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Wegner (left), Merz: Trouble in the CDU

Photo: Christoph Soeder / dpa

Berlin's Governing Mayor Kai Wegner has responded to criticism from CDU federal chairman and opposition leader Friedrich Merz and reiterated his call for a reform of the debt brake. "I have a clear stance," the governor told Stern.

"The reform of the debt brake for investments in the future is urgently needed." Alluding to a remark made by his party leader in the Bundestag, he added: "Incidentally, as Governing Mayor, I am delighted when Berlin receives such great attention in the Bundestag."

Words of power of the party leaders

Both CSU leader Markus Söder and CDU leader Friedrich Merz had previously tried to end the debate on reforming the debt brake in their own ranks with words of power. A number of CDU/CSU politicians, including some CDU minister-presidents and members of parliament, had previously spoken out in favour of a reform.

Merz had emphasized in the Bundestag on Tuesday that the Union was against any form of softening of the debt brake. In addition, alluding to earlier statements by Wegner, he said that decisions on the debt brake "are made here in the German Bundestag and not in the city hall of Berlin," which can be understood as a direct attack on Wegner.

Saxony's Prime Minister Michael Kretschmer (CDU) told the Tagesspiegel that the traffic light government must now solve the problems with the 2024 budget. If we find out afterwards that we still urgently need money for important future projects, we can talk about everything – not before," he said. The debt brake enshrined in the Basic Law can only be amended with a two-thirds majority in the Bundestag and Bundesrat.

The SPD, the Greens and a number of economists are calling for an investment clause to be included in the debt brake that severely restricts borrowing by the federal and state governments.

»Take back social gifts«

In the budget crisis, the Economic Council of the CDU has meanwhile called on the traffic light government to withdraw "social gifts". The President of the Economic Council, Astrid Hamker, said: "The real causes of the financial problems of this federal government are the introduction of citizens' allowances, increases in citizens' allowances and the introduction of basic child support." The Economic Council demanded that these "social gifts" be withdrawn. In addition, in the case of recipients of citizens' allowance who are able to work, the willingness to work must be checked through charitable activity. "All these points must be on the table in the talks in the coalition. The time for taboos is finally over," said Hamker.

Hamker criticized Chancellor Olaf Scholz's government statement on Tuesday. There has been no clear announcement of where the federal government intends to make real savings. Hamker went on to complain that excessive bureaucracy and ideological energy policy with small-scale regulatory mania were making it increasingly difficult for the economy to get back on its feet. "No improvement in the economic situation can be expected without curbing the welfare state, noticeably easing the bureaucratic shackles and concrete measures to strengthen the infrastructure."