Welt: “Friedrich Merz, leader of the opposition in the Bundestag, has often proven in speech duels that he controls the attack department. Also on Wednesday morning, the parliamentary group leader of the Union worked rhetorically adept in the general debate on the politics of the federal government.

The Chancellor, however, whom Merz had targeted alongside Economics Minister Robert Habeck, reacted this time in a way he has seldom seen: Olaf Scholz hit back wittily. On the side, the chancellor created something in parliament, at least for a few minutes, that the traffic light coalition seemed to be completely lacking in the past few days and weeks: political esprit de corps in the ranks of the coalition factions. At the end of his speech, Scholz even got a standing ovation.”

Augsburger Allgemeine: “As if he personally resented Friedrich Merz’s criticism of the traffic light parties’ crisis management, the chancellor raged against the Union, which during her term in office had done practically everything wrong in energy policy that could have been done wrong. That he himself was finance minister and Vice-Chancellor of the government, which he drew in the style of an election campaigner of collective incompetence, Scholz nonchalantly faded out. Apparently, the pressure he is under as Chancellor of a complicated government alliance was looking for an outlet. Humanly that may be understandable, especially since in such a difficult situation as at the moment. However, the otherwise so cautious Chancellor did not seem confident in his reply to Merz.”

Tagesspiegel: “So there is life in the chancellor after all. Olaf Scholz accepted the duel with Friedrich Merz in the general debate in the Bundestag on the 2023 budget on Wednesday – and in any case did not lose out. It was a justification speech: a lot of retrospect, a lot of interim results, few announcements, few promises. But Scholz put enough verve into his reply to be able to balance the impression of Merz’s opening speech in the end. So a draw. And a lively Scholz that you don’t often see.”

Handelsblatt: “Friedrich Merz’s (CDU) attacks seem to act as a stimulant for Olaf Scholz (SPD). After the head of the Union parliamentary group had sharply criticized the traffic light coalition for its course in the energy crisis, the Chancellor held a defense speech that was lively by his standards, in which he settled accounts with one thing in particular: the party of CDU leader Merz.

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: “Scholz, who has been so well behind Habeck in the popularity polls for months, was able to win a points victory against his Minister of Economics on Wednesday morning in the show running in front of cameras and microphones, which is so important in a democracy. Scholz failed to defend Habeck against Merz’s allegations […] Problems were solved before the Union had even recognized them as such, Scholz intoned so often that at some point Merz just waved him off. [….] Merz had already managed to lure Scholz out of his reserve with a provocative speech in the Bundestag. At that time, however, only for a small part of his speaking time. On Wednesday, the chancellor pounced on the opposition leader.”

Ludwigsburger Kreiszeitung: “Chancellor Olaf Scholz seems to have lost his temper. In any case, he is vehemently defending himself against harsh accusations from the opposition that he is governing the country badly during the crisis. The SPD politician is still drawing energy from the agreement reached by his coalition from the weekend. He kept the traffic lights from the SPD, Greens and FDP together. The agreement on a relief package temporarily welded the coalition together. However, the decision by Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) on nuclear power plants announced on Monday evening immediately caused renewed unrest in the coalition “Scholz wants to counter that. The head of government is caught between the mantras of his coalition partners. The Greens’ nuclear phase-out on the one hand, and the FDP’s adherence to the debt brake on the other. Scholz has to maneuver his government through these two cornerstones.