If you are looking for rifts that could have opened up between the coalition partners at the closed meeting of the traffic lights on Sunday and Monday, you should not start at dinner. The – reportedly random – seating arrangement had ensured a colorful mixture in the guest house of the Federal Government in Meseberg, north of Berlin, regardless of the party books.

Eckart Lohse

Head of the parliamentary editorial office in Berlin.

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Environment Minister Steffi Lemke, who belongs to the Greens, sat next to the head of the transport department, FDP man Volker Wissing, who is currently fighting for the facilitated planning of motorways. The Social Democratic Interior Minister Nancy Faeser had landed at the side of Justice Minister Marco Buschmann of the FDP, and his party leader, Finance Minister Christian Lindner, took his meal at the side of Family Minister Lisa Paus, who belongs to the left wing of the Greens. Did they talk about basic child protection? On Monday morning, at any rate, there was talk of constructive cooperation. He did not have the impression that the coalition partners were arguing "like tinkerers," said Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir of the Greens.

On Monday afternoon, the three of them stepped in front of the microphones from the quarrel, which does not want to be one. Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD), Vice Chancellor and Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) and Lindner praised the quality of their talks. Scholz summed it up as follows: "That was a very good cabinet meeting, informative, instructive and – Robert and Christian will certainly confirm this in a moment – also very constructive." This should probably mean that we are by no means as divided as the debates of recent weeks about combustion engines, the financing of basic child protection or the acceleration of planning for motorways could have led us to believe.

Linder marked the FDP position

All in all, "Robert and Christian" confirmed the coalition status description of the chief. However, the finance minister could not completely refrain from reaffirming the FDP's position on the subject of internal combustion engines that such engines should be operated with so-called e-fuels, i.e. fuels that are synthetically produced with renewable energies. With a slight rhetorical stamp, Lindner said: "No final political decision will be made about the drives in private cars." This attitude of the FDP had already been clear in the course of the exploratory talks with the SPD and Greens immediately after the Bundestag election. Even before the appearance of the three, Wissing had said that they were well on the way to agreeing on the subject of combustion engines and integrating openness to technology into the proposals of the EU Commission.

Lindner also set a small but clear accent on the controversial issue of basic child protection. He was "one hundred percent confident" that it would be agreed to make the services easier to provide. Of course, this did not mean that more money would be spent on services.

Scholz, Habeck and Lindner were also asked a question about the further course of Russia's war against Ukraine and the goal of the Federal Government. "Everything has been said," replied the Chancellor, reaffirming support for Ukraine with the usual statements. The fact that Meseberg was obviously not much about the war, howitzers and tanks, and much about other issues (some of which have to do with the consequences of the conflict) shows that the meeting took place at a turning point.

After the first red-green-yellow coalition at the federal level was formed after the 2021 Bundestag election, twelve months were all about the "turning point". But although the war in Ukraine may continue for a long time, the German government is now increasingly turning its attention to its original goals laid down in the coalition agreement.

The Chancellor made this clear on Sunday afternoon when he appeared with the President of the EU Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, in Meseberg. There are "many questions that are currently bothering us," said Scholz. "Of course, the most important question is: How do we manage to stop man-made climate change?" This is "the perspective" associated with many upheavals. Therefore, it is very important that many of the investments that are necessary for the "economy of the future" to "develop strongly" in Europe take place in Europe. Scholz went on to say that they had dealt "in great detail" with the consequences of the American Inflation Reduction Act and what else is related to it.

Scholz: The focus is on people

Then the Chancellor mentioned other top issues in which at least the economic consequences of the Russian attack on Ukraine play a role. He was pleased that the sharp reduction in Russian energy supplies to Europe had been overcome without an energy crisis and with a stable economy. In addition to the question of how it can be possible to develop technologies that are needed to stop climate change, it is about digitization and artificial intelligence "and all the decisions" that are "important for the future".

He added that at the heart of "all the activities we have to do" is people, that employment opportunities in Europe are important for young people, for the elderly, for women and men. The European Union must make good use of the migration of skilled workers. This, too, had been discussed "in depth and intensively" in Meseberg. Only then, as a "final remark," did the Chancellor mention: Of course, one could not talk "without also taking a look at the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine."