The future of Europe is at stake in the fight for Germany’s finance ministry

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A fiscal conservative in the job and a new era of debt limitation could spell disaster for EU countries

The result of the German election was known within minutes of the polls closing on 26 September. But the kind of government that will emerge is being decided now, behind closed doors, in intense three-way coalition negotiations. With the Christian Democratic Union (CDU)/Christian Social Union (CSU) humiliated by a defeat of unprecedented magnitude, Olaf Scholz of the Social Democratic party (SPD) is the clear favourite to succeed Angela Merkel at the chancellery.

The real question is the balance of power between the SPD’s two coalition partners, the Greens and the Free Democratic party (FDP). A key issue in those negotiations is who gets the job at the Finance Ministry. The politicians concerned may be unknown outside of Germany, and the battle over who controls the purse strings may not seem glamorous. But it will, in fact, decide the prospects not just of Germany’s next government, but of Europe.

Both the FDP and the Greens want the finance ministry job. Indeed, in the course of the campaign, FDP leader Christian Lindner made it into a headline issue, warning voters that the choice was between him and Robert Habeck, the Green party chairman and chief architect of the traffic-light coalition.

The FDP and Greens are, in some ways, similar. They are the two parties that contend for young people’s votes. Both take a strong line on civil liberties and have little time for accommodation with Russia and China. Both want to modernise Germany’s creaking infrastructure, especially when it comes to tech. But on climate, the Greens are far more serious than the FDP. The two parties also differ on social and economic policy – and they differ, too, on Europe.

Read the full article at The Guardian.

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