The first days of a new progress coalition

The Progressive Coalition

The first days of the new government triggered much applause among political commentators. The highly confidential coalition negotiations, some surprising personnel changes, and the reflective start in pandemic response, including the achievement of the ambitious goal of 30 million vaccinations by the end of the year. New governments have often experienced a severe setback in the first few weeks. Many a state election has thus turned into a surprising reckoning with the ruling parties. Currently, however, the polls look very stable for the traffic light parties. What is the reason for this? And will it continue?

Unresolved conflicts and clarified roles

The three parties, SPD, Bündnis’90 | Die Grüne and FDP, understood that a coalition alliance based on tiny, joint compromises would not meet the demands and expectations of the German public and media and would quickly cause disappointment. That is why, for the first time, an attempt was made to take a different path and complement each other. In this way, each coalition partner should be able to fulfill its own role and achieve its priority goals. To this end, they want to put together a political progress alliance for a period of eight years. The Greens are promoting climate change and thus the energy transformation of the economy, industry, mobility and buildings, as close as possible to the 1.5 degree target, even if this will probably be missed with the present coalition agreement. The FDP sees itself as a driver of the digitization of administration, society and the economy. In addition, with Christian Lindner it will provide the man who wants to watch the money and limit debt. The SPD, on the other hand, can ensure that the social consequences of the various transformations do not organize new descents. By raising the minimum wage, regulating platform work, guaranteeing social security systems, and accompanying the transformation by providing qualifications and security for the employees affected, it also wants to ensure acceptance of these changes. The ministries were assigned according to these roles.

Nevertheless, many conflicts remain unresolved and are often only hinted at in the coalition agreement. Some conflicts will also overtake this coalition. The discussion about taxonomy showed this around the turn of the year. Obviously, the “Grünen” now gradually understand that they are entering a very conflict-laden political field and need more allies than just the climate movement. To deny Macron success around nuclear energy shortly before the French presidential elections was obviously out of the question for many Europeans. The German side, with its fight against natural gas but for Nord Stream II and against nuclear energy, had put itself on the defensive in terms of negotiations, almost isolating itself.

Resolving conflicts – the sooner the better

A look at the coalition agreement reveals many more, far greater unresolved conflicts. A few examples will be touched on here.

Heat turnaround will ultimately raise the question of whether tenants will be confronted with significant additional costs or whether it will be possible to find collective, socially acceptable solutions. Mobility turnaround will have to resolve anew the conflict between people who are highly mobile in inner cities but increasingly living without cars and those who live in rural areas or rely on cars for their jobs. Even one of the German government’s first legislative proposals is intended to significantly speed up planning and approval processes in Germany. Anyone who wants to achieve this will have to decide anew the conflict between climate protection and nature and species conservation. Industry and unions will also be watching very closely to see who gets the support in the transformation. Are only the chemical and steel industries to receive the cost-effective green hydrogen or will a national hydrogen infrastructure emerge that reaches all sectors equally.

What also remains unclear is how the immense challenges, which came to light especially during the pandemic, are to be met for administrative modernization. The coalition partners have agreed on a “central digital budget” without specifying responsibilities and amounts. This will not be enough to enable federal administration in all parts of the country to move into the 21st century. Accordingly, the main task will be to seek dialog at an early stage and develop a joint roadmap for the federal, state and local governments to reconcile common standards and competencies. It is important to note that the projects cannot succeed without sufficient staff and can probably only be accomplished with an enormous increase in IT personnel and the largest continuing education offensive in the history of the Federal Republic.

These examples show that the path this coalition wants to take will be a difficult one. The most important course is to be set this year. A separate dialog is to secure this transformation process. We can be curious. Perhaps the discussion about taxonomy also represents an opportunity for this coalition because this symbolic conflict comes just in time to shake up the new government and ask itself which compromises, which alliances, which sequences of steps make sense in order to ultimately have enough supporters in business and society to be able to govern successfully for the next eight years.


Heiko Kretschmer

Geschäftsführer Johanssen + Kretschmer