Opposition leader Friedrich Merz is in top form. During the general debate this Wednesday morning in the Bundestag, the CDU party leader will ask the questions that the traffic light has been circling around for weeks.
It’s about Ukraine, about arms deliveries and last but not least about debt policy and rising inflation. Meanwhile, there is silence on the government bench. A good sign for the CDU leader. It is said that cabinet members listen to him more carefully than they usually do.
After Merz, it’s Scholz’s turn. He follows the opposition leader’s request not to read his speech and initially acquits. He rarely does. But the Chancellor does not want to just let the criticism mentioned stand. At first glance, the counterattack is against Merz. Scholz is aggressive and to the point. He celebrates the achievements of his government and makes promises for the future.
Nevertheless, it is clear that Merz has hit a nerve with his words. Not least because the Chancellor does not want to be specific about an important part of the questions in this debate either.
Merz’s first point is the delivery of weapons. After all, the Bundestag had decided to supply Kyiv with heavy weapons in addition to humanitarian and financial aid. “More than a month later, the promised weapons were not delivered in Ukraine,” criticized the CDU chairman.
Instead, there were repeated statements in the Chancellor’s party that questioned the SPD’s solidarity with Ukraine. There is only resentment about the attitude of the federal government, disappointment about the unclear role of Germany and real irritation about Scholz and his government, said Merz.
“And you, Mr. Chancellor,” he adds, “you’ve been talking a little more than usual lately. But you’re still saying nothing.” There was an embarrassed silence in the rows of traffic lights. Many of them have been critical of the chancellor in private over the past few weeks. Some even publicly. For example, the Greens politician Anton Hofreiter emphasized in an interview: The problem is in the Federal Chancellery.
In the end, Merz asked two crucial questions about the arms delivery and the Chancellor’s position. Firstly: “What weapons is the Federal Republic of Germany really supplying to Ukraine?” And secondly: “How will you vote in the European Council if the question has to be answered: does Ukraine and other states have accession status to the European Union?” The latter translates as: “Do you see Ukraine as one of us?”
Scholz will later talk about his plans for further weapon deliveries and contradict Merz. There is no annoyance with the federal government in other countries and he has even experienced gratitude. He will counter the criticism of the defense policy of the traffic light with extravagant criticism of the former CSU Defense Minister Karl Theodor zu Guttenberg.
However, Scholz did not answer the two questions in his speech.
The situation is similar when Merz talks about debt policy. The CDU politician complains that the federal government spends a lot of money but doesn’t think about how it will be repaid. According to Merz, a solidarity surcharge should actually be levied on income and corporation tax. A proposal that causes loud laughter in the ranks of the SPD and Greens. The FDP is horrified, with one or the other even dropping their jaws. Because the Union once made the abolition of the solis a key issue in its election campaign. The fact that Merz, of all people, is now demanding him back causes incredulous amazement.
Merz, on the other hand, is pursuing a point that is important to him. He alludes to the traffic light’s lack of foresight in his eyes and emphasizes how important it is that the next generation does not have to bear all the costs.
In the end, the CDU leader asked: “What suggestions do you make for the reform of German pension insurance so that the younger generation has the prospect of a secure old-age provision?”
Scholz shoots back again. The CDU man is getting a lot of malice from the chancellor for his solo proposal. Then Scholz begins to list the relief that the traffic light has brought to the citizens, such as the 9-euro ticket, the tank discount. That’s a lot, but it’s not enough. Scholz even states that his government will continue to think about how inflation can be cushioned. Today, at least, he is trying to make it clear that he takes this topic, which people are more concerned about than any other, seriously.
Again, he doesn’t answer the actual question. Because it is currently the biggest problem with traffic lights, to which Friedrich Merz cannot really give an answer either: where is all the money supposed to come from? And who pays it back?
The debate was a politically interesting exchange of blows between Merz and Scholz. Both were aggressive. And both delivered rhetorically. Only helps the citizens once little. Because they didn’t get the most important thing: answers.