WORLD: Are you sometimes embarrassed that your party is part of the traffic light government, Mr Djir-Sarai?
Bijan Djir-Sarai: No, why should it? As the FDP, we took responsibility in a difficult situation when others were preoccupied with themselves. From my point of view, the coalition works because the results of our policy are right. So far, Germany has come through the crisis-ridden past year comparatively well. Besides, there is no alternative to success. A stable government is important for our country.
WORLD: A central project of this government is the turning point in security policy. Can you be indifferent when the minister responsible for the Bundeswehr produces one glitch after the other?
Djir-Sarai: It is important that at the end of the day problems are solved and necessary reforms implemented. The minister must be measured by that. The turning point in security policy is a historic task. There is an international expectation that Germany will follow words with deeds. I hope all relevant actors are aware of this.
WORLD: The Chancellery and Ministry of Finance have just stopped the draft of a national security strategy because the lead foreign office has so far only presented an insufficient collection of ideas. Was it a mistake to entrust Annalena Baerbock (Greens) with this task? Does that belong in the chancellery?
Djir-Sarai: It is one of the classic tasks of the foreign ministry to draw up strategies of this kind. This is not trivial in this case, it is about a comprehensive security concept. The German strategy must be able to keep up programmatically with that of the Americans and other allies and be in line with reality. For ideological reasons, it is not possible to only concentrate on certain areas and to ignore what is unwelcome. The final elaboration of the strategy must be groundbreaking. If it's not there yet, you have to keep working on it.
WORLD: Do you expect Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) to reshuffle his cabinet in the next few months?
WORLD: So Nancy Faeser can remain Federal Minister of the Interior if she becomes the SPD’s top candidate for the state elections in Hesse?
Djir-Sarai: I am Secretary General of the FDP. The SPD must answer this question.
WORLD: In 2022, the FDP messed up four state elections - also because their supporters are dissatisfied with the traffic light and feel culturally alien there. Four state elections are now due in 2023. How do you intend to mobilize voters more successfully this time?
Djir-Sarai: It is correct: Our voters, our supporters, our members are having difficulties with this coalition. But we joined this coalition out of a sense of responsibility and the will to shape things and will continue to do so successfully in the interest of the state. The FDP ensures that Germany is governed from the center. We have to emphasize this even more - above all by continuing to implement our demands and convictions in the coalition. This will result in the success of the FDP.
WORLD: Where does that work? Although you can occasionally prevent red-green projects, you can hardly design them yourself. And that's what people expect.
Djir-Sarai: That's not true. The fact that 48 million citizens benefit from tax cuts is thanks to the FDP. It is to the credit of the FDP that the way was paved for bringing more people back into the labor market in the long term, instead of cementing their stay on basic security. The FDP has made a significant contribution to ensuring that the energy supply is secured with the continued operation of the three nuclear power plants on the grid. They will now continue until April 15th. And the debate as to whether it makes sense in terms of energy policy to continue operating the nuclear power plants has already begun. Without the FDP, that would not have been possible either. I could continue the list of successes of the FDP in the traffic light.
WORLD: Let's stay with nuclear power. The government has decided to fundamentally stick to the end of nuclear power, despite the current scarcity and increase in the price of energy. How do you explain that to your voters?
Djir-Sarai: Our voters know that if the Red-Green Party governed alone, or if the Union governed without the FDP, all nuclear power plants would now be shut down. Without us, the debate about extending the lifetime would not exist at all - not because we think nuclear power is so great, but because the world has changed drastically as a result of a war in the middle of Europe. We have to take these changes into account by questioning supposed certainties. The future belongs to renewable energies, that is clear. But at the moment we just need other energy sources than bridge. If energy-intensive industries are to be kept in the country and thereby secure jobs and ultimately our prosperity, we must keep an eye on energy prices as a competitive factor.
WORLD: Germany's industry needs cheap energy. Where is it supposed to come from?
Djir-Sarai: It won't be cheap in the foreseeable future. However, the prices must be designed in such a way that the German economy remains competitive. I don't see any other option than to focus on extending the service life of nuclear power plants in addition to expanding renewable energy - also against the background of climate protection. The countries of the EU agree to make themselves independent of Russian oil and gas and to support each other in this energy crisis. Energy from modern and safe nuclear power plants is an economic and foreign policy option that we must not refuse. No one can say today when the energy crisis will end.
LNG gas for Germany, a mild winter, the government gas price brake also takes effect in January and the gas price is at the pre-war level: good news in terms of energy, but consumers have not noticed much of it so far.
Source: WORLD | Leonie von Randow-Gueth
WORLD: The fact remains: Chancellor Scholz has instructed that the three nuclear power plants Isar 2, Neckarwestheim 2 and Emsland should run until “April 15, 2023 at the latest”. So are you questioning this policy decision?
Djir-Sarai: I think we have to think beyond April. It's not about showing off the chancellor or the coalition partners. The question of how we protect our business location and at the same time comply with the climate protection goals cannot be answered by excluding individual technologies and decisive parameters.
WORLD: Yes, according to the Social Democrat Bärbel Bas. What does it say about the understanding of a parliamentary speaker's office when she wants to end the core element of decision-making in plenary, the debate?
Djir-Sarai: I find such statements strange. We are in the middle of a crisis and have to conduct unpleasant discussions objectively, soberly and in the interest of the country. It doesn't help now.
WORLD: Your party friend Volker Wissing wants to outsource the debate and turn on a panel of experts. What do you make of it?
Djir-Sarai: The idea has potential. Physics, economics and energy professionals need to be part of the debate. In the end, however, the Federal Government and the Bundestag will not be able to avoid making a decision.
WORLD: The Bundestag also shows no interest in discussing the fracking ban, which was only provisionally issued in 2016, even though it should have happened in 2021. Will the FDP start a corresponding initiative in parliament?
Djir-Sarai: That's not how politics works in a coalition. A government faction does not submit an application on its own. In essence, however, shale gas extraction must be a building block in our country's energy strategy. This strategy must be open to technology and not have to be restricted in thinking. The technology has improved in shale gas extraction – other countries are showing us how this extraction method can now also be organized in harmony with ecology. Incidentally, it is hypocritical to import shale gas without wanting to produce it yourself.
WORLD: The public debate in Germany is not a rational discourse, the economist Hans-Werner Sinn just said, "but an emotional, sometimes irrational debate that is dominated by dreamers". Do you agree?
Djir-Sarai: I have noticed for a long time that the debates we are having in this country are not always in line with reality - in some cases they are even completely unrealistic. This is dangerous not only for our society, but also for Germany as a whole as one of the most important economies in the world. Whether it is energy policy, economic policy, climate policy or foreign policy: the world we live in is changing dramatically. But we often pretend we live on an island. Just one example: the state of the Bundeswehr is a reflection of this illusion. Many thought, and unfortunately some still do, despite the war in Europe, that we don't need a military and that security and defense policy doesn't matter. We must finally stop closing our eyes to reality.
WORLD: The Minister of Finance, your party leader, has just called for a turning point in economic and financial policy. He has plans to cut income and corporate taxes. That will not happen with the SPD and the Greens. So is this just profiling for the upcoming election campaigns?
Djir-Sarai: No, it is our belief. We are convinced that in times of crisis, the burden on citizens and the economy must be relieved. We have therefore put together relief packages worth billions. But this must not become permanent. We must now take the right steps to lead the country out of the crisis. This includes strengthening our economy through faster planning and approval procedures as well as reducing bureaucracy and tax burdens and combating high inflation through solid public finances.
WORLD: With whom is it actually more difficult to govern: with the SPD or the Greens?
Djir-Sarai: That is irrelevant. It is important that the discussions within the coalition are conducted objectively and that the results are correct. Everyone must pull together, the guiding principle must be: first the country, then the party. Even if everyone knows that the traffic light coalition is not on the ballot paper for the next federal election, but the SPD, Greens and FDP. In any case, I'm working to ensure that people will say in 2025: Yes, the FDP has taken responsibility and done the best it can for this country. That's what counts for me.
"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 or directly via RSS feed.