While traffic light politicians publicly praised “constructive talks” the next morning, the mood behind closed doors is bad. One coalitionist says there is “no modus operandi at all anymore,” that is, no binding procedure.
The “decision backlog” of the traffic lights in the promised acceleration of the planning and approval procedures is “increasingly endangering the ambitious climate protection goals of the progressive coalition,” warned Tanja Gönner, General Manager of the industry association BDI.
Economists were also disappointed: “Germany’s economy is facing a massive transformation,” said Achim Wambach, President of the Leibniz Center for European Economic Research (ZEW). The need for investment is enormous. “The biggest brake on investments is – in addition to the lack of skilled workers – the long duration of the planning and approval processes.”
When building the terminals for liquefied natural gas (LNG), the government showed that acceleration is possible, said the head of the Ifo Institute, Clemens Fuest. “We should build on that.” Marcel Fratzscher, President of the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), also considers the reduction of bureaucracy and faster approval procedures to be urgent and calls on the traffic light to implement the traffic turnaround promised in the coalition agreement.
Can the SPD, Greens and FDP still keep their promises as a “progressive coalition” this year? You have to make a “tabula rasa”, says a traffic light politician. Big decisions are needed, a kind of reset. But the list of possible conflict issues is long:
When it comes to the goal, the traffic light is unanimous: in the future, planning and approval procedures should only take half as long as they do today. But the Greens and FDP are currently only talking about one question: does more speed only apply to green infrastructure projects – or also to the construction of motorways?
The Greens are particularly upset that Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) has so far done little to comply with the requirements of the Climate Protection Act. They therefore do not want to participate in an acceleration of planning for new roads, even if Wissing had made a compromise offer at the request of the Chancellery: Instead of generally facilitating road construction, the 4,000 dilapidated bridges on the freeways should first be renovated and expanded more quickly and bottlenecks in the freeway network eliminated.
But the Greens did not agree to that either. After the eco-party supported the demolition of the village of Lützerath in the Rhenish lignite mining area, they now need “some success”, the SPD said the day after the fruitless meeting. The No of the Greens has nothing to do with substantive politics.
On March 1, the leaders of the SPD, Greens and FDP want to continue talking. New talks between Wissing and Environment Minister Steffi Lemke (Greens) are not planned, it said. It is unclear what an agreement might look like.
Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP) wants to present an “ambitious tax program” in the spring. What sounds like a promise to the Liberals is perceived as a threat by the Greens and Social Democrats. They reject far-reaching tax cut plans by the FDP.
Last year, due to high inflation, Lindner managed to push through extensive tax breaks that go beyond the coalition agreement. New circumstances require new solutions – that’s how the FDP sees it. And from their point of view, this also applies to corporate taxes. In order to increase the competitiveness of the economy, the Ministry of Finance would like to lower the tax rates for income and corporation tax.
But the SPD and the Greens will hardly go along with that. As a compromise, there could therefore be minor changes, which overall will also have an impact on the economy. The measures include better depreciation options for investments in digitization and climate protection.
Under pressure from the Liberals, the traffic light parties agreed in the coalition agreement to set up a funded pillar in the statutory pension insurance system. But opinions differ about the scope of this idea. Initially, it was only agreed to invest ten billion euros in the new pillar.
Finance Minister Lindner is already raving about expanding the capital cover to a three-digit billion amount in the medium term. The SPD thinks little of that. The linchpin of their pension policy remains the long-term stabilization of the pension level of 48 percent. Here, however, the liberals warn against high costs.
If Lindner wants to invest more money or state participation in his “generational capital”, his party will have to push this through in future budget negotiations.
In the fall, the FDP and the Greens had a grueling argument about longer operating times for the three remaining nuclear power plants in Germany, which were supposed to go offline at the end of 2022. After a word of power from Scholz in October, these will now run until April 15th.
However, with a view to security of supply for electricity, the FDP insists on continued operation of the nuclear reactors beyond this date. Because the Greens are strictly against it, the chances of success for continued operation of the kiln are likely to be low. The SPD also shows no inclination to deal with the subject again. Nevertheless, the mood among the coalition partners weighs on the subject.
Less than a day after Chancellor Scholz gave his word of power in the nuclear dispute, Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) launched the Energy Efficiency Act. He wanted to keep up the pace and have the cabinet decide on it the following week. But that hasn’t happened to this day.
The finance and construction ministries had vetoed this in October. And an agreement still doesn’t seem to be in sight. The SPD construction experts do not consider the plans for social housing compatible with the energy efficiency goals envisaged by the Greens. In general, the FDP never wanted its own law on the subject, fearing bureaucracy and duplicate structures.
The parties set different accents on the promised “new beginning in migration and integration policy”. Above all, the Liberals want better support for labor migration and more support from the federal government in enforcing the obligation to leave the country and deportations.
Here is a solution. The new special representative for migration issues, Joachim Stamp (FDP), is to take care of the topic of deportations from February.
The FDP is stuck on the plans of Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) for easier naturalization. In the future, migrants should generally be able to obtain a German passport after five instead of eight years. In addition, Faeser wants to expand the possibilities of dual citizenship.
The FDP wants it to be clearly regulated that dual nationalities are not passed on. One solution could be to enshrine in the law a “generation cut” for dual citizenship, as suggested by FDP leader Lindner.
After the debate about passing on the tank discount arose in the summer, Habeck’s Ministry of Economics presented a draft law to reform competition law. It involves a paradigm shift: the cartel office could investigate certain sectors and intervene if there is no competition, even without detecting illegal behavior on the part of the companies – up to and including breaking up as a last resort. At the beginning of December, the Ministry of Economics wanted to get the law through the cabinet.
But the FDP-led departments of finance and justice vetoed it. They have legal concerns and fear that they will intervene too deeply in the economy, but have delayed their detailed criticism for the time being. A few days ago, Minister of Justice Marco Buschmann (FDP) expressed his blockade again by having a long list of fundamental questions about the law sent to Habeck.
This week, according to government circles, they have come closer, and a solution to the dispute is getting closer.
Armament and military aid to Ukraine
So far, military aid to Ukraine has been a two-speed coalition. The Greens and FDP were more researchy than the SPD on the question of tank deliveries, and the public got the impression that Chancellor Scholz was being driven by the two smaller coalition partners.
This could be repeated if, after the tanks, the next qualitative step in the supply of weapons, such as aircraft, is at stake. Ultimately, however, the following applies: no decision will be made against Scholz about the delivery of specific weapons.
There is agreement on the goal of better equipping the Bundeswehr. The traffic light is divided as to whether there needs to be a rigid target for the amount of defense spending. Parts of the SPD and the Greens are skeptical about the orientation towards the two percent target, which NATO would like to shift towards three percent. For the time being, however, the 100 billion euro special fund will help to defuse conflicts in traffic lights.
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