These are days to Christian Lindner's taste. The cabinet colleagues need him, they demand more money, all of them speak to him in the Federal Ministry of Finance. It's a coming and going – and sometimes you should be able to read from the faces of the ministers how the conversation went. The tendency can only be: corners of the mouth downwards.

Manfred Schäfers

Business correspondent in Berlin.

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Actually, the FDP chairman should currently be the one who walks around with the corners of his mouth hanging down, after all, his party has lost the fifth in a row with the election in Berlin. In nationwide polls, the FDP is dangerously approaching the 5 percent edge. But Lindner doesn't seem to care much. He enjoys the office: the meetings with counterparts, such as recently in Bangalore, India, the government consultation in the Bundestag, the appearances in front of business representatives. On the one hand, he pretends to be state-supporting, on the other hand, he likes to squabbles himself. Even with his cabinet colleagues.

In the coalition it creaks just enormously, the keywords are known: the basic child protection, the road construction, the combustion phase-out, the ban on heating with oil and gas in the future. One would almost like to ask whether there is still any issue on which the Federal Government agrees. In this tense situation, the FDP politician has to put together what does not want to fit together: the expected revenues and the possible expenses in the coming year. But that's not all, it's also about planning up to 2027. A good week remains, in mid-March, the Federal Cabinet wants to decide on the benchmarks. Normally, the draft is sent out the Friday before. Will it be possible to keep the deadline? One thing is certain: the budget negotiations were not as difficult as this time for a long time.

Özdemir, Heil and Lauterbach have already auditioned

In the mighty building on the corner of Wilhelmstraße / Leipziger Straße, a lively hustle and bustle can now be observed: Cem Özdemir, the Green Minister of Agriculture, has already auditioned, as well as Nancy Faeser (Interior, SPD), Hubertus Heil (Labor, SPD) and Karl Lauterbach (Health, SPD). Justice Minister Buschmann is even said to be through. The fact that he is a party friend, even a buddy of the finance minister, probably did not play a major role, rather that his budget was not so large anyway and the problems were manageable. A year ago, when for the first time the cabinet was allowed to take up completely to compare the desirable with the feasible, Research Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger (FDP) learned that the right party book is not sufficient to get the hoped-for commitments. From the point of view of the chief treasurer, this is only logical: If the SPD and Greens were to notice that he treats his people preferentially, this would be the end of any disciplinary success.

The desires are great: Boris Pistorius (SPD) calls for a surcharge of 10 billion euros for the Bundeswehr. Volker Wissing (FDP) needs just as much for the railway. Family Minister Lisa Paus (Greens) even demands 12 billion euros for the new basic child protection, albeit only from 2025. But that doesn't really help her or Lindner much, because that would have to be taken into account in the financial planning. All in all, the additional requests of the cabinet colleagues should add up to 70 billion euros.

A brief exchange of letters between Lindner and Economics Minister Robert Habeck provides an insight into the tensions currently prevailing in the coalition. The Green politician recently wrote "on behalf of the Green-led ministries" that the coalition had agreed on political projects that were by no means subordinate to compliance with the debt brake. He suggested discussing how to improve revenues, reduce environmentally harmful subsidies and replace support programs with regulatory law. Lindner reacted immediately. On the plane on the way to Helsinki, he tinkered with his answer and formulated smugly: He had received with relief that the ministries led by the Greens did not question the Basic Law. However, he was surprised that they no longer accepted the benchmarks for the 2024 budget, which the cabinet had decided in mid-March 2022. For the predictability of the Federal Government, it is advisable if it respects its own decisions.