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When politicians have had a long, hard meeting, I like to look at their faces. For example, after a night of negotiations, which happens occasionally in our federal government, I want to know whether something can be read from their facial expressions. Exhaustion, stress, traces of exertion and overtiredness. Some human trait, one thinks, will surely be recognizable after such battles.
Most of the time, those involved just look the same as always, which on the one hand amazes me, but on the other hand it also shows me: There is a reason why I didn't become a politician. In similar situations I would probably fall asleep on the microphone. Or just tip over.
This Wednesday afternoon, Olaf Scholz, Christian Lindner and Robert Habeck appeared in front of the cameras in the Chancellery after another night of fighting to be able to somehow present a budget for the coming year. OK, maybe they were a little bit paler than usual, but otherwise they seemed reasonably fit. Lindner even had a saying ready. The cabinet dealt with the issue of loneliness. “However, I can see that the three of us have not been affected in the last few weeks,” he said, seeming for a moment as if he had to suppress a laugh.
Maybe that was a sign of exhaustion after all. There's actually nothing to laugh about in this government drama. Sure, four weeks after the embarrassment in Karlsruhe, the budget for 2024 is finally in place. In order to plug the hole of 17 billion euros, major savings and cuts should now be made. But does this bean-counting really provide any impetus for the coalition? Is the government making a move? Is something new emerging? I have my doubts. Scholz, Lindner and Habeck have decided on a budget emergency on demand. As soon as the situation in Ukraine requires more German commitment, the debt brake should be suspended. This could happen in a few weeks or in a few months, but in any case the argument will come back soon. In the background, there is already a fear in the parties that they will be politically punished for the compromise. Life is becoming more expensive here and there with the decisions. You can read where exactly here.
PERSON OF THE WEEK
Hubertus Heil is a phenomenon. The man is 51, but has been part of the political establishment for 25 years. He was general secretary of the SPD twice, led the Bundestag parliamentary group as vice-chairman for eight years, and since he became labor minister in 2018, he has quietly reeled off his program. You don't hear anything about Heil? That is exactly his principle. Not even the heated dispute over citizens' money has been able to unsettle the Social Democrats in recent weeks; he has largely been able to protect his project from the austerity measures. My colleague Miriam Hollstein accompanied a man who is an unsung hero for many in his party these weeks.
Do you still know Angela Merkel? Little fun. But it could have been that you have already forgotten the former Chancellor. Merkel has been completely in hiding for months to write her memoirs with her office manager. Behind closed doors, however, she recently caused a small shocker: she resigned from the Adenauer Foundation. My colleague Nico Fried took a look at what is actually going on between Merkel and her party, the CDU.
LOTS OF FAVORITE
Your highlight of the week
... was an outburst of anger from my colleague Jan Rosenkranz. I know he already had one for citizen's money last week. But Jan not only has a short fuse at the moment, but also a very good eye for when something really goes wrong politically. And something is really going wrong with the Greens in Berlin.
My highlight of the week
... was a text from a man who I still call a colleague because I don't want to get used to the fact that he went into semi-retirement two weeks ago: Andreas Hoidn-Borchers. We assume that this is an unfortunate mistake on the part of the HR department, which will certainly be noticed soon. Luckily, Andreas has left behind a few texts by then, which we will present to you in due course. One, a really worth reading essay about why we Germans are pretty much off track in 2023, can be found in the special issue that has just been published at the end of the year - and here.
By the way: Please don't tell me, but a few friends of mine persuaded me to go to Hamburg on Saturday and celebrate a bit again after a really long time. Apparently they want to spend the night. Those too now! Nothing is spared either.
Have a good week!
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