Economic Council Germany
The Economic Council (Wirtschaftsrat der CDU e.V.) is a major German business association representing the interests of around 12,000 small and medium-sized firms. Members are drawn from all sectors of the German economy including banking and finance, insurance, the automotive and chemical industries, healthcare and high-tech. On the basis of this broad membership base the Economic Council claims to represent the interests of the German entrepreneurial community as a whole, as opposed to lobbying for one particular business sector.
The aim of the council is to promote a social market economy based on the principles of Ludwig Erhard, economy minister of the Federal Republic of Germany between 1949 and 1963 and widely regarded as the initiator of Germany’s so called “Economic Wonder” during the 1950s. Although the organisation is both financially and ideologically independent it has traditionally had close ties to the free-market liberal wing of the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) of Chancellor Angela Merkel. For this reason it is sometimes referred to as the Economic Council to the CDU. This description can also be attributed to the link with Erhard, who was one of the founding members of the association.
The Economic Council was founded as a coalition of professional German entrepreneurs on 9 December 1963 in Bonn, then the capital of West Germany. The aim of the council was to give firms and entrepreneurs the opportunity to have a greater say in government policy. In the words of Alphons Horten, CDU politician and one of the co-founders of the association, “There was a growing conviction in the business community that politicians should pay more heed to economic reason.” An additional aim of the original founders and board members in setting up the council was to act as a counterweight to the increasingly influential employee committees within the CDU party itself.
In 2013 the Economic Council celebrated its 50th centenary. This was marked by a series of high calibre events, the pinnacle of which was the annual Wirtschaftstag. Guests included Chancellor Angela Merkel, ECB president Mario Draghi, President of the German Industry Federation Ulrich Grillo and Deutsche Bank Co-Chief Jürgen Fitschen.
- 1963-1970 Klaus Scheufelen
- 1970-1983 Philipp von Bismarck
- 1984-1989 Heinrich Weiss
- 1989-2000 Dieter Murmann
- 2000- Kurt Joachim Lauk
The Economic Council is present at all levels of government with a main federal office in Berlin, so called Landesverbänden or state associations in the provincial capitals (which themselves are divided into regional sections), and more recently with representations in Brussels (2000) and New York City (2006), in recognition of the important role played by international institutions in the decision making process.
Reflecting the key aim of the council as set out by the original founders, regular events are held at all levels of the organisation giving members the chance to exchange ideas with key decision makers from the political sphere. Similarly politicians hear first-hand the concerns of the business community. Key events in the Economic Council’s calendar are the annual Wirtschaftstag, an event which brings members together with high ranking guest speakers from the political and economic worlds, the so-called Kompetenz Zentrum which provides a platform for companies to showcase new technologies and innovative ideas, and the Europe Symposium held in Brussels. The smaller state associations have similar, albeit smaller expert commissions which deal exclusively with those issues which particularly affect them at a more local level.
Federal expert commissions
A key component of the work in the federal office in Berlin is the Bundesfachkommission or expert commission. There is one such commission for each policy area. These commissions are each chaired by a high-ranking chief executive. A typical agenda includes parliamentary reports from politicians, presentations from academics, policy experts and leading entrepreneurs, as well as the formation of official positions on key government policy.
As of 2014, federal expert commissions exist for the following policy areas:
- International Economy
- European Financial and Monetary Policy
- Taxes, Budget and Finances
- Family Firms
- Labour Market
- Growth and Innovation
- Internet and Digital Economy
- Urban Development, Construction and Housing
- Transport, Logistics and Infrastructure.
- A stronger EU with an end to debt mutualisation
- Budget consolidation through less expenditure
- Simplification of the tax system and avoidance of additional burdens
- Prevention of nationalisation to the cost of the small and medium-sized firms (Mittelstand)
- An energy transformation based on free market principles
- A new balance between environmental and economic policy
- Implementation of measures against current skilled worker shortages, retention of tariff autonomy and ensure that pension system is sustainable for the future
- Increase the quality and economic efficiency of the Healthcare system
- More infrastructure investment
- Prevention of an artificial brake on rent prices
- Increase the attractiveness of Germany as a hub for research and innovation
- Unleash the economic growth capabilities of internet
The Young Economic Council
The Young Economic Council was established in 1987. The aim is to give young entrepreneurs and members of the business community under the age of 35 the opportunity to engage with politicians and to give more weight to those issues which are of particular importance to a younger generation. As such, topics which have recently been brought to attention include the current level of public debt, labour market policies which are geared towards a changing demographic, and an environmentally sustainable energy policy. These initiatives were promoted as part of a broader programme titled “intergenerational justice”. As part of this broader initiative the young economic council put an emphasis on the following two issues in 2013, “The compatibility of family and professional life” and “The challenges posed by the internet.” The young economic council currently has around 700 members and is organised in much the same way as its sister organisation, with a contact point in the main federal office in Berlin and 14 separate state associations. The expert commission “Younger Generation” meets at the federal level and formulates positions on key policy issues which particularly effect younger businessmen and women, as well as future generations. The highlight in the calendar of the young economic council is the annual Junger Wirtschaftstag, an event which brings together members from all the state associations to engage with key decision makers and guest speakers. In 2013 the event took place in the headquarters of the Commerzbank in Frankfurt am Main and included speeches from Sabine Lautenschläger, Vice President of the German Central Bank and Julia Klöckner, deputy chairman of the CDU at the federal level and chairman of the party in Rhineland-Palatinate. The young economic council also organises a so-called Generation Forum a network orientated event which as opposed to a more traditional event with speeches and panel discussions takes on more of a workshop format. The Generation Forum is organised in cooperation with the Group of Christian Democratic Students (RCDS).
- Dr. Philipp von Bismarck/ Dr. Karl von Wogau, MdEP, Soziale Marktwirtschaft. Die verantwortete Freiheit, Verlag für die Wirtschaft 1999.
- Ludwig Erhard, Wohlstand für alle edited by Wolfram Langer, Anaconda 2009.
- Alphons Horton, Rückblick auf ein Jahrhundert. Erinnerungen eines Zeitzeugen, Freibourg im Breisgau, 1997.
- "Was ist der Wirtschaft?". Retrieved 16 January 2014.
- "Wer ist Mitglied im Wirtschaftsrat?". Retrieved 16 January 2014.
- "Die Soziale Marktwirtschaft - Ludwig Erhard und das Wirtschaftswunder". Retrieved 16 January 2014.
- "Ist der Wirtschaftsrat unabhängig?". Retrieved 16 January 2014.
- Horten, Alphons (1997). Rückblick auf ein Jahrhundert. Erinnerungen eines Zeitzeugen. Freiburg im Breisgau. p. 115.
- "Wie ist der Wirtschaftsrat aufgebaut?". Retrieved 16 January 2014.
- "Was macht der Wirtschaftsrat?". Retrieved 16 January 2014.
- "Bundesfachkommissionen". Retrieved 16 January 2014.
- "Themengebiete des Wirtschaftsrates". Retrieved 16 January 2014.
- "Junge Wirtschaft trifft junge Politik". Retrieved 16 January 2014.
- "Junger Wirtschaftsrat" (PDF). Retrieved 16 January 2014.