Bavaria's Prime Minister Markus Söder has raised doubts about his loyalty to the debt brake with an ambiguous remark.

For this he earned applause from the co-chairman of the Greens, Robert Habeck, and reprimands from FDP leader Christian Lindner.

Criticism and approval came from the CDU.

Konrad Schuller

Political correspondent for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung in Berlin.

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In a government statement after the flood disasters in July, Söder said that one should “generally consider how we can reconcile climate protection as a permanent task with the debt brake”. Just exposing them is not a solution. "That has to be constitutionally clarified."

Habeck, whose party wants to change the debt brake in order to be able to finance government investments with loans, applauded.

He told the FAS: "Markus Söder seems to have recognized that it is necessary in terms of climate policy and the economy for Germany to invest heavily now." He reminded that the head of the Chancellery, Helge Braun, had already thought about reforming the debt brake Has.

Braun had dropped these thoughts after the CDU leader and current chancellor candidate Armin Laschet had strictly contradicted him.

Lindner accuses Söder of being close to the Greens

Lindner, however, reprimanded Söder. “In the long run, politics cannot spend more money than people make,” he stated. Söder seems to be "coming closer to the Greens again when he ponders new ideas about debt". Laschet had to "bindingly declare whether he can guarantee the debt brake in the Basic Law even under his chancellorship".

Corresponding reactions came from Laschet's state government in Düsseldorf.

His labor minister Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU) said he did not believe in a discussion about the debt brake.

He linked the suggestions made by the Bavarian Prime Minister to his wish to offer voters the prospect of low taxes.

Laumann added: "How Markus Söder does it, to rush forward with tax relief and to have such a debate in the back of my head, I do not understand." The budget spokesman for the Union parliamentary group, Eckhardt Rehberg, agreed and said that today's generation should finance climate protection “from the regular income of the state”, namely “within the framework of the current debt brake”.

CDU workers' wing is in favor of investments

However, there was also applause for Söder in the Union, especially from the workers' wing. The head of the Christian Democratic Workforce (CDA) in North Rhine-Westphalia, Dennis Radtke, said the fight for the climate would cost "trillions". That is why one must “also talk about the debt brake”. In view of the flood, aging society and pandemic, he “lacks the imagination to say that the return to the debt brake will be possible within the next legislative period”.

The head of the Christian Social Workers' Union, Volker Ullrich, Söder jumped in from Bavaria. "If the state creates value by borrowing, that is, spending funds on schools, infrastructure, education or climate protection, then such investments may have a positive long-term effect," he stated. But that is not a license for “indebtedness without limits”. The Basic Law requires the federal and state budgets to be balanced without income from loans. There it is also said that this rule is considered to be complied with if debts of up to 0.35 percent of gross domestic product are taken on. Ullrich suggested examining whether this leeway could be used.