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SPD Prime Minister Weil: “BSW is a stab in the flesh of the SPD”

SPD Prime Minister Weil: “BSW is a stab in the flesh of the SPD”
SPD Prime Minister Weil: “BSW is a stab in the flesh of the SPD”

Will the traffic light coalition still work? Lower Saxony’s Prime Minister Stephan Weil speaks in star-Interview about the situation of his SPD, the reputation of the federal government – ​​and his professional future.

Mister BecauseYou’re currently in Berlin for a short time. Glad to be leaving again soon?

I like being in Berlin, but I’m always looking forward to coming back to Lower Saxony.

The capital has the reputation of being a kind of spaceship. Have you ever had this impression?

Yes. There is a special political culture in Berlin that is very much focused on the company itself. A few thousand politicians, their staff and a few thousand journalists are all sitting together in a very small space. There is constant competition, many are on the air. It is a different mix to what we have in the state capitals.

The mood in the Federal Government has been bad for months. Are you even paying attention to the traffic lights anymore?

Of course. I am a passionate social democrat and in my role as Prime Minister, federal politics is a decisive factor.

“The traffic light could make things easier for us in the states”

How difficult is it for you to see the traffic lights?

Let’s put it this way: the traffic light system could make things easier for us in the states. It would be helpful if the traffic light system were more predictable and we knew earlier where we stood. There have been unnecessary delays in a whole series of projects, which have made things difficult for the states and municipalities.

What exactly do you mean?

It is no secret that some decision-making processes in the traffic light coalition take a very long time. This is also noticeable in the Bundesrat, where the federal government and the states meet. There, the number of requests from the federal government to shorten deadlines has skyrocketed. We states often have to react very quickly to what is decided in Berlin.

After months of wrangling, the federal government has now agreed on a budget for 2025. How do you view the future of the traffic light coalition?

At least the traffic light coalition has overcome this hurdle. Now I hope that the traffic light coalition will manage to use this basis to finish this legislative period in a good working mode. The impression of discord must be ended; this is what political common sense demands and this is what the people of our country want.

The SPD is very annoyed with the Liberals, who refused to budge on the debt issue. Are you too?

Yes, the debt brake must be reformed. We currently have a massive need for government investment in every corner. This will also set the course for the future. That is why many economists are now calling for reform.

The SPD is in a massive slump. What do you think is the main reason for this?

The SPD is the largest government party, and the public presentation of the coalition is very much linked to our party. People know that the traffic light coalition is a three-way coalition. But the biggest partner also has the greatest expectations.

And does that explain the exodus of voters who were once the SPD’s core clientele?

Emigration is a result of this dilemma. Take the workforce, for example. Under the conditions of the current coalition, a ‘pure SPD’ approach to employee issues is not possible, although many would certainly like that. One of the SPD’s goals must therefore be to demonstrate a much sharper profile here too, and especially here.

The Chancellor is calling for a minimum wage of 15 euros. Do you too?

Yes. When we talk about the gap between wages and transfer payments, the level of the minimum wage is also a decisive factor. Especially since the conditions on the labor market will cause many sectors to increase their lowest wages anyway. The SPD should definitely make wage policy one of the most important issues in the next federal election campaign.

After the disastrous result in the EU elections, the SPD wants to be there for the “working middle” again. What does that mean in your opinion?

For example, a “social check” is absolutely necessary when it comes to climate protection. Many people live in a social situation that does not allow them to make great leaps. Nevertheless, we are using these people to an extent for climate protection measures that simply threaten to overwhelm them financially. Keyword: heating law. Especially in rural areas, people initially had the feeling that they were completely on their own.

So what is the point of the “social check”?

So that we know, on the one hand, who we are expecting of what, and, on the other hand, how to avoid excessive burdens. We cannot afford to give out subsidies indiscriminately. But we must provide tangible support for those who really need it.

“A clear warning to the SPD”

Is it just climate policy, or does the SPD also have to rethink citizens’ income or internal security?

We are the party of work, that must be made clear. That is why a higher minimum wage is important. And when we talk about the citizen’s allowance: people must be able to be sure that work is worthwhile. Internal security is just as important. A large part of society is feeling insecure. At the moment, people are perhaps reacting particularly sensitively to violations of the rules and crimes. The SPD would be well advised to orient itself towards a group that Bill Clinton once described as follows: “People who work hard and play by the rules”. These are our voters.

But Sahra Wagenknecht already does that, doesn’t she?

Sahra Wagenknecht is wandering around. I have not yet managed to identify the core of her program. And she does not really distance herself from xenophobic movements.

Nevertheless, the BSW has entered the EU Parliament straight away and achieved solid results in nationwide surveys…

I don’t want to deny that. But how sustainable the BSW is remains to be seen. Ms Wagenknecht is the projection surface for many people who do not feel represented by politics. That is certainly a clear hint to the SPD.

So the Wagenknecht party is at least as dangerous for the SPD as it is for the AfD?

I have serious doubts as to whether it is enough in the long run to advertise with a first name and a last name. Much more is needed for a party’s long-term success. But yes: the BSW is a stab in the flesh for the SPD. We must react to this.

Do you think a coalition between the SPD and the BSW is conceivable?

In Lower Saxony, I wouldn’t even know who I should talk to about it. There is a small regional association, but so far it hasn’t made any appearance. But that’s not necessary.

And at the federal level?

At the federal level, I see huge discrepancies, for example in foreign policy. The SPD supports Ukraine against the Russian war of aggression – while the BSW acts as if none of this is our problem. That completely ignores reality and is cynical.

The EU Commission has introduced additional import duties on Chinese electric cars. The German car industry fears a harsh backlash from Beijing. Are you afraid of a trade war?

There is a great risk that we will cut ourselves. Also That’s why I’m not convinced by import tariffs. And the European car industry, which the measure is supposed to protect, says: please, please don’t. There are major concerns about that.

What concerns?

Chinese car manufacturers are already building up significant production capacities in Eastern Europe. We would be fueling this trend if we imposed import duties on vehicles from China. This would increase competition for European and German car production. And last but not least: the German economic model is based on exports. It doesn’t take much imagination to imagine that European import duties will lead to Chinese countermeasures.

“That’s why it’s over in 2027”

Finally, let’s look at the traffic light coalition: Is Olaf Scholz still the right chancellor?

Plain and simple: Yes.

And why?

Olaf Scholz is extremely knowledgeable in many areas, he is smart and level-headed and has already shown great nerves of steel in many situations. I hope that Olaf Scholz can bring these strengths to bear in the next legislative period in a political environment that is easier than that of the last year and a half.

The Chancellor needs more legroom?

The term has historically been somewhat loaded in my party, but it is quite clear that the Chancellor must have the opportunity to speak convincingly on behalf of his government – and must not be constantly preoccupied with disputes within the coalition.

You have described Scholz as the “undisputed number one”, which means that there is practically no alternative. Wouldn’t Boris Pistorius be capable of becoming chancellor?

Boris Pistorius is an outstanding defense minister. The position of “Federal Chancellor” is occupied and will remain so: with Olaf Scholz.

You are now 65 years old. How long do you want to remain Prime Minister?

This is my last legislative period; there will be elections in Lower Saxony again in 2027.

Will you hand over your office to a successor beforehand, as Malu Dreyer did in Rhineland-Palatinate?

If I stay healthy and everything goes well, no. I still enjoy my job very much. But of course I also know that I’m not getting any younger. That’s why it’s over in 2027.

Who could follow you?

Just wait and see, we will make a good decision. Fortunately, the SPD in Lower Saxony has many good people.

Like Boris Pistorius, for example.

Boris Pistorius would also be a good Prime Minister of Lower Saxony. But I think we have lost him to federal politics. That shows the great solidarity of Lower Saxony with the federal government: we were prepared to give up one of our best.

Source: Stern

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