Merz versus Scholz in the Bundestag: "Mr. Merkel" brightens the mood

The opposition leader accuses the Chancellor of "gross breach of word" and Olaf Scholz compares Friedrich Merz to Alice in Wonderland.

Merz versus Scholz in the Bundestag: "Mr. Merkel" brightens the mood

The opposition leader accuses the Chancellor of "gross breach of word" and Olaf Scholz compares Friedrich Merz to Alice in Wonderland. The general debate in the Bundestag is characterized by serious allegations. The chancellor tries his hand at a small demonstration of power.

Friedrich Merz would be the better chancellor for Germany. At least that's what Friedrich Merz thinks and uses the opportunity of the general debate in the German Bundestag to explain to Olaf Scholz how he should have done his job. It is the task of the opposition leader to read the riot act to the federal government on this occasion. But the extent of Merz's criticism is astounding and certainly the product of the sometimes very personal dispute over the introduction of citizen income in recent weeks. Eleven months later, anyone who believed in the announcement made by Ampel and the Union that they would strive for a more constructive relationship between the government and the opposition is disappointed.

The CDU chairman and Union faction leader Merz, who claims to have had high hopes in the special fund proclaimed by Chancellor Scholz, also feels deceived: the federal government wants to invest more than 2 percent of the gross domestic product in the Bundeswehr every year from now on, Merz quotes from Scholz's speech from February 27th. "Contrary to your promise, the defense budget will not increase to the agreed two percent, it will fall by 300 million euros next year," says Merz. "Mr. Chancellor, I can't put it any other way: This is a gross breach of promise to Parliament and the Bundeswehr."

Scholz and his ministers also failed in the energy crisis: "All questions are open for next winter." Scholz failed to realign Germany's energy policy with a big speech. "They should have advertised an energy master plan," says Merz. Germany must also exploit its own energy resources, such as its own gas deposits, and also fall back on nuclear energy - "at least until we can be sure that wind and solar energy can be stored in such a way that they are base load capable".

Merz accuses the Federal Minister of Economics of having made the decision against extended use purely ideologically. Robert Habeck "deliberately deceived" the public and parliament in the decision-making process. The technical expertise in-house on how the German energy supply could be secured was ignored. "You don't give a damn if it doesn't match your ideology," Merz calls out. He certifies that the traffic light is "craftily miserable government action" and states: "They probably can't do it any better, that won't change then either."

When Olaf Scholz steps up to the microphone, there is no indication that he feels provoked by Merz. He hardly improvises and largely sticks to the text of his speech. Its scribe did not need much imagination to foresee Merz's frontal attack. Neither does Scholz. He's probably known the feeling of considering himself the more suitable chancellor ever since Helmut Schmidt moved out of the chancellor's bungalow in Bonn 40 years ago. He had to "think of Alice in Wonderland" during Merz's speech," Scholz compares the appearance of the Union faction leader with Lewis Carroll's young adult novel. "What is really big, talk small (...), what initially sounds logical is in fact sheer nonsense," says Scholz.

The federal government wants to spend two percent of economic output on the Bundeswehr, but that requires preparation. It is not enough to purchase more and new weapon systems if there is no sustainable production of ammunition and spare parts. The federal government is currently making every effort to procure ammunition for the Cheetah tanks made available to Ukraine. Something like this shouldn't happen again. "That's connected to the special fund: a long-term plan, not quick PR statements," says Scholz. The Chancellor presents himself as a doer and wants to portray the leader of the opposition as a headline-oriented braggart.

The traffic light is "government of action," praises Scholz and reports on his own performance record. During his visit to China, he achieved a clear refusal from Beijing to threaten nuclear weapons, as Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly said. He gave the EU accession processes in Eastern Europe and the Western Balkans "new impetus within a few months". Thanks to the increase in the minimum wage to 12 euros, six million people would have more money at their disposal. The reduction in social security contributions for incomes of up to 2,000 euros leaves those affected with more net income. Families with two children would have 750 euros more available annually thanks to the increase in child benefit to 250 euros.

"We are keeping our promise that no child will have to grow up in poverty in our wealthy country," says Scholz. "Our state ensures that work is worthwhile and that citizens can get through the crisis on their own." The SPD politician rejects Merz's accusation that consumers and entrepreneurs still have no information on how they are protected by the gas and electricity price brake in winter: "You can read it in all the newspapers today," says Scholz, referring to the yesterday announcement of first details. The Chancellor is apparently not a fan of online news. Scholz is convinced that Germany will emerge stronger from the crisis, also because the switch to renewable, cheap energies has been initiated.

"It's not about getting lost in a wonderland," Scholz admonishes the previous speaker. But Scholz leaves the tough attacks on Merz to the leaders of his coalition partners. Green party leader Katharina Dröge, for example, accuses Merz of poisoning "our political debate" with polemical criticism of Hartz IV recipients and Ukrainian war refugees. "I honestly hope that the Union will not continue down this path."

But it is FDP parliamentary group leader Christian Dürr who gives Merz the biggest blow. Whether it was a Freudian slip of the tongue or intentional: Dürr calls the CDU leader "Mr. Merkel" in his speech. The longtime opponent of the former Chancellor Angela Merkel takes it with humor. After Dürr's speech, Bundestag Vice President Petra Pau specifically states that Angela Merkel and Friedrich Merz are not a married couple. It is the only cross-party laugh in this general debate. But he can hardly bridge the deep gap between traffic lights and Union.

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