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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