Coali­tion agree­ment: The pro­lon­ga­tion of the present into the future

In the coali­tion agree­ment, the CDU and the SPD dodge impor­tant reforms and take a scat­ter­shot approach to the dis­tri­b­u­tion of a great deal of money. The big chal­lenges, like climate, demo­graphic change and the digital rev­o­lu­tion, are still not setting the polit­i­cal agenda. This is partly due to the CDU/CSU’s lack of a real pro­gramme and of a nor­ma­tive eco­nomic framework.

Habea­mus GroKo? No, there’s no grand coali­tion (or GroKo for Grosse Koali­tion) yet, but it is likely that by step­ping down as SPD chair, Martin Schultz has secured a major­ity for the coali­tion agree­ment. Pri­or­ity to Europe, edu­ca­tion and dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion: these are good inten­tions. In other respects, a lot of money will be tossed about: good to all and harm to none. Struc­tural reform in the areas of pen­sions, public health, taxes is left out of the equa­tion. Climate policy figures more as a fringe issue; no new drive towards the eco­log­i­cal mod­ern­iza­tion of the economy. The section on foreign policy is fairly thin and replete with super­fi­cial com­pro­mises, the Federal Armed Forces remains underfunded.

The Greens and the FDP had better get ready. 

Sorry, but this sounds more like tweak­ing the status quo than forward think­ing. Obvi­ously, the pres­sure for change in Germany is not (yet) so high that the polit­i­cal agenda is being dic­tated by the struc­tural chal­lenges it faces: the climate, the digital rev­o­lu­tion, demo­graphic shift and the per­va­sive upheaval in the world economy and global pol­i­tics. The tide of refugees having abated, once again the hope pre­vails that we might get through all of this without making any major policy or soci­etal change. The future is being envi­sioned as the present pro­longed. Someone is in for a rude awakening.

Looking at the struc­ture and staffing of the new cabinet, the SPD appears in a better posi­tion to boost its polit­i­cal profile again. The party is jus­ti­fied in claim­ing that the coali­tion agree­ment reveals a Social-Demo­c­ra­tic hand­writ­ing. The same applies to the allo­ca­tion of min­is­te­r­ial port­fo­lios. Holding both the foreign and finance min­istries puts the SPD on an equal footing with the Chan­cel­lor with respect to Euro­pean policy. The Min­istry for Labour and Social Affairs is the biggest money-dis­tri­b­u­tion machine, and with the envi­ron­men­tal port­fo­lio, the SPD keep their con­nec­tion to Green-minded voters. For the CDU/​CSU, now more than ever, every­thing depends on Angela Merkel. She remains alter­na­tiv­los. Of a “tran­si­tional chan­cel­lor” there is no trace. The CDU/​CSU has become a party with no pro­gramme and no nor­ma­tive eco­nomic frame­work and one that lacks the courage to allow open debate about its future course. The will to rule won’t be enough to defend the party’s central posi­tion in the polit­i­cal land­scape in the long-run.

We shall see whether a GroKo relaunch is under­pinned by the will to join forces and take the country forward, or whether the for­ma­tion of a new gov­ern­ment is just the prelude to a per­ma­nent cam­paign, in which the chief objec­tive is to stake out the best start­ing posi­tion for early elec­tions. The Greens and the FDP had better get ready.


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