Germany’s federal and state governments have agreed on a package to speed up the roll-out of new infrastructure projects such as railways and power grids, in part by automatically approving applications if there is no timely response by responsible authorities.
After Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, Germany built new terminals for importing liquefied natural gas (LNG) in just a few months instead of the usual lengthy planning and approval processes.
“Last year, just before Christmas, we opened the first LNG terminal in Wilhelmshaven,” said Lower Saxony Prime Minister Stephan Weil (SPD/S&D) late on Monday.
“We were able to complete a project in eight months, which would otherwise have taken years,” he added.
This speed should now become a model for many other infrastructure projects, said Weil, announcing a far-reaching agreement between the federal states and the German government on a package to speed up planning and approval procedures for infrastructure projects.
The agreement came after Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) called for a “national effort” to cut red tape in September. With Monday’s agreement, this has been achieved, Scholz said.
“This is not just another politician saying that everything should be faster, but it is actually happening,” he told journalists, adding that the package included “probably 100 individual measures that are linked to this”.
According to government sources, the package includes measures to automatically approve certain applications for infrastructure projects if the relevant authority does not respond in time. Among other things, the approval of nature conservation authorities would be “assumed or replaced in certain cases if it has not been refused within a certain period of time”.
In many cases, the agreement aims to make the best use of EU rules to facilitate the deployment of infrastructure.
However, it also recognises that EU rules, such as those on environmental protection or access to justice, are sometimes an obstacle to faster approval of projects. “If necessary, the German government will work towards appropriate changes in EU law,” the agreement says.
To further speed up infrastructure projects, construction should start before the final authorisation is granted.
“In the case of projects for which there is a high probability of a later approval during an ongoing approval process, an early start of construction work can lead to significant time savings,” the government source said.
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