The letter from the two Dutch ministers is long and detailed, but it contains a clear conclusion at the end: "In view of the above, the cabinet currently considers a complete sale to the German state to be the preferred scenario," says the letter from At the end of February to the Dutch Parliament. In the letter, the Minister for Climate and Energy and the Minister of Finance evaluate the options for the future of the German business of their electricity network operator Tennet.
The Dutch want to get rid of the German part of their state-owned company because the need for investment is skyrocketing due to the energy transition. In 2020, it was still expected to be 2.7 billion euros for the next ten years, but estimates for the German business alone are now around 15 billion euros. But not only the Dutch are interested in a sale, one is also "confronted with a strong desire from Germany to participate in Tennet Germany," says the letter.
The portfolio of German state-owned companies from the energy sector could therefore soon continue to grow. With the gas traders Uniper and SEFE, two large corporations already belong to the state, and the majority of the PCK refinery in Schwedt is under trusteeship of the Federal Network Agency - nationalization is not excluded. But resistance is growing in the traffic light coalition.
"The plight of many energy companies caused by the Russian war of aggression must not lead to entry into a state energy planned economy," demands the energy policy spokesman for the FDP parliamentary group, Michael Kruse, to WELT. "Acquired or forcibly expropriated company shares must be privatized quickly, this is also provided for by law." The state must not be the "dominant player" in the energy market in the long term, he says. "Even today there is a risk of serious imbalance because the state owns many companies that compete with each other."
The liberal gets support from the opposition. "The traffic light must present a plan at an early stage as to how the companies concerned are to be reprivatised," also demands Jens Spahn (CDU), who is responsible for business and energy as the deputy head of the Union faction. The state participations were necessary crisis measures. "But the state is not the better entrepreneur and is threatening to take over itself," warns Spahn. "Employees need clarity and a long-term perspective."
In Robert Habeck's (Greens) Ministry of Economic Affairs, however, they are not thinking of pushing ahead with the privatization of state-owned companies. And that despite the fact that the liberals had even negotiated a paragraph in the Energy Security Act that was intended to ensure resale. "Companies whose shares have been expropriated are to be privatized again," says Paragraph 20. It also stipulates a report on progress every two years.
However, Habeck's house does not even see a reporting obligation. The justification: It would only be expropriation if it “had taken place within the meaning of Section 18 Paragraph 1 of the Energy Security Act. That has not been the case so far,” it said on request. "In the hypothetical case of expropriation, a decision would have to be made about re-privatization on the basis of the specifications in paragraph 20, paragraph 4 of the Energy Security Act." In essence, this means that where no expropriation has formally taken place, there is no need to re-privatize.
It's a very formal interpretation of the law. Rather, both companies came into the possession of the state through capital increases and the purchase of shares. At least in the case of SEFE, the former owner, the Russian state-owned company Gazprom, was de facto expropriated after the company had previously been put under trusteeship.
"Robert Habeck must not abuse the trust administrations of companies to implement his advanced state economic plans," says Kruse. "Using this instrument for a permanent nationalization would lead to a significant loss of confidence in the express emergency character of trusteeships and also burden the coalition climate on this issue." says Kruse. "It is not up to the Minister of Economic Affairs to undermine this goal."
For the FDP politician, the question also arises as to what advantages Habeck sees in state-owned companies. Here the letter from the Dutch gives at least part of the answer: The desire to get involved with Tennet is justified “with the efforts of the German state to accelerate the grid expansion and thus the German energy transition in this way”. For Kruse, this cannot be an argument: "Instead of using the current situation as a pretext for planned economy fantasies, we have to get out of crisis mode and towards a market-based long-term perspective for our energy companies."