AIn the end, the public pressure on the Greens was apparently too great. On Friday afternoon, the SPD, Greens and FDP factions announced that they had reached an agreement on the payment card. In the future, asylum seekers will be able to access the majority of the state benefits they are entitled to via a chip card. This has long been a demand from countries that hope it will ease the burden of dealing with the many refugees in Germany.

Mona Jaeger

Deputy editor in charge of news and politics online.

The Greens in particular were unhappy with the payment card from the start. There was talk of bullying and inhumane treatment and obstacles to integration. However, the prime ministers and the federal government quickly agreed on the map – and that a nationwide regulation was needed to make the matter legally secure. Ultimately, the states and municipalities have to design and apply the law.

At the beginning of March, Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck achieved the Greens' approval with a lot of persuasion – until resistance flared up again a short time later and the law did not make any progress in the Bundestag. It was only possible to overcome this shortly before the weekend. The FDP in particular attaches importance to the statement that nothing significant will be changed in the cabinet's draft bill.

In fact, three “clarifications” were agreed upon. The relevant paper is available to the FAZ. It states that the Asylum Seekers Benefits Act should be changed. This had already been questioned by the Greens, such as party leader Ricarda Lang. After all, the countries could also act without changes. At that time, SPD General Secretary Kevin Kühnert was angry. He expects that all coalition factions will stand by the compromise once found.

Authorities should be able to make flexible decisions

It is now also made clear that all necessary needs could be freely met locally. However, transfers abroad are not possible. The aim is to prevent money for asylum seekers in this country from flowing into their countries of origin, for example to family members or smugglers. The compromise paper states that “the payment card form of service is particularly a suitable means of preventing money payments to smugglers, for example”. In principle, the states and their authorities are free to decide whether they introduce a payment card at all or stick to cash payments or benefits in kind. The compromise also stipulates that the respective authorities can decide for themselves how much cash cardholders can withdraw within a certain period of time. It is possible that all money can be withdrawn. In this respect, the Greens have certainly prevailed in some areas.

It's mainly about questions of everyday life. Groceries in the supermarket, bus tickets or membership in a sports club – there should be enough cash available for all of this, despite the payment card. In several places in the draft law, reference is now made to “necessary personal needs”, which refers to the legal mandate to guarantee the minimum subsistence level as well as social and cultural participation. That was also important to the Greens. Overall, this means that whenever it is doubtful that the payment card adequately covers the needs of everyday life, it should be possible to pay out cash or transfer it to a separate account.

After the coalition partners had been at loggerheads for weeks and nothing was happening, things should now move quickly: the Bundestag is scheduled to vote on the introduction of the payment card next week.