Saturday, January 22

Christian Lindner, a liberal light in the new German coalition


Correspondent in Berlin

Updated:

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The negotiation of a coalition is a core subject in German politics and the first thing to learn is that the contents are negotiated before and only after the portfolios are distributed. The opposite would be grotesque. But in the ‘semaphore coalition’, currently negotiated by the Social Democrat Olaf Scholz With Liberals (FDP) and Greens (Die Grünen), there is a very concrete demand established by the FDP from minute zero: the Ministry of Finance will be for Christian Lindner.

Europe has been very aware of this negotiation because Germany would be another if that position was occupied, for example, by Robert Habeck, the co-president of the Greens, who was ambitious. Although maybe the wolf don’t be so fierce as they paint it. It is true that

Lindner (Wuppertal, 1979) will never allow the southern EU countries to make their cloak a coat with public debt, nor can he be clearer in his refusal to take steps that bring the Eurozone closer to the mutualisation of debt, but there are nuances. He is in favor of the ‘Green Deal’, a European fund for the fight against climate change that would not count as national debt, which is something similar, although through the back door.

Lindner has fixed ideas: cut red tape or reform pensions. He dislikes that Brussels is dependent on Turkey for immigration and would like to a border police. He is not averse to spending and is ready for an investment plan in infrastructure, education and digitization. In the EU, he wants more defense coordination and a return to a debt-free budget. He could agree to a temporary relaxation of fiscal discipline, but he does not want to touch the Treaties. Its aversion to the deficit may be unsympathetic to the most indebted, but curiously it would be key due to its presence in Ecofin, so that those who buy European debt continue to trust it. In a way, it is the opposition from within the new coalition.

Get to know Spain. Lindner spent the summer in Palma de Mallorca and in 2008 he met with Albert Rivera to join forces against all kinds of populism

His closest collaborators comment that he has more waist than he is supposed to, enough to learn from past crises, and remember that he knows a lot about Spain. In fact, he knows the Nassau Beach Club from Portixol, in Palma de Mallorca. Until the pandemic, he went to the island regularly. In 2018, Lindner met in Madrid with Albert Rivera and they agreed to work together “as cosmopolitan and economically sane forces, against left and right populism in Europe.” Both commented that it was time for the forces of the “liberal and progressive center.” While Ciudadanos is still a long way from achieving it, Lindner has turned his party into a kingmaker. At 42 years old, he meets his goals: without the FDP it is not possible to govern Germany.

It is the result of a long effort. He began military service in the FDP at the age of 16. He started his first company at 18 and in 2000 he was the youngest regional MP in the history of North Rhine-Westphalia. Run the web Economic miracle and the Forum New Economy and its income today is around 600,000 euros a year. He has just been engaged in a second marriage to the journalist Franca Lehfeldt, who will relate him to the RTL group, the largest media company in Europe and whose majority shareholder is the German conglomerate Bertelsmann, with 57 television channels and 31 radio stations in ten countries.

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