decisions on the allocation of project funds should be made by a broad-based body, for example a precinct council," Radeck explained in response to a question from our newspaper in mid-December.
This council should include political, economic and trade union representatives from the district, as well as representatives of the state ministries responsible for the various projects. The chair should be a person from the region supported by broad agreement.
According to the district, details on the granting of structural assistance will be regulated by administrative agreements between the state of Lower Saxony and the federal government. The use of structural aid will be tied to the entry into force of these agreements.
Important from Helmstedt's point of view, says Radeck: The district should be involved in the drafting of the administrative agreement.