When Olaf Scholz chose Nesselwang in the Allgäu as a holiday destination a year ago, the flood in North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate thwarted plans – the SPD chancellor candidate traveled to the disaster area. Well, now chancellor, Scholz is again on vacation in the Allgäu. According to his wife Britta Ernst, hikes in particular are planned for the next two weeks.
It is well known that a chancellor is always on duty, but seldom has a summer break been fraught with so many uncertainties that the chancellor could have to return to the chancellery at any time.
The traffic light coalition is pushing a whole bow wave of unsolved problems in front of it and anyone who looks at some of the requests to speak raises the question of how long Scholz can keep his nervousness under control.
No cabinet meeting is planned this week for the time being, next week Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck (Greens) will be allowed to head the cabinet for the first time, it could be the week in which it will become clear whether the Russian Gazprom group will let the gas tap on Nord Stream 1 or again will deliver some gas.
Although Habeck is currently the country’s most popular politician, he has not yet succeeded in concluding a supply contract for liquid gas supplies with Qatar, for example. For months there have been strictly confidential rounds – also with representatives of the Federal Intelligence Service – to assess the danger of a permanent gas stop. But no one can look inside Vladimir Putin’s head. The greatest hope at the moment is that a first liquid gas terminal will be operational by December.
In the last few days, a debate has started, incidentally extending into the Union, which could rapidly gain momentum if there were a permanent stop on gas. How long will solidarity with Ukraine last? And when does the pressure to maintain sanctions against Russia become too great? And where is the money supposed to come from for further relief?
“It’s very important to me that we don’t bingo with suggestions during the summer break, but that we react to the foreseeable challenge with a targeted relief plan,” said Building Minister Klara Geywitz (SPD) on RTL.
In terms of communication, the cacophony often has a confusing effect on citizens. FDP Finance Minister Christian Lindner wants to stick to the debt brake, but is now bringing a higher commuter allowance into play for everyone from 2023, while the Greens and SPD are fighting for higher relief for low earners and a successor regulation for the 9-euro ticket, which expires at the end of August.
Putin’s policies are also sowing discord in the coalition. A dispute between the chairwoman of the Defense Committee, Marie-Agnes-Strack-Zimmermann (FDP), and the SPD politician Ralf Stegner shows how rough the tone in the traffic lights has become. First, Chancellor Scholz had announced through the deputy government spokeswoman Christiane Hoffmann that there would be no answer to Strack-Zimmermann’s open letter calling for a national Ukraine conference. She is one of the harshest critics of the chancellor’s deliberative course on arms deliveries.
Stegner said in the direction of the FDP politician on Twitter: Open “letters” from MPs to the federal government are in fact press releases. “Experienced MPs know that, even if they have only recently belonged to a government faction.”
Strack-Zimmermann countered: “Oh Mr. Stegner. If we only listened to new, inexperienced MPs like you (…) Ukraine would now have neither a government of its own nor a chance for self-defense.”
Stegner, who has been in the Bundestag since 2021, replied that he met many citizens every day who shared his views and appreciated the Chancellor’s level-headedness. The FDP woman then advised the SPD party left to “less arrogance” and more constructive work. “Fewer La Paloma whistle when you’re always in executive office yourself
In the Chancellery, people are still relaxed. But the SPD and the Greens are concerned about the FDP’s urge to make a name for themselves. The outcome of the state elections in Lower Saxony on October 9th could be a milestone for the coalition, in polls the FDP is at six to seven percent there. And the Union puts the traffic light under additional stress, trying to drive one wedge after the other into the alliance. Union parliamentary group leader Jens Spahn (CDU), for example, suggested a barter: If the Greens said they would do half a year longer with nuclear energy, “then I think we should also be able to talk about the speed limit,” said Spahn on ARD.
Green party leader Britta Haßelmann rejects such “deal” ideas. “It is enough. Linking nuclear power and a speed limit to one condition is absolutely absurd,” she tweeted. Nuclear energy is a high-risk technology. There is a broad social consensus on the decision to exit.
The fact that Habeck is now having the whole thing checked again shows how great the pressure is on the Greens in this regard. According to an Insa survey for the “Bild”, 40 percent of Green Party voters are also in favor of the three remaining nuclear power plants Isar 2, Neckarwestheim 2 and Emsland being allowed to continue producing electricity beyond 2022.
Although the lack of gas is becoming a threat, especially in the heating sector, it is therefore the government’s declared goal that hardly any gas should be used for electricity production.
However, there is a lack of sufficient base load capable power plants that can compensate for the fluctuations in the production of electricity from solar systems and wind turbines in such a way that security of supply is guaranteed. Before the Russian war against Ukraine, gas-fired power plants were considered the ideal complement to renewables because of the significantly lower CO2 emissions compared to coal-fired power plants, especially because they can be started up and shut down quickly.
In order to close the gap, the last three nuclear power plants will inevitably become an option, even if SPD parliamentary group leader Matthias Miersch says: “All findings so far show that extending the service life of nuclear power plants does not help with the compensation of gas, sparks gigantic costs and is ruled out for safety reasons .” The coalition must now use the power to find real solutions and ensure “that the high price of gas does not also drive up the price of electricity”. The SPD is looking with interest to Spain, where the gas price for electricity generation is capped by the state – but this again runs counter to the debt brake target.
FDP faction deputy Christian Dürr, on the other hand, never tires of demanding longer nuclear power plant runtimes – and rejecting a speed limit, he also doesn’t want to know anything about a deal
At the latest after the summer break, all the open questions must be clarified – including further relief.
After the electoral successes in North Rhine-Westphalia and Schleswig-Holstein as well as the good polls in the federal government, the Greens in particular are putting the many changes in the law and the implementation of the coalition agreement in the foreground. On the other hand, they do not believe in constant skirmishes. But above all, the nuclear debate, which the FDP promotes every day, brings bad blood. The stubbornness of the liberals in their prestige projects, such as a relaxed corona policy or the no to the speed limit, is often only acknowledged with sighs. With the Union, one would have gotten further, Green MPs now suspect.
Even if everyone has so far rejected a deal on running times and speed limits, both could possibly come as a symbol of the new movement in times of crisis. Because, at least there, they are largely in agreement in the fragile coalition: Hardly anything can be ruled out in these times.