CDU General Secretary Carsten Linnemann values ​​plain language and “pure CDU”. In an interview with FOCUS online, he explains how Germany should move forward again – and what bothers him about the Greens.

FOCUS online: Mr. Linnemann, your party is well ahead of the others in the polls, but you can’t get much more than 30 percent. So how do you want to govern Germany in the future?

Carsten Linnemann: If possible with an absolute majority.

You’re joking. Such a majority is absolutely not in sight for the CDU.

Linnemann: Wait and see. We are working for a strong result in order to be able to implement as much Union policy as possible. It’s quite easy to say what makes this government bad. Everyone in Germany knows that. This country needs to get back on track. We have to say what we will do better. To this end, we have formulated our new basic program in which we have formulated our plan for Germany. Yes, it has certainly turned out to be more conservative again.

In this context, at your recent party conference there was talk of “pure CDU”. What is that supposed to be?

Linnemann: First of all, this is our Christian view of humanity. We start from the individual, not the collective. We believe in the individual, their abilities and talents. And we believe in personal responsibility. The state should only step in if someone cannot or can no longer meet this responsibility. This includes the principle of supporting and demanding, according to which those who receive money from the state also have an obligation to pay. That is pure CDU: subsidiarity and solidarity. There is a world of difference between this, our belief, and how the Greens, for example, want to solve problems.

What is so bad about the Greens for you?  

Linnemann: You act as if the state can insure against all risks and solve all problems with money. In this way they are cementing a grievance in Germany: namely the impression that efforts are no longer needed and that performance is no longer worth anything. The Greens do not motivate, but restrict people with bans. This means there can be no hope and no sense of optimism. I would like a culture of doing – that we have a desire for the future again.

How do you plan to form governing majorities after the state elections in Thuringia, Saxony and Brandenburg – and keep the AfD, in your own words people who are not allowed to take responsibility for a second in this republic, out of the picture?

Linnemann: We are on a very good path in these countries. We grow organically. We are slowly building trust. The trend is right, the direction is right. And that’s why I’m confident that you’ll interview me again after the Thuringia election and say: Man, Mr. Linnemann, I wouldn’t have thought that.

Carsten Linnemann is a German politician from the CDU and a qualified economist. He was deputy chairman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group from 2018 to 2022. He has been General Secretary of the CDU since July 12, 2023.

We’ll make a note of the date and are very excited to see what you’ll actually have to say. But first the European elections have to be completed. Why is the CDU actually dismantling its own top candidate Ursula von der Leyen so mercilessly?

Linnemann:  How did you come up with that?

You are currently confiscating the heart of your policy as EU Commission President, the Green Deal, bit by bit and want to overturn the end to new cars with combustion engines in 2035 that was decided in Brussels.

Linnemann: Ursula von der Leyen has made a breathtaking showing in foreign policy, particularly in her response to the Russian threat. It stands for steadfastness and reliability. It is no secret that the implementation of the Green Deal is bureaucratic here and there, but should be discussed openly.

And the end of combustion engines is off the table?

Linnemann:  Yes, and we have no disagreement there. Like Ursula von der Leyen, we also want climate neutrality. But a simple ban is the wrong approach. We want to achieve the goal in a technology-neutral manner, also to enable innovation and secure good jobs. Ms. von der Leyen is clearly behind our program.

It has often been said about Ms. von der Leyen that she stands behind everything that is of use to her. Is that perhaps why she is so unpopular in her own party, the CDU?

Linnemann: Is that her?

This is how it is reported everywhere.

Linnemann: I’m hearing something else, for example that the Supply Chain Act went overboard.

CDU wants laws on probation

What do you think good laws would look like?

Linnemann: A law is good if it proves itself in practice. We should have the courage to introduce laws on a trial basis, valid for two years. During this time we will test the impact of the regulation and then decide whether to extend the law or abolish it if it proves unsuitable. I would also allow the districts to try out their own regulations.

What else do you have planned for Germany?

Linnemann: More flexibility in pension policy, for example. Anyone who has reached statutory retirement age and would like to continue working – to whatever extent – should be able to do so and receive the first 2,000 euros per month tax-free. However, I would like to see more uniformity in education policy.

Have fun. You’ll immediately turn all the prime ministers against you, including your own.

Linnemann: Federalism or not: It must be possible to set an educational standard that applies to the whole of Germany. I think it is very worrying that more and more fourth graders cannot read and write sufficiently. This is certainly due to the fact that more and more children are starting school who know little or no German. Something is going very wrong.

What do you want to do about it?

Linnemann: All four-year-olds in Germany should take a nationwide language test. And anyone who doesn’t pass is required to attend preschool to improve their language skills. Language is an essential key to social participation and professional success.

Will the Union provide us with a spectacle similar to that seen between Armin Laschet and Markus Söder when its candidate for chancellor is chosen?

Linnemann: Definitely not.

What is actually so difficult about explaining promptly and clearly that the leader of the larger of the two Union parties, Friedrich Merz, has the natural first right of access to the candidacy for chancellor?

Linnemann: I assume that everything will go very well. The relationship between Mr. Söder and Mr. Merz is really good and allows us to talk to each other in a trusting manner. It’s about the big picture, not petty animosities. If we don’t turn this country around now – who will be able to do it?