Should German school graduates do a compulsory social year? This idea first came from Federal President Steinmeier, but he received a lot of criticism for it. Now CDU boss Merz is blowing the same horn - with reference to the positive feedback from the younger generation.
CDU leader Friedrich Merz can get a lot out of the idea of a mandatory social year. "I don't have a personal opinion yet, but my basic stance is more towards a mandatory year than on a voluntary basis," said Merz, who is also chairman of the Union faction in the Bundestag, in an interview with the German Press Agency. "I'm surprised at how much approval there is, especially among the younger generation, for such a mandatory year in Germany."
At the CDU party conference on September 9th and 10th in Hanover, there should be two applications for a so-called "Germany Year". While one aims more at a mandatory year, the other pleads more for voluntariness in connection with incentives such as the crediting of pension points or relaxation of the numerus clausus. Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier recently received a lot of criticism for a push for compulsory social time.
The 66-year-old Merz now emphasized that the feedback from school classes and visitor groups in Berlin on the suggestion of a compulsory time was "positive across the board. But I also know the arguments that speak against it." He was pleased that the Federal President had positioned himself so clearly on such a question. "Now we're discussing it. If there are other opinions, all the better. Then we'll have an interesting political debate."
Merz rejected the argument that many young people had to cope with many cuts in the corona pandemic, so they should not be burdened with an additional compulsory year. He admitted that the lockdowns were "a time of deprivation and loneliness" for many young people. With the closure of schools and universities, the goal was probably overshot. "Looking back, we have to say that politicians made a lot of mistakes, especially with regard to the younger generation."
"However, this cannot be the benchmark for such a fundamental decision. When it comes to compulsory service, we are looking at the next 10, 20, 30 years". With a view to the party's controversial women's quota, which is also to be decided in Hanover, Merz was confident that the topic would not overshadow the party congress. The quota is rejected, especially in the business wing and by the youngsters of the Junge Union (JU).
In order to accommodate the opponents, Merz has proposed a time limit. The CDU leader said he saw a lot of good will from the entire party to decide on this issue now and to assess it realistically. "The debate on quotas is a party-political, internal issue within the CDU that needs to be resolved. But that is certainly not the issue that interests the majority of the population in Germany the most," he emphasized.
In view of the upcoming secret vote of the 1001 delegates on the quota, Merz said: "I'm not afraid of defeat, nor am I preparing for a victory to be celebrated." It is about deciding a fundamental question that has been smoldering for several years and has remained unanswered for too long.
According to Merz, CSU boss Markus Söder has been invited to Hanover for a greeting. "It goes without saying that the two party leaders have the opportunity to appear at each other's party conferences at any time." When asked how he would describe his relationship with Söder in one sentence, Merz said: "Collegial, friendly and very cooperative."
Before the federal election last year, there was a serious rift between the then CDU chairman Armin Laschet and Söder over the Union’s candidacy for chancellor. Söder had lost the power struggle, Laschet in turn the federal election. Regarding the chancellor candidacy in the next federal election, Merz emphasized: "This question is not on the table today. We will decide that when the time comes."