(Berlin) German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is meeting his coalition on Sunday evening to try to ease growing tensions between government partners, which threaten to turn into a crisis.
The disputes for weeks between the Liberals of the FDP, the ecologists and the social democrats of the chancellor, forming the government coalition, concern the climate as well as the financing of the army, transport infrastructure, the 2024 budget and those of the years to come.
Beyond that, it is a growing loss of mutual trust between the three partners that is beginning to cause concern and ends up slowing down many major projects in Europe’s leading economy.
“Everywhere you look there seems to be a fire in the government”, analyzes the weekly Der Spiegel on Sunday, “we argue about priorities, we blame each other and everyone is frustrated by the failure to find compromises”.
“The house of the coalition is burning down,” summarizes the popular daily Bild.
These domestic tensions have in the meantime overflowed in Brussels, where they have, for example, resulted in Berlin taking its European partners backwards in early March by blocking at the last moment a regulation providing for reducing CO2 emissions from new vehicles to zero. A compromise has meanwhile been found on Saturday.
It is therefore a collective therapy session that the members of this tripartite coalition, unprecedented in Germany and which goes from left to right, will submit to Sunday from 6:30 p.m. at the chancellery.
“The citizens are waiting for the coalition to achieve results,” warned a Social Democratic leader, Dirk Wiese, in Spiegel.
Objective: to restore order in order to stem a growing unpopularity which benefits the conservative opposition, at the head of the polls, and the AfD (extreme right), now third party in Germany according to several studies.
The Liberals hold the Ministry of Finance and see themselves as guarantors of budgetary discipline. One of their leaders, Christoph Meyer, criticized the other two parties on Saturday for “an dependence on public spending”, in the newspapers of the Funke press group.
“Sometimes you have to snatch the bottle of schnapps out of an alcoholic’s mouth,” he quipped.
On the climate, Greens and FDP have been out in the open for weeks over their disagreements about combustion engines and the gradual ban on oil or gas heaters.
The main turbulence has been caused in recent days by the Ecologist Minister of Economy and Climate, Robert Habeck.
“One party represents progress and the others impediment”, the number 2 of the government got carried away on Tuesday.
The trained philosopher also criticizes the government for “not sufficiently” fulfilling its mission “to bring something to the people, to Germany” and to the climate.
The country has certainly reached its goal of limiting CO2 emissions in 2022, partly thanks to the energy crisis, but there is still a long way to go to achieve carbon neutrality in 2045.
Mr. Habeck particularly criticizes his liberal allies for slowing down his plan, which has leaked to the press, to ban new oil or gas heaters next year.
The tension is such that FDP Vice-Chairman Wolfgang Kubicki went so far as to say, before apologizing, that Mr. Habeck shared with Vladimir Putin “a similar conviction that the state, the leader, the chosen one knows better than the people what is good for them”.
The SPD urges calm. But Chancellor Olaf Scholz, renowned for tackling difficulties rather than deciding on the spot, has all the trouble, a year and a half after coming to power, to gain the upper hand over his restless partners.
CDU conservatives constantly criticize him. “Leadership is needed more than ever, and Olaf Scholz does not show it, because he lets it happen,” laments CDU Deputy Chairman Carsten Linnemann.