It was the first party conference of the CDU in three years – and the first under the new party leader Friedrich Merz. The party is reorganizing itself internally and in terms of content, decided on a temporary quota for women and a compulsory year for young people.
After a quota for women, the CDU party congress also approved a charter of basic values in order to give itself a clearer profile after the defeat in the federal elections last year. “The CDU is back,” said party leader Friedrich Merz at the end of the two-day meeting in Hanover on Saturday. The party has embarked on a course of renewal and at the same time made it clear that it “feels a deep responsibility for this country”.
At the end, the discussion about an obligatory social year for young men and women was controversial. The delegates finally voted for the introduction of this compulsory social year immediately after leaving school. An alternative proposal for a voluntary social year failed. The CDU wants to initiate changes in the Basic Law that are necessary for the mandatory year “in the coming years”.
On Saturday morning, the party congress decided on the charter of fundamental values, which is intended to pave the way for a new basic program by the time of the 2024 European elections. After the lost federal election, the CDU had to “work out positions that clearly distinguish us from other parties,” said the chairman of the principle committee, Carsten Linnemann. The aim must be “that every CDU member is woken up at three in the morning and everyone immediately says: ‘First, second, third. That’s what the CDU stands for'”. The Charter of Fundamental Values serves this purpose.
There was a long discussion about a passage in which the “actual equality of men and women” is demanded. Several motions called for replacing the word with “equality” or “equal opportunity.” Critics put the word “equality” in the context of left-wing politics that set standards for social issues and did not correspond to the profile of the CDU – but could not assert themselves.
The controversial debate about the gradual introduction of a quota for women was evidently still having an effect here. It was finally decided on Friday evening. From next year, a third of the posts on board members from the district level must be filled by women, from 2024 it will be 40 percent and from mid-2025 50 percent. However, the quota should only apply until the end of 2029 and would expire without an extension decision.
“It was a great 35th party conference of Germany’s CDU,” said Merz at the end of the meeting. The CDU has shown that it is an “emotionally committed party” that is “full of ideas for Germany”.
At the meeting in Lower Saxony, the CDU had the state elections there on October 9 firmly in view. There was much applause for the CDU’s top candidate, Bernd Althusmann, who in a speech also placed the Lower Saxony elections in a federal political context. “In the state elections in Lower Saxony, the traffic light must also be unplugged.” A grand coalition of SPD and CDU is currently in power there. In polls, the Social Democrats are ahead of the Christian Democrats.
After Merz on the first day on Saturday, CSU boss Markus Söder, who was invited to Hanover as a guest speaker, also worked on the traffic light government and its course in the energy crisis. The federal government seems “increasingly overwhelmed” in the energy crisis to make the right decisions, he said. “You can almost feel the fear and nervousness at the traffic light that it cannot live up to expectations.”
Together, the CDU and CSU then offered Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) a cooperation at the party conference. The Union faction in the Bundestag and the Union-led countries are “in such a difficult time” ready “wherever possible” to look for solutions together with the government, said Merz. “If the federal government does not accept it now, then it is their sole responsibility.”