25.07.2022, Hessen, Flörsheim: Friedrich Merz (CDU), Bundesvorsitzender der CDU Deutschland, spricht zu Journalisten bei dem Empfang der CDU-Fraktion in Hessen zum Sommergespräch u.a. mit dem Bundesvorsitzenden der CDU Deutschland und dem Ministerpräsidenten von Hessen. Foto: Andreas Arnold/dpa +++ dpa-Bildfunk +++

How much loyalty does the opposition owe to the government in times of war, lest national interests be harmed? Can you sharply criticize their policies at home and abroad?

These questions arise in view of the trip of the CDU leader Friedrich Merz to Poland and Lithuania. Germany’s good reputation suffered considerably there during the five months of war in the Ukraine.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz is said to be hesitant about arms aid to Ukraine and eastern NATO partners. And also with the conversion of the German energy supply.

If the opposition thinks the government’s course is wrong, yes: harmful, they have to say so. But also name ways out, so that the citizens know: There are alternatives – in the matter. And also in governing.

Of course, it makes a difference where the criticism is expressed and in what tone. It is not appropriate to use foreign countries as a platform to attack the government harshly. The sharper the allegations, the sooner they have to be brought up at home.

Abroad, an opposition leader has a dual role. He may indicate what he would do differently. At the same time, he must protect the international reputation of his own country and promote understanding as to why German interests differ here and there from those of its partners.

He should explain to what extent it is due to the capacities of German armaments companies and not a lack of will on the part of the government if Leopard tanks are delivered later than hoped. And reject blanket accusations with anti-German undertones, such as those used by the national-populist government in Warsaw to gain domestic political points.

Merz is to be measured by this. He practiced the sharp version of the criticism in the German media before leaving. It will be seen in Warsaw and Vilnius whether he will do justice to the dual role of representing not only his party but also his country.

Ideally, the domestic and foreign policy tasks of an opposition leader can complement each other in a constructive way. Because this creates opportunities to improve German foreign policy. And to make it clear to the partners where government and opposition stand together.