Did Rolf Mützenich advance without prior notice? Did Christine Lambrecht call him back? Anyone who read the news about the special fund for the Bundeswehr on Monday could quickly get the impression that there was a mess in the SPD. The secondary budget with a volume of 100 billion euros is currently being negotiated more or less secretly between the traffic light coalition and the Union faction, because the special fund is to be anchored in the Basic Law, which requires a two-thirds majority.
It was actually planned to reach an agreement last week, with a vote in the Bundestag on Friday. But now the talks drag on. It depends solely on the Greens – so the tenor from above all from the Union, but also from the SPD and the FDP.
But one can also interpret the statement by SPD parliamentary group leader Muetzenichs in the “Frankfurter Allgemeine” as warning the Union not to overwhelm it with demands in the last few meters. When asked by the newspaper whether the coalition could do it with Union parliamentary group leader Friedrich Merz, he said: “If Germany is in an emergency situation, Article 115 also allows borrowing with a simple majority.”
Mützenich was referring to the fact that the debt brake anchored in this article of the Basic Law provides for an exception – an emergency. There are lawyers who are of the opinion that the special fund can be interpreted as the result of an external shock and thus falls under the emergency clause. But there is also the opposite opinion, which is favored by the Union.
Mützenich did not want his statement to be understood as a threat. But the defense minister, who was directly involved in the negotiations, saw it as necessary to contradict her own faction leader. She sees no reason for the coalition to go it alone. “We are currently in good talks and we should use this opportunity,” she said on ARD. Everyone pulls together with a view to the Bundeswehr. Lambrecht expects a result before the summer break.
There will be no going it alone because of the FDP. Finance Minister Christian Lindner quickly spread the word on Monday that it was “not an option” to decide on the special fund with a simple majority. Lindner’s harsh no to the emergency clause could be related to the fact that Mützenich’s initiative can ultimately be interpreted as strengthening the Greens in the negotiations – and the SPD parliamentary group leader is thus shifting the internal weighting of the coalition in the negotiations with the Union.
In fact, Mützenich is considered to be one of those social democrats who are struggling with the coalition’s new commitment to massive rearmament of the Bundeswehr. While the chancellor, the FDP and the Union want to use the 100 billion euros for the armament of the armed forces alone, the parliamentary group leader in the Bundestag also called for diplomacy and development cooperation to be strengthened. This is also the position of the Greens, who are now getting prominent support from the chancellor faction.
And since it is currently no longer about general questions, but about the details of the compromise with the Union, one can understand Mützenich’s “we can also do it differently” as a clear signal to Merz and the Union that one sees limits in the traffic light overall . “The Union should recognize that the issue is too serious for tactical games,” said the SPD faction leader of the FAZ.
A particularly controversial point is the anchoring of the NATO quota, i.e. the plan to spend two percent of gross domestic product on defense every year. The Union has clearly different ideas than the coalition, with the FDP also coming closest to the Union here. It now seems clear that this goal has no place in the Basic Law. But apparently Merz would still like to be specified in a prominent position.
The CDU foreign politician Norbert Röttgen criticized Mützenich’s initiative. He was disappointed “because it raises doubts about the real will of the coalition to come to an agreement with the CDU and CSU,” he said on Monday in Berlin. It was wrong for the coalition to go it alone, “because the situation is so serious that this time the center in parliament should do it together,” he added, and called for the coalition to negotiate “on an equal footing” with the Union. According to Röttgen’s impression, the Chancellery and the SPD parliamentary group are pursuing different goals on this issue. He is convinced “that the Chancellor is just as displeased as I am about this statement by the SPD parliamentary group leader”.