On Friday the coalition partners want to finally release us from their empty phrase. Then there should be an exploratory paper with concrete results. It is about time.
One thing has to be given to the maybe-soon-to-be-traffic light coalition: They have really tried in the past few days to repackage their self-imposed speechlessness again and again.
A couple of samples?
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“Respectful, objective, also constructive and trusting” were the two-way talks with the SPD, FDP and Union, said Green leader Annalena Baerbock last Wednesday. And then announced that things should be a little more constructive with the SPD and FDP.
“Intensive and discreet,” said FDP boss Christian Lindner a little later – and then didn’t say much more either.
At the first three-way conversation last Thursday, things really got going. SPD general secretary Lars Klingbeil reported that this was “characterized by a serious atmosphere for discussion”. Something like that is also important, no question about it.
Almost as important as what FDP General Secretary Volker Wissing attested to on Tuesday. “We spoke to each other in a good tone,” he said, even several times. Thunderstorm!
Better than “Wildsau” and “Gurkentruppe”
Of course, there is nothing wrong with a good tone and everything is right. After all, there have actually been coalition members who have addressed each other as “Gurkentruppe” and “Wildsau”. The FDP should still remember this black and yellow government experience well.
But that potential coalition partners do not constantly yell at each other, at least during a discovery phase, is still the minimum requirement for everything. A matter of course, actually. Just like the emphasized objectivity, respect, constructiveness and seriousness.
That the probable traffic light coalition still had to pass things off as news for days is due to the fact that they have imposed a kind of vow of silence on themselves. Some participants also call it less charming (and jokingly): a muzzle.
It would not be surprising if Lars Klingbeil had shown the classic film “Fight Club” at the beginning of the talks in order to teach everyone the first two rules, only slightly modified: “The first rule of the soundings is: You don’t say a word about the soundings. The second rule of the probes is: You DO NOT LOSE A WORD about the probes! “
Was it so? Lars Klingbeil as the film character Tyler Durden? You don’t know, because nobody reveals it! Really nobody!
Muzzle with two senses
But of course the muzzle has its purpose for the coalitionists in spe. Basically at least two senses.
After the experiences from the failed Jamaica negotiations in 2017, everyone agreed not to negotiate quasi-publicly this time. Because that makes internal mind games about possible concessions difficult or even impossible. Anyone who has to fear that their compromise proposal will immediately become public without context and will probably arrive there as a buckle should in future be careful not to suggest compromises at all. And that is what it takes every time a government is formed.
Good show, unfortunately a bit thin texts: Volker Wissing, Lars Klingbeil and Michael Kellner after one of their performances. (Source: Kay Nietfeld / dpa)
The second sense of the muzzle is at least as important, and it is practically self-fulfilling these days. Because, surprisingly, all parties have maintained the confidentiality of the discussions so far, and trust is growing among the rather unequal partners who have not met in the past really trusted.
Of course, the muzzle also shows that there is still “a long way to go” when it comes to trust in order to remain in the traffic light jargon of these days. Because if you are so afraid of indiscretions that you don’t even reveal which topics are being discussed and when, you can definitely use a helping of extra trust.
The hour of the generals and notetakers
Pretty soon. Because when the exploratory paper is presented on Friday, the debates will start anyway, regardless of whether they make sense or not: Can the FDP really go along with it? Can’t the Greens be ripped off? And who has actually prevailed now?
Then it will no longer be enough to speak generally about the hurdles on the long way to government. And about the bridges that you want to build. Then those involved will have to name and discuss hurdles and bridges. Even in your own party.
In order for there to be an exploratory paper at all, the general secretaries have been sitting together since Wednesday, Lars Klingbeil for the SPD, Volker Wissing for the FDP and Michael Kellner for the Greens. You should use what the so-called notetakers of the parties have written down in the previous talks to work out an approximately eight-page paper. In which font and size and with which line spacing is of course not yet known.
Even the location is secret this time, and that may be appropriate given the task at hand. On the one hand, all partners must agree to the paper, so it must not contain any points that are still disputed. On the other hand, it should form the basis for coalition negotiations, and after all that has been revealed by those involved, that means: The real sticking points should already be resolved there, at least in part. A kind of coalition agreement light, so to speak.
Whether this works, whether there is enough trust, will become clear on Friday. Unless someone interprets confidentiality a little more generously and pierces the exploratory paper beforehand. In the subsequent coalition negotiations, the vow of silence is unlikely to be sustainable. Because there will be many, many more participants at the negotiating tables.
Even Lars Klingbeil from the “SPD” as Tyler Durden from “Fight Club” should be powerless.