At the Epiphany meeting, the FDP is all by itself. In the dignified Stuttgart Opera House, the members don't let climate protesters upset them either. They prefer to listen to party leader Lindner, who has a difficult job this afternoon. Just like his party.
For a few minutes you had to worry about Christian Lindner's voice. At the Epiphany meeting of the FDP in the Stuttgart Opera, the party leader turned his organ up so much that he almost only squeezed out the words. A certain excitement was due to the climate protesters, who had interrupted Lindner right at the beginning. Although he actually reacted in a relaxed manner and was quite quick-witted by advising them: stick tight, then don't disturb them elsewhere.
But Lindner also had other reasons to get loud. Because volume shows determination. And that is probably necessary when crossing the current crisis mountains. So the Minister of Finance had several messages: That it was right to go to the traffic light. That it was right to incur debts for the Bundeswehr and the gas price brake. That right now you have to stay with Ukraine. "Freedom with less prosperity, we would endure that and work out new prosperity," Lindner called out to the deputies. "But prosperity only by the grace of Putin, without freedom, such prosperity would be worthless." The members applauded.
They did it almost more vigorously than Lindner intoned the liberal favorite song: cut taxes to get the economy moving. SPD and Greens should be grateful to the FDP that the liberals have not yet stopped thinking about tax issues, said the party leader. Because only with a successful economy there is a chance of re-election.
It was a special meeting of the Epiphany after a special year - and not only because it took place in person for the first time in two years. The pandemic is over, as Lindner emphasized, but there are several new and old construction sites: the Ukraine war, energy prices, the Bundeswehr, climate change. As finance minister, Lindner had to do what really hurts the FDP: debt. And that again and again. Even if, given the situation, hardly anyone doubts the sense of the aid, it is the opposite of what the party actually stands for. In the RTL and ntv trend barometer, the FDP fell from double-digit values at the end of 2021 to currently seven percent.
Then there were three state elections that didn't go well. The FDP was kicked out of parliament in Lower Saxony and out of government in Schleswig-Holstein and North Rhine-Westphalia. And this year there are four more - in February the repeat election in Berlin, whose FDP leader Sebastian Czaja was allowed to speak for it in Stuttgart. Bremen will follow in May, followed by Bavaria and Hesse in the autumn. Their heads of state have just made a name for themselves with a paper in which they demanded that the party must sharpen its profile and assert itself more at traffic lights. In it, they put pressure on nuclear power for further lifetime extensions, tax cuts and poison against an allegedly "anti-capitalist climate ideology". So there was definitely a need to speak.
Lindner and, before him, General Secretary Bijan Djir-Sarai defended the traffic light coalition. Nobody should be under the illusion that it would be easier to govern with the Union, Lindner warned. "It would just be different." Opposition is not the goal of the party and if you can help shape it, you should do it, said Lindner. "If you can govern well, you can't leave it to others."
He is proud of the Bundeswehr special fund of over 100 billion euros. The defense shield of 200 billion euros is correct and he fully supports the decision, said Lindner. "I was not comfortable with the magnitude of this borrowing. You don't do that lightly." But that's how you got livelihoods. "In many families, our measures were able to alleviate the worries."
"The coalition is not easy," admitted Lindner. Compromises are necessary and decisions may be criticized. But you will continue to make no suggestions that suit the Greens, but ones that fit with reality. "We will continue to adhere to that with cheerful penetrance." One such proposal will be the mining of shale gas, also known as fracking. Lindner and the FDP are in favor because it is cheaper than importing other fracking gas from the USA. For the Greens and the SPD, however, this is a toad that can hardly be swallowed. For the FDP, on the other hand, what is meant by "raising your profile". Lindner's announcement that he will spend an extra billion euros on education in the future is more consensual.
Even if Lindner teased the Greens a bit here and there - the speech was not a challenge to the traffic light partners. One would have expected that after the past few days. At the turn of the year, a strategy paper from the Ministry of Finance that became known as a "non-paper" made headlines. In it, ministry experts are said to be calling for an economic turnaround with lower taxes - but that sounded so much like a wish list for the liberals that it looked like it had been copied from the FDP election program. It calls for an economic turning point. The basic idea: now that energy is so expensive, Germany can no longer afford high taxes and slow bureaucracy. So the government has to do it. A dispute would be programmed, because the SPD and the Greens are more likely to hear: Fewer taxes for corporations, possibly fewer environmental regulations, possibly less protection against dismissal.
Lindner argued the same way in the Stuttgart Opera, but at this point the tone was no longer loud and resolute, but state-supporting and quiet: "I am sure that I can win over the Social Democrats and the Greens for ambitious additional depreciation, research funding, or employee capital participation ", he said. But there remains a disagreement: one must also talk about the effective total load. Someone has to open the debate. In any case, a country that wants to become more attractive as a location will lower its tax burden. It was also in keeping with this reluctance that Lindner himself did not call for the lifetime of nuclear power plants to be extended again. He left that to Secretary General Djir-Sarai and Hans-Ulrich Rülke, who leads the parliamentary group in the Stuttgart state parliament. Which doesn't mean that there won't be a new argument about it. But not today.