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Germany’s Scholz vows a quick resolution to his coalition government’s latest standoff

Center-left Social Democrat Scholz leads a coalition of three parties that are broadly socially liberal

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz looks on as he visits the DLRG water rescue station Fasaneriesee in Munich, Germany, August 24, 2023.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz looks on as he visits the DLRG water rescue station Fasaneriesee in Munich, Germany, August 24, 2023.MICHAELA REHLE (REUTERS)

German Chancellor OIaf Scholz is vowing that his coalition government will quickly resolve a dispute over child benefits that has marred attempts to put months of damaging public infighting behind it.

Center-left Social Democrat Scholz leads a coalition of three parties that are broadly socially liberal. But their approaches to economic and other issues are often at odds, in particular between his two junior partners: the environmentalist, traditionally left-leaning Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats.

The two squabbled at length earlier this year over a plan to replace fossil-fuel home heating systems, which helped drag down the government’s poll ratings.

Top officials had hoped to project a more united image after the summer break, but more trouble erupted as the Cabinet held its first post-vacation meeting on Aug. 16. Lisa Paus, the Green minister for families, blocked a plan by Finance Minister Christian Lindner — the Free Democrats’ leader — for tax relief for companies, meant to help Germany’s stuttering economy.

That followed months of attempts by Paus to get more money from Lindner for a plan to expand child benefits, which many Free Democrats view skeptically.

Scholz told the Mediengruppe Bayern newspaper group in comments published Saturday that the government “will clear up by next week” the shape of the child benefit plan.

He said he “can only warn against” further public arguments.

“We should concentrate more on highlighting the successes of the government’s work and conduct the necessary discussions about our plans internally,” Scholz added.

In the past two weeks, the Cabinet has approved major parts of the coalition’s social reform agenda — plans to ease rules for obtaining German citizenship, liberalize rules on the possession and sale of cannabis, and make it easier for transgender, intersex and nonbinary people to change their gender and name in official registers.

The Cabinet is due to meet at a government guest house outside Berlin on Tuesday and Wednesday.

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