Lindner: ‘Some European countries did not take Germany’s situation seriously’

The appointment was made on 16 March in Germany’s Ministry of Finance, an imposing building on Wilhelmstrasse in the center of Berlin, with the Grand Treasurer’s office on the fourth floor. You can get there by the Pitra Noster, this ancient doorless elevator that keeps spinning. In the antechamber, his bodyguard, a jovial Franco-German, is waiting. On the wall are photographs of the 19 finance ministers of the Federal Republic who have succeeded each other. 19 black-and-white photographs, 19 men, including former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt (1972–1974), audacious Greek crisis negotiator Wolfgang Schäuble (2009–2017) and current Chancellor Olaf Scholz (2018–2021).

Unlike his two previous predecessors, 44-year-old Christian Lindner personally arrives to welcome the challenges, He wears a yellow tie, the color of his formation, the FDP, Liberal Party. He walks briskly, arrives, politely, -he’s the government’s dandy-, smiling, warmly. Quite the opposite of the image it has been painting on the European scene for three weeks: that bad boyWhich in quick succession called into question an essential political agreement on the fight against climate change, then a week later, on March 14, another on the sustainability treaty. bad boy , He ticks. Outside the microphone, he admits he feels more like an anchor of stability in Brussels. He repeats the expression twice. However, while validating his quotes, his political advisors would withdraw it from the authorized text…

19 in a Porsche

He knows that the Brussels bubble is bursting. Like Pascal Canfin, chairman of the environment committee in the European Parliament, who for several months negotiated the end of heat engines in 2035 and who considers the face-off “unacceptable”. “We expect Germany to be reliable, to keep its word,” the elected official insists. The Great Treasurer concedes, arguing that Berlin’s approach is too modest. “When we make technical decisions regarding climate protection, we always have to think about the consequences on people’s daily lives and job security. I am surprised that the French government would take such a clear position for the only technical route That is, of electric propulsion.

He speaks very smoothly, charming, but firm. The one who has always claimed to have offered his first Porsche at the age of 19 continues on the famous e-fuel that the manufacturer is developing and which is in the limelight. “From my point of view, we must keep open various technological paths, including thermal engines running with climate-neutral fuels. This is a position that I have always defended and which is also included in the agreement of the German coalition . It is therefore not surprising that we defend this position within the European Union.”

Compared to Obelix by the German press

Always smiling, the minister nevertheless chooses his words carefully. The rhetoric is well rehearsed. “Clearly, some members of the union did not take our position seriously and thought they could ignore it.” He develops a vision entirely in line with the core principles of his party. “We must achieve climate neutrality, the objective is clear. However, it is not politicians who must define the technological means to achieve it, but we must take into account the innovative power of the market economy.”

He has been told that he and his party are in good isolation in Brussels. That the FDP is alone against all. The centrist liberal Renaissance group is united against its four German representatives in the European Parliament. Even the press across the Rhine compared Lindner and his transport minister, the liberal Wissing, to Asterix and Obelix. The minister, who often appears in the social gossip section of magazines, kicks in, asking, hilariously, who Obelix is…

Back to Gambhir Even on the stability pact, he wants to stand firm: “We are facing a rise in interest rates, which makes it more difficult to finance public debt across Europe. We need to ‘higher interests’ while strengthening Europe’s competitiveness.” have to deal with the burden of and promoting digitization and decarbonisation.” He is certainly thinking in the lead of debtor nations, Italy and France.

The one who offered his party a great electoral resurgence in 2021 still appears optimistic, even though the FDP is in serious decline today, with only 5 to 6% of voting intent. Christian Lindner, a minority in the tripartite coalition but essential to the maintenance of the government, is according to Nils Schmid, a Social Democrat lawmaker close to the chancellor. “A pure product of the FRG of the 1980s and 90s, a paradigm of somewhat archaic liberalism. His recent failures in regional elections have led him to return to the basics: “the famous debt break, no increase in taxes and enterprise freedom of ,

No extension to Chancellor to limit spending

The Finance Minister is thus at the root of many infighting within the federal government. On 15 March, the day before the meeting with the Challengers, he was supposed to outline his 2024 budget. However, he postponed it, explaining himself on one of the most famous talk shows on television that same evening, hosted by journalist Sandra Mashberger. “We have record revenue, the Liberals are underserved, but spending is even higher. Our budget has slipped too much. My friends in government want to talk to me about spending more. have to talk about. Suiting action to word, he has just refused to elaborate on the chancellor’s, which Scholz asked him. The argument: teleworking saves square metres, and politicians should set an example. So the coalition goes, from low blasts to short murderous phrases. “Sucks” says a northern European foreign minister.

The differences even took on such proportions that the chancellor convened a second conciliatory seminar fifteen months later at Meseburg Castle, not far from Berlin. It was March 6, a few days before Lindner threw the European bubble into turmoil … so much so that, according to diplomatic rumors from Berlin’s Quai d’Orsay, Verdescher Markt 1, the ambassador of the Brussels institutions asked for clear instructions Government. “We hope Scholz ends up whistling at the end of the recess,” said one Eurocrat. The Eurozone summit is scheduled for March 24 and 25 in Brussels. Christian Lindner wants to be confident. The interview is coming to an end: another appointment awaits him. The ministers leave. His quotes have not yet been validated by those around him. They will be doing a serious skimming … probably in order not to add fuel to the fire in Brussels. And because this crisis must be resolved through negotiations, one of the famous “Brussels Agreement”…

Leaving this great ministry, one cannot help but think of other perils, infinitely more violent, through which this edifice has passed. 50 meters from its fence with the remains of the Berlin Wall. Under the Nazis, it was the headquarters of the Air Force. And its entrance along Leipzigerstrasse is located on the “People’s Uprising Square of 1953” in memory of the bloody demonstrations in the days of the GDR.


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