At the start of the cabinet retreat in Meseberg, Brandenburg, Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) and the ministers of the traffic light coalition met Ursula von der Leyen (CDU).
The EU Commission President said about the controversial planned ban on cars with combustion engines: "We are in a constructive dialogue there." The FDP is opposed to the end of newly registered vehicles with petrol or diesel engines from 2035.
Another focus should be how a “geopolitically sovereign Europe” can be created. Scholz called von der Leyen a "good friend" of the government.
The President of the Commission also wanted to get an idea of how much unity and thus the ability to act the government of the largest economy in the EU currently has. Because the list of issues that threaten to paralyze the coalition is long. And maybe von der Leyen can provide relaxation in one or the other field.
Regardless of the issues at stake, Scholz expected a sign of confidence from the cabinet meeting for the people of Germany. "First of all, we will talk about how a society that has so much ahead of it can be and remain confident," said the SPD politician at the start of the meeting in the federal government's guest house, Schloss Meseberg, north of Berlin. That is the basis for trusting yourself. "Germany will be the country that modernizes its economy at great speed."
The government had come together to discuss a few fundamental issues "which we believe are worth negotiating with a little more calm".
His ministers have a number of disputes up their sleeves, from highway construction to heating problems to money. Relaxed talks behind closed doors seem necessary, because a week and a half before an important budget decision is made, the atmosphere between the SPD, the Greens and the FDP is more tense than it has been for a long time. Get together, that could be the motto of the traffic lights in Meseberg.
On Sunday and Monday, the cabinet wanted to deal with major future issues and how to deal with the decisive challenges facing Germany: "Economic prospects for Germany and Europe in the changing times", the "Roadmap Energiewende 2030" and "Data policy and artificial intelligence". The Chancellor and his cabinet wanted to get out of the constant crisis management and back to the agenda that the self-proclaimed "progress" alliance had prescribed in the coalition agreement.
But the intersection of the traffic light partners is getting smaller and smaller; the meeting in Meseberg is largely dedicated to fighting the internal crisis in the coalition.
There is a tough fight over the financing of basic child security, the ban on oil and gas heating, the distribution of priorities in the expansion of transport infrastructure and the ban on cars with combustion engines.
Whether motorways should be built faster is a constant dispute in the coalition. The FDP demands this and refers to the prognosis that freight traffic on the road will grow strongly in the long term. The Greens reject an acceleration and call for more commitment to the climate goals.
Between Scholz and his foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, things are jerky when it comes to diplomacy. Many in the SPD do not like that the Green politician often speaks plain language internationally – while Scholz prefers to regulate many things in back rooms.
When Baerbock called for Western allies to stand together at the Council of Europe, she said: "We are fighting a war against Russia and not against each other." Scholz made it clear: "This is a war between Russia and Ukraine." The same applies to the German strategy for dealing with China hardly makes any progress.
Above all, however, the fight is about money, the budget. It is currently a particularly hot topic because the Federal Minister of Finance and FDP leader Christian Lindner wants to present the cornerstones for the budget for the coming year on March 15th.
And while the liberals insist on budgetary discipline, the wishes of the other ministers add up to 70 billion euros - this creates enormous potential for conflict in the coalition, which Scholz, Lindner and Economics Minister and Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck (Greens) have to defuse. Even if that is not reflected on the official agenda of the cabinet meeting.
But one thing is already clear: Meseberg will only be a stopover on the way to finding a coalition peace: the real decisions are more likely to be made at a coalition committee at the end of March.
"Kick-off Politics" is WELT's daily news podcast. The most important topic analyzed by WELT editors and the dates of the day. Subscribe to the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, among others, or directly via RSS feed.