Wednesday November 24th 2021
A promising start
This traffic light is an opportunity for Germany
A comment by Sebastian Huld
Olaf Scholz has forged a coalition that can actually move Germany forward. Nobody can predict whether the alliance will work in practice. But if you want, you can see encouraging omens.
Sometimes there can’t be too many announcements. The upcoming Chancellor Olaf Scholz promises a “policy of great impact”. The next federal government will modernize Germany “in a time of crisis,” announced Vice-Chancellor-designate Robert Habeck. “No industrial nation will make greater efforts to protect the climate,” says the future Vice-Vice-Chancellor Christian Lindner. With the motto of the coalition agreement – “Dare to make more progress” – Scholz even dares to borrow from the SPD over-chancellor Willy Brandt. Lindner goes into raptures about Scholz’s “inner attitude” and “leadership strength” – as if he hadn’t criticized Scholz at every opportunity for years.
In short: when the traffic light contract was presented, it was applied quite thickly on all sides. So much self-confidence is irritating, but also encouraging. The SPD, the Greens and the FDP want to govern. In 2017, the CDU and CSU wanted to form a coalition with the FDP and the Greens and the Social Democrats did not want to be Merkel’s junior again. The fact that the Union and the SPD felt compelled to this supposed marriage of convenience culminated in four lost years for the Federal Republic. The outgoing Groko government was often unreasonable in its lack of ambition and inner turmoil.
Real projects of the century
But not only the low standard of the last government formation is cause for confidence that the traffic light alliance could actually change Germany for the better. What is even more important is that the trio has big plans, especially in relation to social and climate issues, digitization and – to a certain extent – social policy. The industrial modernization of the country, the fundamental reorganization of the energy supply and the plans to improve the infrastructure are projects of the century that have not been tackled by any federal government for a long time. A different minority policy could help pacify many social conflicts and a modern immigration law based on the Canadian model could relieve the economy and social security funds.
Many projects are still vaguely formulated in the coalition agreement and the potential for conflict is anything but low. On Wednesday, too, the party representatives made no secret of how difficult the negotiations sometimes turned out to be. The FDP, which insists on adhering to the debt brake, has blocked many plans by the SPD and the Greens. If, for example, recipients of the Bürgergeld, which is supposed to replace Hartz IV, do not end up having more money in their pockets beforehand, the SPD and the Greens would be very disappointed. On the other hand, Federal Finance Minister Lindner is likely to find himself under constant pressure from the other coalition partners to turn on the money tap and not refuse to deny common debts on EU issues, for example.
The good thing is: Right from the start, the traffic light made itself honest about what those involved wanted and what not and decided to concentrate on what was feasible. The fact that for weeks not a word got out, that a three-digit number of those involved did not chat and try to influence the public mood, has created trust between very different parties. If this is retained, it would be a very different basis for work than in the grand coalition, whose parties themselves were torn up in terms of content and without internal leadership. Only the SPD has used the past few years for its own renewal.
No hiding behind the Union
Each of the three parties has secured real heart issues in the allocation of departments. With its ministries, the SPD can prove that it can lead Germany better and at the same time shape it more justly than the Union. With finance, digitization, justice and education, the FDP only covers areas in which it has repeatedly positioned itself strongly in recent years. With an energy transition minister Habeck, the agriculture and environment ministries, the Greens have almost all the trumps for a successful energy transition in their hands. Annalena Baerbock dares to undertake the mammoth task of giving the Federal Foreign Office weight in the federal government again.
If successful, each party could benefit enormously from this alliance. Much will depend on whether all the agreed projects can be implemented parallel to the unforeseeable crises that every federal government must also master. Other challenges will follow the corona pandemic. But all three parties, who have maintained for 16 years that they can do better than the Union, can now prove themselves. Nobody can reliably predict whether they will succeed. In any case, the traffic light has earned a small leap of faith in the last few weeks.