WELT AM SONNTAG: Mr. Dürr, the committee of experts has finally published its evaluation report on the corona measures. How do you rate it and what are the consequences for the autumn?
Christian Dürr: The FDP has always critically questioned many of the measures that the previous government used to combat the pandemic. The evaluation report has now confirmed to us that nationwide lockdowns and school closures were neither appropriate nor particularly effective. It won’t happen again.
We will now discuss a protection concept for autumn within the traffic light. In any case, it would make sense to introduce a scientific testing strategy so that we can see exactly how the virus is spreading.
WELT AM SONNTAG: Corona is one of the burdens of autumn, the other is the already burdened budget. A team of scientists led by Bernd Raffelhüschen has calculated that if the traffic light government tries to keep the pension level stable at 48 percent of average earnings beyond 2025, this will lead to an additional financial requirement of 1.56 trillion euros. Was this level of stress clear to you from the start?
Dürr: The promise of a stable pension level dates back to the days of the grand coalition. We took an important step forward by agreeing to introduce stock annuity. We are working on the project. But if we want to guarantee stable pensions and stable contributions in the future, then the only way is to make our labor market fit. In other words, enabling immigration into the labor market. This is one of the most important traffic light projects.
WELT AM SONNTAG: We didn’t ask about that, but it’s good: Not only are there a shortage of skilled workers, but also low-skilled workers. Where are they supposed to come from?
Dürr: Things are connected. Anyone who believes, as the Union does to this day, that we can have secure pensions while fewer and fewer people are working, is wrong. After the guest worker phase in the 1960s and 1970s, the labor market closed itself off. This attitude has never really been broken. In fact, hundreds of thousands of people who have been living in Germany for years have been kept away from the labor market. The opposite must be the case.
Today the motto must be: Anyone who can make a living from the work of their own hands must be allowed to work immediately. The Union-led government made a historic mistake. Germany is one of the oldest countries in the world. When the baby boomers retire, cohorts half their size will enter the labor market. The situation is dramatic and because of that, we need immigration.
WELT AM SONNTAG: To be clear: So you also want low-skilled people to immigrate?
Dürr: It’s about urgently needed immigration at all levels in the labor market. Anyone who can make a living from the work of their own hands is welcome. After all, he pays taxes and pensions.
WELT AM SONNTAG: Can a government function if the SPD and Greens constantly talk about the benefits they want in the future – and then blame the liberals for their failure?
Dürr: The three parties are very different. Nor should we try to cover up this difference. When it comes to the debt brake, the FDP is all alone. The fact that the debt brake still exists at all is only thanks to the participation of the FDP in the government. The Union was ready to grind them down. So there is a broad political majority in favor of abolishing the debt brake – although there is a broad social majority in favor of maintaining the debt brake. That will show up in the next elections.
WELT AM SONNTAG: In contrast to the Greens, the FDP only manages to a limited extent to focus on the work of their ministers. What’s wrong?
Dürr: I do not share the observation. The Minister of Finance stands for the debt brake, the Minister of Education for the Bafög reform. And the transport minister is struggling with the broken infrastructure he inherited from his Union predecessors. Finally the Minister of Justice and the Corona policy: Imagine for a second what Germany would look like now at the beginning of July if the FDP were not in the federal government!
The prime ministers are talking about lockdowns and curfews again, which almost reminds me of the Chinese way. We, on the other hand, rely on personal responsibility and vaccination. We go the European way.
WELT AM SONNTAG: We are approaching what is probably the biggest energy crisis since 1949. Every kilowatt hour saved helps, says Economics Minister Habeck. When will the FDP convene the coalition committee to talk about extending the life of the remaining nuclear power plants?
Dürr: Precisely because every kilowatt hour counts, we should not rule out any technology. With regard to the Isar 2 nuclear power plant in Bavaria, there are also analyzes by the TÜV that it would be possible to let it run longer. The great advantage of nuclear energy is that it can cover the base load, that it is CO₂-neutral – and that it is readily available.
In this respect, it would be a mistake to shut down the nuclear power plants now. It’s not my intention to lead another big social debate. It is about reacting appropriately in this specific crisis. In the case of coal power, we have rightly done so. In the case of nuclear energy, it should not be left out.
WELT AM SONNTAG: Do you see signs or signals from the Greens that this taboo can be broken at least temporarily?
Dürr: I don’t want to talk about breaking a taboo. It’s about sanity. We must not steer blindly into an energy gap in winter. That’s not an option. And it’s not about whether the living room is now 22 or 19 degrees. It’s about the question of whether supply chains work, whether the basic industry can produce, whether, for example, dialysis tubes are available for hospitals. An energy gap harbors a drama that we can’t even imagine right now. That is why all possibilities must be used.
WELT AM SONNTAG: On Tuesday morning, Finance Minister Lindner contradicted the Environment Minister when combustion engines were to be phased out. Now the environment ministers in Brussels have finally come to an agreement. So is the combustion engine saved?
Dürr: The traffic light agrees that after 2035 cars with combustion engines that run on climate-neutral fuels may also be registered. In terms of climate protection, it is not important whether a car is powered by an engine or a battery – it is important for climate protection that it is operated in a CO₂-neutral manner. Without e-fuels, we will not be able to achieve our climate goals in transport. It is therefore correct that there will not be a general end to combustion engines.
WELT AM SONNTAG: E-fuels require the production of clean hydrogen. There is a lack of production in Germany. What will the government do to eliminate this deficit?
Dürr: We still don’t have the necessary infrastructure. It was therefore right that the traffic light accelerated the expansion of LNG terminals on the North Sea coast. The terminals will be used for LPG, but we can expect the need for hydrogen to increase.
Just as with the gas-fired power plants that are to be converted to climate-neutral hydrogen in the future, it would make sense to build LNG terminals in such a way that they could one day be used for hydrogen imports. The accelerated expansion of renewable energies, especially offshore wind energy, will also create the necessary conditions for hydrogen production in Germany.