Wolfgang Munchau is a favourite European political commentator. You have to love a guy who ran the argument that Germany and Britain should team up to run the European Union.
Naturally you’d like to know his views on the new German governing coalition, which has just published its 178-page policy agreement.
The most interesting thing about the coalition is that it brings together the enviro-statist Green party with the right-liberal Free Democrats, who, as Munchau says “can’t stand the sight of each other”.
But both also “belong to a minority of Germans who believe that the fax machine is not the culmination of human technological progress”.
So, Munchau reckons the single most important part of the coalition agreement is where they agree to improve the environment for business start-ups and challengers.
The new chums also want to “modernize the state and its administration comprehensively”, recruiting tech solutions “to make state action faster and more effective, and better prepare it for future crises”. They hope that project planning and implementation will be significantly accelerated and administration will become an ally for the economy.
Both ambitions are necessary if the coalition is to have any chance of achieving its expensive energy transition goals by 2030: 15 million purely electric (ie, not hybrid) vehicles on the roads; 80% of (much higher) electricity production to come from renewables (compared to 45% today); and the termination of nuclear and coal generation.
Now you might have some concerns over a hell-for-leather state directed energy transformation, implemented by a cost-plus private sector, operating under expedited planning procedures.
On which Germany will depend to maintain an increasing standard of living.
Much of which will need to take place in the former East Germany – a region where both Greens and Free Democrats did poorly.
It looks like the new government will need all the help it can muster from Germany’s entrepreneurs and techies under its new business-friendly dispensation.
Indeed, the intensity of transformation envisaged is such that you might wonder if there is anything else in the coalition agreement. Not a great deal it would seem.
The coalition plans to tweak Germany’s debt rules to permit more off-the-books domestic borrowing; the Social Democrats want more spending on social welfare; while more cash funnelled to Germany’s EU partners is not ruled out.
Nor is there much sense of any urgency in foreign policy. A more scolding tone with China is not matched by any bold initiatives to respond to Vladimir Putin’s probing – in either the energy or the military spheres.
It is almost as if, in order to reach an agreement, the partners needed to focus as hard as they could on how they would like the world to be. If so, one can have some sympathy for their introversion.
But what if they are surprised by events? Then we might hear a little less about the Greens’ and FDP’s ambitious targets, and hear a little more about political reality from the Social Democrats’ wily Chancellor-elect Olaf Scholz. As a veteran collaborator with retiring Chancellor Angela Merkel, Scholz knows a bit about agreeing to things that won’t happen, in order to achieve things that otherwise would not.