Bavaria, Hesse and NRW guide the digital pact - Politics

  • In order for the federal government to give countries money for education policy, the Basic Law must be amended.
  • Recently, there had been concerns that the federal government could intervene in the sovereignty of the Länder.
  • Apparently, however, an agreement is emerging. Already on Thursday, the Bundestag is to vote on the digital pact.

From Cerstin Gammelin, Berlin, and Wolfgang Wittl

In the months-long dispute over the digital pact for schools, a quick agreement is emerging. "We have found a good compromise," said Bayern Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU) on Tuesday the South German newspaper, "Actually, nothing stands in the way of an agreement." Hesse's Prime Minister Volker Bouffier (CDU) spoke of a "very reasonable compromise". He assumes that he will find a large majority. A spokesman for North Rhine-Westphalia's prime minister Armin Laschet (CDU) said: "Our goal has been achieved: The money from the Digital Pact will quickly come to the schools without the basic architecture of the Basic Law being postponed". Thus the front of the federal states disintegrated, which had rejected the digital pact so far for fundamental reasons.

Together with Baden-Wuerttemberg and Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia, Hesse and Bavaria initially clearly opposed the Federal Government's voice in digital education and thus prevented federal funds from flowing into the federal states to schools with modern learning tools such as laptops and corresponding personnel equip. The country chiefs feared that the federal system could continue to be eroded; the federal government will in future determine the school policy in the federal states.

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These concerns have obviously been removed. "The question of the country's rights is well-regulated," Söder said: "There is no interference with the school's sovereignty, that's important to us. Education remains a matter of national content." The finances are "very well regulated – both for the richer and for the financially weaker countries".

The federal government wants to transfer the countries five billion euros. This should improve the digital infrastructure and pay system administrators. Already this Wednesday, the Conciliation Committee will meet to decide on the compromise; on Thursday, the Bundestag is to vote. There, a two-thirds majority is needed, the coalition needs to FDP and Greens. The two opposition parties were involved in the negotiations. The faction leaders of the coalition parties were confident. "I am counting on the agreement to be reached, excellent preparatory work has been done," said SPD leader Andrea Nahles in Berlin. Union faction leader Ralph Brinkhaus said he was confident that a "good solution" would be found.

Saxony and Baden-Württemberg are willing to compromise

The last word is the Federal Council; he is to vote on March 15, and there too, a two-thirds majority is needed – which now seems to be tangible. According to SZ information, Saxony and Baden-Württemberg are also willing to compromise. There was no fundamental contradiction from the remaining countries.

In addition to the federal concerns, the dispute had recently turned to control rights of the Federation. The federal government not only wanted to give money but also to control that it was spent properly. She wanted to request reports, demand access to files and conduct her own surveys with all authorities. This right is now severely restricted. The compromise merely states: "In order to ensure the appropriate use of funds, the Federal Government may require reports and, on an ad hoc basis, the submission of files."

CDU, CSU and SPD had agreed in the coalition agreement the digital pact. It should be implemented from January 2019 on. The project is so complicated because it requires changes to the Basic Law. They also affect social housing and public transport. The federal government also wants to provide more financial support for both areas.

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