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UPDATE 2-'Count on us': Scholz promises new package to help Germans with energy bills

·2 min read

(Adds quote, details, background)

By Kirsti Knolle and Paul Carrel

BERLIN, Aug 11 (Reuters) - German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Thursday promised a new package of measures, including tax relief, to help people struggling with rising prices and higher energy bills in the wake of the pandemic and Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Speaking at his first annual summer press conference, a tradition he inherited from predecessor Angela Merkel, Scholz said such measures would still mean sticking to the government's debt brake going into next year.

"Citizens can count on us not to abandon them," he told journalists in Berlin.

After taking power in December, Scholz's Social Democrat-led government has grappled with the fallout of the war in Ukraine, which has driven up gas prices and led to a shake-up of German energy, defence and foreign policy.

The government has introduced an energy levy to ease the strain for companies buckling under high prices, and is combining that with relief measures for struggling households.

But proposals put forward by Finance Minister Christian Lindner to raise income tax thresholds have sparked criticism from within the three-way ruling coalition this week.

On foreign policy, Scholz said Germany would tackle the energy crisis in solidarity with the European Union and that he was pushing for the construction of a new pipeline from Portugal through Spain and France to diversify European supplies.

Speaking about a proposal to cap the price of Russian oil, which was made at a Group of Seven summit that Scholz chaired in June, the chancellor said it would need the buy in from other countries to work.

Asked whether rising prices could trigger social unrest, Scholz said: "No, I don't think that we will see unrest in this country in this form, on the grounds that Germany is a welfare state... This welfare state has to take effect in this situation by way of saying that we will not leave anybody alone." (Reporting by Kirsti Knolle, Paul Carrel, Rachel More and Sabine Siebold; Writing by Matthias Williams; Editing by Maria Sheahan and Mike Harrison)