In Germany, Olaf Scholz faces the contradictions of his tripartite coalition


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

Together, it is not always easy to get along. At three, it’s even more complicated. The tensions running through the “traffic light” coalition in power in Germany confirm this. Fifteen months after his election, the Social Democratic Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) is struggling to give a clear direction to his policy, torn between the positions of his party and those of his ecological and liberal partners (FDP), increasingly difficult to reconcile.

The most recent sign of these differences: the postponement of the presentation to the Council of Ministers of the draft budget for 2024. Scheduled for Wednesday March 15, it was postponed sine die, for lack of agreement between the Minister of Finance, Christian Lindner (FDP), who wants to be the fastidious guarantor of the balance of public accounts, and his colleagues from the SPD and the Greens, whose demands are proving to be particularly costly.

This is the case of Defense Minister Boris Pistorius (SPD), who is asking for his next budget 10 billion euros more than the 50 billion euros planned so far for 2024. In principle, Christian Lindner is not against an increase in military spending, but on condition that other ministers tighten their belts.

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Two of them are particularly in his sights. Both are environmentalists. The first is Robert Habeck, Vice-Chancellor and Minister for the Economy, who wants to ban the installation of gas or oil-fired boilers from 2024. To help households equip themselves with heating systems that do not consume fossil fuels, the former president of the Greens is claiming several billion euros.

His colleague in charge of finance did not hide his hostility to this proposal. “Financially speaking, it is illusory to believe that political power can tighten the standards of the fight against global warming at all costs. (…), to then subsidize the consequences. We need to think about the cost from the outset (of the measures we propose) »said Christian Lindner, Sunday, March 12, daily Die Welt.

Liberals determined to be more assertive

The other minister deemed too greedy is that of the family, Lisa Paus, who is demanding more than 10 billion euros for the future allowance intended to help children from disadvantaged families, provided for in the “coalition contract” signed in November 2021 by the SPD, the Greens and the FDP. For the Liberal Democrat Christian Lindner, the sum demanded by his environmentalist colleague is excessive, especially since the implementation of this reform is only planned for 2025, argues the Minister of Finance.

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