HomeNewsThree's a crowd for Germany's Scholz, who faces coalition contradictions

    Three’s a crowd for Germany’s Scholz, who faces coalition contradictions

    From left to right, Economics Minister Robert Habeck, Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Finance Minister Christian Lindner in Gransee, near Berlin, March 6, 2023.

    They say two’s company, three’s a crowd. Fifteen months after his election, Social Democratic (SPD) Chancellor Olaf Scholz is struggling to set a course for his policy, torn between the positions of his party and those of his partners, the Greens and the Liberals (FDP), which are proving increasingly difficult to reconcile.

    The most recent sign of these differences is the postponement of the draft budget presentation for 2024 to the Council of Ministers. Scheduled for Wednesday, March 15, the meeting was postponed indefinitely due to disagreements between Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP), who wants balanced public accounts, and his colleagues from the SPD and the Greens, whose demands are particularly costly.

    Defense Minister Boris Pistorius (SPD), for example, is asking for €10 billion more than the €50 billion earmarked for his next budget so far for 2024. In principle, Lindner is not against increased military spending, but only if other ministers tighten their belts.

    Read more Article reserved for our subscribers Germany’s repeated flip-flops raise concerns in Brussels

    Two of them are particularly in his sights, both environmentalists. The first is Robert Habeck, vice chancellor and minister of the economy, who wants to ban installations of gas and oil boilers from 2024. The former president of the Green Party is asking for several billion euros to help households install heating systems that do not use fossil fuels.

    His finance counterpart objected publicly on Sunday, March 12, in an interview with the daily Die West. “Financially speaking, it is illusory to believe that the government can tighten standards for fighting global warming […] then subsidize the consequences. We have to think about the costs [of our proposed measures] from the outset,” Lindner said.

    Liberals determined to assert themselves

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    The other minister considered too greedy is Family Affairs Minister Lisa Paus, who is asking for more than €10 billion for the future allowance to help children from disadvantaged families, as stipulated in the “coalition contract” signed in November 2021 by the SPD, the Greens and the FDP. The Liberal Democrat finance minister had said the amount is excessive, especially since the implementation of the reform is only planned for 2025.

    As chairman of the FDP party, which has suffered severe defeats in the various regional elections held in Germany in recent months, Lindner has no choice but to be uncompromising. Observers say it is precisely because his party has not made its mark on the federal government’s policies that it has had disastrous results, especially in Berlin on February 12, where it did not even pass the 5% mark needed to be represented in the city council .

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