VCI-Position kompakt


17. May 2021 | Position

Only some 10 years ago, German licensing procedures were deemed reliable and thus a positive location factor. That has changed. Major problems arise from increasingly complex planning and licensing procedures with an expansion of citizens’ participation and large numbers of new legal provisions.

Moreover, EU requirements are interpreted extremely strictly in Germany. Over and again, the German legislator does not use the given regulatory scope. In addition, public authorities interpret unclear legal terms such as "considerable" (“erheblich”) or "appropriate" (“angemessen”) in an ever more restrictive manner. The consequences: Licensing procedures take increasingly longer and are too bureaucratic. In other countries, such as the Netherlands, many things move faster. There is also a lack of staff in German public authorities. Managing licenses is an important aspect of any company's sustainability strategy. The existence and further development of industrial plants presuppose a continuous improvement process. Their state has decisive influence on economic, ecological and social concerns. Therefore, rapid and legally sound licensing procedures are an essential basis for innovation, the transformation of industry and its competitiveness.

High standards in Germany

The environmental and safety standards for industrial plants in Germany are very high. For their operating, far-reaching technical and organisational requirements under environmental and chemicals law must be met. These include rules on air pollution control, water, soil and nature protection, and waste management. All this is based on numerous reporting and licensing requirements as well as regular inspections of the plants by public authorities and experts.

Questionable transparency rules

The protection of high-tech information threatens to be eroded by new provisions. According to the German act to ensure orderly planning and approval procedures (PlanSiG), application documents are to be published on the internet. It must be feared that there will be long discussions in the procedures on how to handle confidential business information and that sensible data get on the internet.

If this means that project management timelines are difficult to meet, urgently needed investments and innovations cannot be realised at all or only late in the fields of transformation, infrastructure and energy transition (Energiewende).


  • Simplify environmental legislation, consistently reduce bureaucracy
    Environmental and planning legislation should be modernised by consolidating legal provisions. The aim must be to avoid duplicate regulation and to bring about legal clarity.
  • Streamline procedures
    The procedures should be streamlined thoroughly. For example, procedural requirements, the forms of public involvement, rights to bring legal action and deadlines should be reviewed.
  • Use understandable legal terms
    The legislator should use clear legal terms: Requirements and enforcement rules must be formulated in a practice-oriented, clear-cut and unambiguous way.
  • Increase and qualify staff
    The authorities should urgently recruit and train more staff to clear the existing backlog.
  • Engage in an open dialogue
    An early dialogue between all stakeholders is conducive to efficient plant licensing law.
  • Prevent know-how theft
    Trade secrets and confidential business information must remain protected. It is worth noting that hearings are about confidential information too. Only those stakeholders of the general public who are really impacted should be given access to documents.

licensingprocedures.pdfPDF | 355 kB | Stand: 01. Juni 2021


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 Verena A. Wolf

Contact person

Verena A. Wolf

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