EIn the year after the oath, something like a spirit of optimism could actually be felt again on Wednesday. The general debate in the Bundestag was formally about the budget of the traffic light coalition. But in the end it was everything. After CDU leader Friedrich Merz had given free rein to his criticism of the government (“constant dispute”, “loss of trust”, “poor craftsmanship”), Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) praised the work of the traffic light coalition and thanked the Greens and FDP. Merz’s speech reminded him of the children’s book “Alice in Wonderland”, says Scholz: “What is really big, you talk down, and vice versa.”
Review: On November 24, 2021, the SPD, Greens and FDP presented their newly forged alliance and its leitmotif in Berlin’s Westhafen: “Dare to make more progress”. But with the Russian attack on Ukraine on February 24, the 144-page master plan had to take a back seat. Progress was defined differently from then on. Who would have thought twelve months ago that the Green Economics Minister Robert Habeck would travel to Qatar as a petitioner to open up new gas sources for Germany? That the liberal finance minister and debt brake advocate Christian Lindner would have credit authorizations of half a trillion euros approved by the Bundestag? That the Social Democratic Chancellor Olaf Scholz should increase the budget of the Bundeswehr by half, after he previously had little left as finance minister out of consideration for his party for national defense?
Twelve months after the coalition agreement, the following are on the plus side: replenished gas storage facilities, more electricity-producing coal-fired power plants, the first German liquid gas terminal, a special fund for the Bundeswehr and four major aid programs for citizens and companies against high energy prices worth 300 billion euros. In addition, there are various laws or legislative projects from the coalition agreement, which are intended to accelerate both the expansion of renewable energies and infrastructure projects. Minister of Labor Hubertus Heil (SPD) raised the minimum wage to twelve euros. And citizen income is also coming, united with the Union. It’s working – isn’t it?
The traffic light coalition wanted to govern more professionally, quietly and harmoniously than the grand coalition. That doesn’t always work. A permanent conflict is that between Lindner and Habeck. When the gas levy to save the struggling gas importer Uniper was devised in Berlin in the summer, the Ministry of Economic Affairs said that there was unfortunately no alternative to the levy because the Finance Minister did not want to loosen state money. The FDP, in turn, did everything to pin the unpopular crisis instrument, which was jointly agreed upon in the coalition, to the Minister of Economics. There was talk of a “Habeck levy”. In the end, the levy was buried and Uniper was saved with tax money. There was even more friction between green and yellow, Habeck and Lindner when it came to nuclear power. Because of the resistance of his party, the Minister of Economics wanted to keep only two reactors as a reserve beyond the end of the year, while the FDP wanted to keep all three remaining nuclear power plants running until 2024. Now, at the behest of Scholz, all three should continue, but only until mid-April. A face-saving but not a silent solution.