Written by David McAllister MEP, Chairman of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, IDU Vice Chairman
On 12 and 13 January 2024 the Federal Executive Committee of the CDU Germany under leadership of Friedrich Merz met in Heidelberg. We adopted a declaration with the title “A clear course for Germany and Europe”.
Military conflicts, increasing global competitive pressure, technological progress, the effects of climate change, and irregular migration are testing society, the economy, and politics in Germany and in the European Union. Trust in the Federal Government is currently at an all-time low, and the overall mood in our country is worse than ever before.
In these turbulent times, there is a need for a policy that promotes stability and strong leadership to address these challenges. The current “traffic light” government in Berlin composed of Socialists, Greens and Liberals is perceived as powerless, headless, haphazard, and divided. Chancellor Scholz is seen as avoiding leadership instead of taking charge.
This loss of confidence in the government has allowed right-wing radical and populist forces in Germany to gain strength. It is crucial for all parties in the political centre to work towards restoring confidence in the ability of the free democratic constitutional state to act. Democracy in Germany remains intact, but a better government is needed.
The CDU is prepared to take responsibility and lead Germany into the future with confidence, vigour, stability, and good ideas. Over the past two years, the CDU has embarked on a path of renewal and has developed a new policy program to address the upcoming challenges. The goal is to ensure that people in Germany and in the European Union can live in security and freedom.
This year 2024 will be significant for Germany and Europe, with important elections on the horizon. These include the European elections from 6 to 9 June, state elections in Saxony, Thuringia, and Brandenburg in September, and nine local elections in May and June. Additionally, federal elections in some districts in Berlin will need to be repeated on 11 February. The CDU aims to emerge as the strongest political force from these elections.
Making Germany Competitive and Fit for the Future
Germany has learned from the process of reunification how major changes can be made for the common good. The eastern German states have a wealth of experience for today. Let us not jeopardize the positive developments of the past 30 years.
Then as now, a good future in Germany requires a society that transforms the challenges of the present into opportunities. We have the potential to do so. Our society relies on the freedom, diligence, and creativity of the individual. They are the prerequisites for growth, security, and social cohesion and the basis for the social market economy.
Politics must give citizens the freedom and space to experiment so that they can shape their lives in a self-determined way. To this end, we want to offer citizens a reliable framework that creates security. We understand security comprehensively, as internal and external, economic, social, and ecological security.
Germany is the only industrialised country in the world whose economy is shrinking. Companies are relocating, SMEs are closing down, investments are increasingly being made abroad, the number of insolvencies is increasing, and unemployment is rising. We want Germany to become a leading economic nation again and to renew and fulfil its promise of prosperity in times of great challenges. To achieve this, we are focusing on better framework conditions. We will boost growth with an attractive corporate tax, affordable, clean, and secure energy, comprehensive digitalisation, more skilled workers, and an investment and innovation offensive for the economy, energy, and climate. We are focusing on the decisive innovation and growth potential of education, from daycare centres to further education, science, and research.
We also want to make entrepreneurship attractive again: with noticeably less regulation and bureaucracy, faster planning procedures, and start-up protection zones. A moratorium on burdens is needed immediately to stop new burdens for companies and employees and to comprehensively reduce reporting obligations and documentation (e.g., taxonomy, supply chain regulation, corporate sustainability reporting).
We need an agenda for hard-working individuals: those who work harder should be able to afford more. With lower taxes and contributions, we aim to ensure higher net wages, increased employment, and prosperity.
We will reduce the burden on small and medium incomes by adjusting and noticeably flattening the income tax rate. However, we have to also consider the growing burden of social security contributions. Additionally, we will improve the tax position of working pensioners through an “active pension” program.
We aim to establish a social security system that distinguishes more clearly between contribution-financed insurance benefits and tax-financed social benefits. Individuals who have contributed to unemployment insurance for many years and become unemployed will receive an insurance benefit in the form of unemployment benefits. For older individuals who have been insured for many years, unemployment benefits should be higher during the initial months of unemployment for which they are not responsible. Benefits according to Second Book of the German Social Code (SGB II formerly known as “Hartz IV,” now “Bürgergeld”) and asylum seeker benefits are social benefits that are based on need and funded by the general public. We intend to introduce increased cooperation obligations and sanctions for benefit recipients who are capable of working, following the principle of “support and demand.” Required is a proactive approach in all job centres across the country to reduce dependency on these social benefits as quickly as possible and ideally eliminate it. We will reverse the “citizen’s income” introduced by the previous government and return to a system of “support and demand.”
Wolfgang Schäuble, whose memory we forever honour, stands for reliable and sustainable public finances like no other. He is the architect of the “black zero.” We must return to a budget that complies with the constitution and sets the right priorities. Germany faces a spending problem, not a revenue problem. In the interest of future generations, we prioritise sustainable finances and remain committed to the debt brake.
Germany needs a comprehensive modernisation push. We need to make government processes faster and more efficient. To achieve this, we require new structures and working methods: efficient parliaments, digital authorities, and reduced paperwork. Through a reform of federalism, we aim to reorganise the relationship between the federal government and the federal states.
We intend to utilise federal laws and federal companies more effectively to expedite the implementation of nationally significant infrastructure projects. Local authorities need greater flexibility. We aim to strengthen them through stable and reliable funding, lump-sum funding allocations, the elimination of bureaucratic and regulatory constraints, and room for experimentation. We will discontinue ineffective measures and expand successful ones nationwide. The burden of new financial obligations, particularly in the social sector, on the municipal level must be alleviated.
When considering the economy, energy, and climate, we recognise that they are interconnected. A strong economy and sustainable climate protection are mutually dependent. Without a competitive economy, sustainable climate protection is not possible, and without climate protection measures, the modernisation of our economy cannot be sustainable. To achieve this, we rely on scientific and technological progress and embrace dynamism based on market economy principles. Emissions trading is our central instrument in this regard, which we will expand and combine with social equalisation. We will ensure that energy is safe, clean, and affordable. Our goal is to significantly increase the use of renewable energies, consistently implement the hydrogen strategy, and advance CO2 capture technologies. While we acknowledge the importance of nuclear power at present, we also aspire to build the first fusion power plant in Germany.
Climate protection can only be successful with the support of the people. Therefore, we want to abolish the heating law of the current government and instead focus on promoting, demanding, and enabling the transition to climate-neutral heating.
Supporting agriculture is crucial. Our agricultural businesses must remain competitive and not be burdened with excessive regulations. They require stability in planning to contribute to food security and further strengthen rural areas. The proposed budget cuts by the previous government must be completely reversed. The gradual abolition of tax concessions for agricultural diesel by 2026 should be reconsidered. The forestry sector also needs entrepreneurial flexibility for forest restructuring. The Federal Forest Act limits this flexibility and should be halted.
We aim to promote unity and bring together different communities. To achieve this, we support the implementation of a mandatory year of community service for all school graduates. The deployment opportunities should be diverse, including the option to serve in the German Armed Forces. It is crucial to establish standardised regulations for the “social year” across Germany.
Access to quality education for all is essential for fostering cohesion in our country. It serves as a key factor in personal growth, integration, and creating equal opportunities in society.
We also strive to enhance the recognition of voluntary work by simplifying legislation, providing funding, and reducing excessive liability rules. Our focus should be on supporting individuals rather than burdening them with paperwork and forms.
Ensuring the safety of citizens is of utmost importance, both in urban and rural areas. To achieve this, we advocate for well-equipped security authorities with sufficient personnel and appropriate powers for the police and the Office for the Protection of the Constitution. By implementing more summary proceedings, we aim to ensure that appropriate punishment follows any offense.
We are committed to combating all forms of extremism, violence, and terrorism, regardless of their ideological origins. Offenses such as displaying anti-constitutional symbols and making anti-Semitic statements must be prosecuted and punished in accordance with the full extent of the law. We stand in solidarity with Israel and firmly oppose any form of anti-Israeli propaganda.
Renewing the European security promise
Germany’s future security cannot be achieved solely at the national level. Many challenges we face today are global in nature, requiring strong alliances for effective solutions. The European Union and NATO serve as the foundation for Germany’s security.
The people of Germany desire a Europe that provides security, can defend itself, and holds a strong position on the global stage. We believe in a prosperous and strategically independent Europe that can compete successfully in the global arena. As CDU, we are passionate advocates for European unity and dedicated to the European project.
For a competitive Europe, a successful economy needs good framework conditions – in Germany and in the European Union. This requires a Lisbon Strategy 2.0 for greater competitiveness and a new economic dynamic. We, therefore, promote research, innovation, and digitalisation. We want intensive, rules-based free trade, a deeper EU internal market, and a secure supply of energy and raw materials. Where bureaucratic regulations are paralysing, they must be dismantled: The European Union is over- regulated, and that is why there needs to be a stop to bureaucratic requirements. The EU must focus on the major challenges and strengthen the principle of subsidiarity. On the way to a climate-neutral Europe by 2050, we are combining ecological and economic security: Climate protection can be achieved sustainably with market-based instruments such as emissions trading, the expansion of renewable energies, and the circular economy. We want to set the course for Europe to become an innovation centre for sustainable technologies.
We are in favour of expanding the Common European Foreign and Security policy. In times of new systemic competition, Europe must be a strong voice in the world, speaking in favour of freedom and the interests of the member states. Europe needs to be more defensive and more sovereign. This also requires a common European nuclear defence shield. Europe must show that it stands up for our common values. In the third year of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, we stand firmly by Ukraine’s side. Together with our partners, we support Ukraine in its fight for freedom and territorial integrity.
Many municipalities are facing challenges in receiving, accommodating, and integrating individuals seeking protection. It is crucial to change our approach now. Our goal is to put an end to uncontrolled irregular migration and limit humanitarian migration to a level that does not overwhelm Germany and the EU’s capacity for integration. Entry into the EU should be determined by state authorities, not criminal smuggling networks. To achieve this, the EU border protection agency Frontex should be transformed into a genuine border police force capable of intercepting migrants at the EU’s external borders. Until this transformation occurs, it may be necessary to maintain border controls at internal borders. The ongoing negotiations on the reform of European asylum law are significant steps in the right direction and should be implemented promptly. We aim to establish the concept of conducting asylum procedures and granting protection in safe third countries, as well as introducing humanitarian quotas for those in need of protection.
To foster greater responsibility, it is essential for countries to lead and take initiative in improving Europe. Germany, with its special leadership responsibility, must fulfil this role once again. Together with our partners, we strive to shape the EU and ensure its readiness for the future. The Franco-German alliance and the Weimar Triangle, including Poland, are crucial in achieving this objective.