Coaches recommend team building when there have recently been conflicts at work. Why not send the managers bouldering or hiking? The excursion that the Federal Chancellor undertakes on Wednesday with his most important ministers has a similar effect: They fly to the Spanish Atlantic coast, to A Coruña, and since the planes of the flight readiness service break down again or are used by the Federal President, who is higher in terms of protocol, Olaf Scholz (SPD ), Robert Habeck (Greens), Christian Lindner (FDP) and six other department heads of the traffic light in a profane troop transporter of the Bundeswehr.
Finance Minister Lindner has just blocked the cabinet's decision to keep the nuclear power plants running. They are not only to be operated until April, but for a whole year. In doing so, he makes it a little more difficult for Economics Minister Habeck, whom his Greens are reluctant to follow on the nuclear issue anyway.
So there is a lot to talk about. But is there an opportunity? Officially, the meeting is a German-Spanish government consultation. The format was a stylistic device of the Merkel era. The idea: not only heads of government from friendly countries, but also ministers are looking for joint projects - and meet once a year. Most recently, however, the whole thing fell asleep: the last German-Spanish government consultations took place in 2013.
Scholz has now revived her. He likes Spain. Above all, his government and its head of government: Pedro Sanchez has led his Social Democrats from a grand coalition into a left-wing alliance. He leaves the culture wars that are also raging in Spain to his smaller partners and concentrates on economic issues: he calls it governing for those who work. Scholz recognizes himself in this.
It is the third meeting of the two this year. Sanchez is expected again in Berlin in October. In between, the Spanish royal couple is visiting Germany, and then Spain is also the guest country at the Frankfurt Book Fair. "It's a German-Spanish year, so to speak," says Scholz cheerfully: "I don't think that's an exaggeration."
Is there really anything going on? Hard to say. Two agreements signed by Labor Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) and Research Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger (FDP) with their counterparts certainly make sense in a broader sense, but could have been sent back and forth by email. The "plan of action" that both governments agree on has not even been read by all the government members involved.
The really important issues are the same ones here on the western edge of Europe as they are at home: energy and weapons. Behind the scenes, there is a heated struggle about energy: "Unfortunately, the lack of infrastructure connections in Europe prevents the potential that we have on the Iberian Peninsula in terms of electricity and gas from being fully exploited," says Sanchez.
He says: His country has ports for liquid gas and would like to deliver this – and later hydrogen – to Germany. But that's not technically possible. Because France also wants to do the business and is hindering the development of a transit infrastructure.
Scholz only spoke to French President Emmanuel Macron at the beginning of the week. Officially, they are still counting on his Plazet, but they are also working as Plan B on laying a pipeline through the Mediterranean. Of course, that is not yet ready to be decided, Macron is still being worked on. "As far as the concrete pipeline is concerned, our common perspective is that we always like to do it in friendship and cooperation," says Scholz: "We don't have the impression that this is impossible."
In some European capitals, there is dissatisfaction with the 200 billion euros that the traffic light wants to use to subsidize German energy prices after a long back and forth. Isn't that a distortion of competition? When asked about it, Sanchez replied ambivalently. On the one hand he refers to the internal market as the most important EU achievement of all, which should be designed as a "level playing field". Criticism of the high German state aid sounds. On the other hand, Sanchez points out that Germany is the largest economy in this single market and is also in particular difficulties.
Sanchez Scholz is also gentle on the subject of arms deliveries. According to Spanish media reports, the Spanish government wanted to deliver German-made Leopard tanks to the Ukraine – but the federal government prohibited this. An important politician at the traffic light wants to be a witness to this: the Green Anton Hofreiter, after all, chairman of the European Committee in the Bundestag. Hofreiter says he has "reliable information from the Spanish government" that he was "personally told".
Confronted with this, Sanchez dodges. All applications from Ukraine would be examined closely by his government. Going it alone would be avoided. Scholz sees it the same way.