The first two weeks of the post-Merkel era are over, the preliminary explorations have ended and all signs are on the traffic lights. And that ends – hopefully – the cuddling time, that penetrating honeymoon between the three potential coalition partners.
The greens and yellows started with their now almost legendary selfie. One could and should obviously get the impression that from now on there will be no more paper fit between the members of this new hip boy band, with front woman Annalena Silbermond Baerbock in the middle. It almost seemed as if two languishing partners had saved themselves for each other for a long time. And as if all of that wasn’t enough, the otherwise bone-dry Olaf Scholz of all people added one more thing and spoke of the spirit of “real affection” in which the conversations should be conducted. “I am the third person in your league,” the Social Democrat whispered in the best “we are family” style.
Fortunately, the Pandora tax haven scandal came at just the right time. Because, nomen est omen, the box of the same name draws attention to the cardinal differences between the future partners. And it is precisely this – and the potentially resulting disaster, i.e. the conflicts – that must be the focus of the upcoming coalition negotiations, and by no means only about the great unity and the egg apopeia of the red-green-yellow sky. As right as it is to formulate a common idea for this coalition, it would be completely wrong to obscure the huge differences in interests that exist between the three coalition members. Otherwise, the Greens in particular are likely to experience a rude awakening.
For as little as greens and liberals differ habitually and in terms of their common bourgeois origin, so much so in terms of interests and content. The Pandora Papers highlight the fundamental difference in the political approach between the FDP on the one hand and the Greens and SPD on the other. The tax issue exemplifies the different issues we will be faced with in this coalition.
On the one hand, the tax reduction or even tax avoidance party called FDP is always ready to allow the largest possible loopholes for its well-off clientele. On the other hand, there is a tendency to increase taxes, with Olaf Scholz at the helm, who – see the Warburg Bank affair – may well be willing to turn a blind eye if necessary. And thirdly, finally, the Greens, who, if they want to achieve a real ecological transformation, have to act much more fundamentally right from the start, namely according to the tried and tested motto: “Trust (in the market) is good, but control (by the state) is better.”
This already shows that behind the ominous modernization coalition, as which the FDP, SPD and Greens want to operate, there are very different approaches that are not so easy to reconcile. At the center of the dispute between the Greens, Reds and Yellows is the question: How do you feel about the state – and how do you feel about the market? Where the FDP is clearly the dominant player in the market, the state plays a far greater role in the other two. However, as evidenced by their election manifesto, the Greens do not have a hard confrontation with the old fossil fuel economy in mind, but rather a “cooperative economic policy”. To this end, they advocate a “pact with business”. However, the Baerbock-Habeck-Greens should not be too good-natured: In spite of all compromise, the capital-affine FDP will always remain a clientele, if only to secure its vital base of votes.
It would be just as wrong, however, to conclude that there is a quasi-symbiotic relationship between greens and reds. Because on the other hand there is also a blatant tension between the Greens on the one hand and the FDP and SPD on the other.
Both the FDP and the SPD are advocates of a growth-driven model of progress – one in favor of employers, the other in favor of employees. There is no end to growth in either structure. Even if Olaf Scholz repeatedly emphasizes that the SPD, Greens and FDP combine “the idea of progress”: There is a systemic incompatibility of the green idea of ecological limits to growth with the claims of economic liberals and social democrats on economic growth.
From the perspective of the Greens in particular, it would be devastating if they did not finally highlight the differences between the three coalition partners when the coalition negotiations began. This is the only way they can make it clear that even with the SPD and FDP, the green trees will not grow into the sky. One can therefore only hope that with the departure of the Union, the Greens will no longer throw sand in their own eyes and end their permanent blurring of the Liberals. Because for the time being, all those involved have only one thing in common: the will to power and to govern.