Berlin / Stefan Kegel
The National Liberal Leader, Christian Lindner, is campaigning for the West to reintegrate Moscow more strongly.
Mr Lindner, your party was the symbol of unity during the election campaign. Well, in terms of Russia, the dispute returns. Or is that deceptive?
This is deceptive. We agree, but of course there are different opinions in a liberal party. We have majority resolutions on Russia, which Wolfgang Kubicki wants to reopen in one aspect.
He has spoken as Deputy Party leader and Bundestag vice-president for an end to the sanctions against Moscow.
The whole FDP wants new thinking in Russia politics. An escalation spiral must be prevented. There is no solution to the crises in the world and no stability in Europe without Russia. But Wolfgang Kubicki wants to take the second step before the first one. He has not convinced us yet. In order to ease the relationship with Russia, we should instead connect more consequence, for example in the defense against cyber attacks, with new offers of dialogue.
And how could they look like? Foreign Minister Heiko Maas wants that too.
From Mr. Maas I know only the demand for more hardness. We suggest inviting Putin back into the circle of the world’s leading economies, not as a G8, but in a G7 + 1 format. According to the Minsk agreements, relaxation also depends heavily on the progress made by the Ukrainian government, which has not made any promises. That has to be disconnected. Such offers could ease Russia’s positional postponement. But you can only achieve this cooperation if you act consistently. Otherwise one only confirms the hardliners in the Kremlin who think that the West is weak.
Dealing with Russia will also play a role in resolving Syria. Even in the CDU there are voices calling for direct negotiations with head of state Assad. Can he be a partner in a peace process?
Peacemaking Syria will not be possible with the military but only with diplomacy. We welcome that such initiatives now exist. However, I think it is wrong that it is now openly voiced by the Union that Mr Assad is already being accepted before talks as part of an interim solution. We have learned one thing: Public disputes such as those in the Security Council do not solve them. What if one were guided by the Oslo process, which brought relaxation between Israel and the Palestinians in the 1990s? You should therefore use special ambassadors with a negotiating mandate, who will explore behind closed doors what is possible. It goes without saying that Russia, Turkey and Iran have to sit at the table.
Is there an alternative to Assad?
Such questions should not be debated publicly, certainly not before such talks. It only plays into the hands of Mr. Putin, whose puppet Assad is in truth.
Europe was not quite united on Syria and still is not in many other fields. This is reflected in the German reaction to the European visions of French President Emmanuel Macron. The Union faction is already putting the brakes on its proposals. What is the Europe-friendly coalition agreement worth?
It is a mistake to confuse Europe-friendliness with the communitarisation of finance, debt and risks in Europe. Parts of the CDU, the SPD and the Greens occur so. This is being debated in the Union. This means that Germany no longer has a clear position. I would like a clear answer from the Federal Government to Emmanuel Macron. Germany should actively support many of its ideas: the creation of a European army, the downsizing of the European Commission, the strengthening of joint investment in new technologies. On the other hand, he also has ideas that we can not pursue, especially in fiscal policy.
But is not that exactly what matters most to Macron?
Our philosophy is to strengthen the rules and restore fiscal ownership in our monetary union. And that the crisis can be overcome by no longer pushing politics on, but strengthening the economic power through reforms. That was the German position on which the FDP has always held. It must not be that German customers of savings banks and Volksbanks pay for dilapidated institutions in Italy.
Meanwhile, the Union faction has chased her chancellor back.
The rethinking in the CDU / CSU parliamentary group shows that a new realism has arrived here. However, the development also proves that Angela Merkel does not have her shop under control. That is a huge loss of authority for the Chancellor. It is still not clear how the Federal Government wants to react to the French proposals. In the coalition agreement, extensive concessions have been agreed towards a transfer union. In our opinion, this should be avoided at all costs.
If you had become Minister of Finance instead of Olaf Scholz, you would not have been so far from him.
We could not agree with the European political ideas of Mrs. Merkel and the Greens. That there seems to be movement in the Union now also depends on our going to the opposition. Before the elections in Bavaria and Hesse, the Union probably fears that we would be addressing the abandonment of market-economy positions in Europe in the marketplaces. Our opinion is that we must move towards strengthening fiscal autonomy in Europe. You can further develop the European bailout into a European Monetary Fund, which objectively monitors compliance with the treaties. We also imagine that we are strengthening real economic investments, for example in battery technology or in artificial intelligence. This can also be done by making better use of existing European budgets. What is not possible for us is that we pay transfers from Germany to other European countries. This does not help Macron, but the successors of Mr Berlusconi in Italy, who make unsustainable campaign promises that they then want to make pay by others.
Let us come to your party. They want to get more women into the FDP. Why are so few coming to you?
We want to investigate. We have much higher numbers of voters, but too few find their way into the party as members. Education, self-determination, a modern social policy, a well-regulated immigration – these are issues that are just as important for women. Actually, the most exciting party for women is the FDP. In the Greens, you get presented a sometimes exaggerated gender ideology. At Union and AfD you get social policy of the 50s. And with us you get a policy that strengthens self-determination, is cosmopolitan, modern and economically reasonable.
Can it be that the FDP is too individualistic in its orientation for many women?
But you have a somewhat one-sided picture of women. In any case, we turn to all people who lead their lives completely self-determined. Individualism does not mean isolation. It just means that nobody can tell me how to lead my life. I do not believe that women are only interested in the women’s issues that men like to talk about. For both genders, issues such as reproductive medicine are important, including non-profit surrogacy. This is possible in many modern societies, not with us. Doctors should not inform due to outdated laws that they make a legal abortion in their practice. The affected women leave the CDU and CSU completely alone because they are afraid of the reactionary and evangelical AfD. There is pent-up demand in Germany for the modernization of family and medical law.
Is this a type that could be attracted by female quotas, for example for the presidency or the executive committee of your party?
I do not want to anticipate results. We discuss such instruments. It can then be a result that you are against with better arguments than before. Some comment I found bizarre. Conservatives want to impose a ban on thinking.
There is a debate about benefits for Hartz IV recipients. Does the FDP idea of citizen’s money still apply, according to which all social benefits are bundled in one place and self-earned income is credited only in percentage terms?
Of course. It would enable people to return to ownership. Someone who works, even if it’s a mini-job, for example, has to have more than someone who does not work. From every Euro earned next to Hartz IV you have to pay 80 cents. This is anti-performance and chains the people to the social system.
Labor Minister Hubertus Heil has initiated a debate on higher standard rates for Hartz IV recipients and a reduction of sanctions.
I think that’s fundamentally wrong. We have to see that in the coming years, in particular, the proportion of refugees and migrants among the Hartz IV recipients will go through the roof. And when the working German realizes that his neighbor, who may not be integrated and does not work, receives Hartz IV as an unconditional basic income and can not count on any sanctions for denial of education, language acquisition or work, then he will be outraged.
So you are calling for stricter sanctions?
With our citizen money from one source we want to ensure that not single parents are hit by sanctions, because they missed an appointment. But it’s about finding out who wants to exploit the system. For example, I’m talking about clan members in Berlin who move to Hartz IV, drive big cars and otherwise – I phrase it cautiously – move into gray areas.
But basic security is available to everyone. Even the migrants who refuse a German language course.
If somebody refuses work, education and integration, then obviously he has to have other sources of income, such as moonlighting. Then the office can reduce his benefits even after the current legal situation. I am in favor of making the system less bureaucratic, but at the same time strengthening its demanding character. Hartz IV is not an unconditional basic income. And it would be fatal if it becomes a program for financing integration shortages in the future. That would jeopardize his acceptance.