THE POLITICAL PAGE

January 2006

The New Federal Government (Part 2)

While in the December issue of the ‘Political Page‘ we talked about the people in the new Government, this issue is about the contents of the Coalition Agreement together with some main emphases; also the addresses of Departmental Ministers are included for reason of intercession, or if necessary, in order to contact them.

Confidence

Appointed by God

In December I tried to show how clearly that God, the Lord of history, had appointed this Government and how he had both added to, and removed individual people from the Cabinet. If we observe and acknowledge this, then something which has always been very hard for us Germans to accept has been brought back to us: Confidence .

If we acknowledge what is written in Rom.13 v.1: ‘…for there is no authority except that which God has established, the authorities that exist have been established by God.' If we generally acknowledge this as Christians, we also realise that this is true for the new Government and for the way in which it was brought together. God allowed us to have a glance at his workshop, where he manufactured a government of humility in detail, using a ‘surveyor's measuring rule'. In my opinion this gives us the right - beyond the general doctrine of Rom.13 - to trust the new Government and to pray more enthusiastically.

Enthusiastic Prayer

Enthusiastic prayer is absolutely necessary because the Ministers, as well as the Chancelloress are constantly challenged in their decision-making processes.

•  which indicate the right course to take e.g. whether to turn off the nuclear power station or not.

•  which can be accused of illegal acceptance of benefits, nepotism and other such things.

•  which are ethically contestable (e.g. the interrogation of the Guantanamo prisoners by German authorities).

•  in addition to this there is the constant threat of the abuse of power, and the threat of over-stating oneself when there is a successful outcome (e.g. Schröder: “this upward trend is my upward trend”). God reacts very quickly, if politicians leave the path of humility.

•  also, the family unit can become progressively weaker due to excessive amounts of work; this can lead to over-consumption of food, stress build-up, or extra-marital affairs, which finally result in the destruction of the family.

Conclusion: A government appointed by God needs the prayers of the Church constantly in order for it to be able to follow God‘s path.

Governmentmental ‘sins‘.

In this context, I have become aware that this Government has accepted and has been running itself according to the laws of the previous Government, which are obviously not fully in accordance with the will of God. Such as

•  the paragraph 218 regulation concerning abortion.

•  the long-term relationship law.

•  the manufacturing and selling of weapons (which of course are also sent into the crisis zone around the corner).

•  the high protective duty on goods imported from poor countries (with the participation of the EU and the USA).

•  the payment of only half of the promised 0.75% development aid (already the case for many years now).

•  compromise in stem cell research.

•  the course set for policy on family.

I am aware of all these - and in prayer I am led to repent and lament for this situation, which seems to be unchangeable. I see the dilemma of the Government; many politicians would like to have something different, but politically-speaking despite a bad conscience, they have to stick to the compromises which they have agreed to. As a non-involved person, it is so easy to roundly condemn others morally; but Jesus did not abolish sin, he carried our sins in pain before God and reconciled ‘the world‘ with God.

Nevertheless, our prayer should include of course a prayer of supplication for a change in the current situation.

The Word for this Year

The word for this year encourages us to trust in God: ‘I will be with you, I will never leave you nor forsake you' (Josh.1v.5). This word has been quoted usually in connection with counselling because it generates trust in a God who has 'always been faithful' to us.

In this context, this word has a far brighter horizon. For Joshua it is not about the personal discomfort of a fearful heart, but about the people of God who were led into their most crucial stage of history: namely to take the land, which had been promised to them for centuries right then -Joshua was to be a tool in God's hand.

In that situation God spoke to the fearful leader: “I will never leave you nor forsake you."

I can remember Angela Merkel's interview with SPIEGEL magazine where she gave the following answer when she was asked: “The predominant feeling I now have is… humility; hope at home, and high expectations abroad“. I think that Angela Merkel who is in the same situation as Joshua, has read and accepted the word for this year with great awareness.

Maybe she has also read the context : „... because you will lead those people to inherit the land“. She said that the inheritance of Germany, was to get back to the top of Europe during the next 10 years; this is a good target if it is linked with humility. She already showed Germany's privileged position in Europe during successful negotiations between France and England, at the last summit in Brussels, December 2005.

The context of the above mentioned word also tells Joshua to obey the law of the Lord. This was the wording at that time but today we would call this ‘confessing Christianity‘ - then you will be prosperous and successful. As we understand Mrs. Merkel, she wants to align her work with God and the Bible, even though she as a politician in Germany has to be very careful when and where she mentions ‘God‘ - a thing which is held against her by some Christians, and therefore they doubt her credibility.

Lord, we pray for our Federal Chancelloress, who is in the same situation as Joshua was, that you may let the word for this year be a daily experience in her life. Give her mercy to obey you despite her busy schedule. Let us see how you will grant her favour and success. May she keep this humble and grateful attitude before you and the people. Lord, strengthen her TRUST in you and grant her the confidence of the people in Germany.

‘Confidence‘ as an essential factor

Confidence is a lovely gift; love survives as a result of it, but so does a functioning society and a flourishing economy.

But since Merkel's election as Chancelloress of Germany, God has seemed to give this woman - who was considered to be very cold, incapable and thirsty for power - the favour of all the people and even her adversaries. In all the opinion polls she is ranked in top positions (67% in the 1st opinion poll this year); both the people and even the economy seem to trust her leadership. Ludwig Erhard said that, ‘psychology is half of the success of an economy' - in other words this means trust.

Angela Merkel gained respect and trust due to her sober and objective style, which started with a renunciation of herself and the ministers. At the moment nothing seems to be more important then the recovery of confidence amongst the citizens toward our politicians. This can only be successful if the people see that politicians also live by their own rules and words. Trust increases when people see and feel that those 'above' both appreciate, and are accountable to Him who is above them. This is what the sentence 'So help me God!' means.

Therefore Christians should pray and set an example in giving credit, respecting and trusting the new Government. Even though they make decisions that seem wrong to us – we have the right to make your own opinion known . Confidence is essential now, and it is possible because God is obviously working alongside this Government.

Since the change of Government, the outlook for Germany seems to be much brighter. Certainly prayer has played a very important role in the course of the years, and on the other hand the actions of a God-fearing Government have opened the way for streams of blessings to flow through this land. Thus prayer and politics go hand in hand, and help each other.

The Coalition Agreement

‘Courage and Humanity in Germany‘

We have a large coalition with all it‘s advantages and disadvantages. The advantage is the infertile negative talking about everything and everybody; about what others do; this needs to come to an end, so that they can begin to look for common ground. The most able people in both parties need to work together, and to pull together in the same direction; indeed, the country needs this.

The disadvantage is obvious. The programme of a Grant Coalition is not, and cannot be 'a great success' unless a higher plan is clearly put into practice. The programme of a Grant Coalition is a laboriously balanced consensus paper. It is incomprehensible that even top politicians such as Horst Köhler in his interview with Stern magazine, and Friedrich Merz in his interview with the F.A.Z., both criticise this. Isn't this consensus in itself already amazing?

When Angle Merkel noticed that it was a surprise to both the SPD and the CDU when they found out that they have so many things in common, the hall was filled with laughter – and indeed, it was a real surprise.

The other disadvantage of the Grant Coalition is the inferiority of the opposition. In 1966-69, it was only a very small FDP, therefore a new party the APO (the Extra-Parliamentary Opposition) was established; today it is much easier for the opposition, which has been formed out of 3 parties (the FDP, the Green, and the left-wing PDS). A large coalition which stays in power too long, would paralyse the democratic interplay and encourage a ‘spoils system' and abuse of power. But at the moment, this Coalition is warmly welcomed.

The Coalition Agreement is a compromise paper of some 166 pages. This can be seen already in the headline: ‘Courage‘ (for reforms) – this was the platform of the CDU; 'Humanity' in the sense of maintaining social compatibility – this was the alternative programme of the SPD. Finally they have produced an agreement which is to address reforms, but in the framework of social compatibility. Merkel: ”At the beginning of the coalition talks, I thought that this would never be possible”.

Some main emphases

1. The major task of the Coalition is the consolidation of the budget . Therefore, the government wants to use as much as $ 41 billion, and will present an unconstitutional budget with it (41 billion in debts: 23 billion in investments). Likewise, the European budget regulations of the Maastricht Treaty will be broken again for the first time since 2002 – but according to their promise, this will be the last time the Treaty will be broken.

From 1 st January 2007, VAT will be increased from 16% to 19% in order to plug the gap in the budget, whereas 1% will be used for the lowering of unemployment insurance from 6.5% to 4.5% (which means relief for ancillary wage costs). The other 2% will be used for the redevelopment of the budget for both the Federations and States.

In addition to this, the high income of 250,000 unmarried people, respectively 500,000 couples, will be charged with 42% instead of 45% 'tax on wealth'. From 1st January the taxation law will be simplified and renewed; medium-sized companies will be granted better tax write-off possibilities.

At the same time the cut-backs will be drastic. In administration, the cut-backs will amount to 1 billion euros p.a. Besides that, a whole bunch of subsidies and tax advantages will be cut-back. The most well-known among them are: the tax deductible commuting expenses for employees who cover more than 20 km to their workplace; owner-occupied home bonuses will be abolished (for 2 children - 2,850 EUR p.a.); child benefit will only be granted for children up to the age of 25; tax consultantancy costs will no longer be able to be written off; as well as the ‘office at home‘ benefits if they are not linked with a job done at home.

Peer Steinrück is in charge of the financial domain, Michael Glos is the Minister for Economic Affairs (see addresses on the special supplement).

2. Alongside the consolidation of the budget and the change in the labour market, the lowering of unemployment figures is the other major task. The job-dismissal protection scheme will be eased through, and also the possibility to extend the trial work period to 24 months. 29% of unemployed people have no professional training; in order to bring them out of this ‘only-receiving attitude‘, low wages and social services will be subsidized by the state and thus made attractive once again to people. From 2012 the retirement age will be raised every 35th year by a further month from 65 to 67 years.

Franz Müntefering is in charge of the Ministry of Labour.

3. Minister Ulla Schmidt is in charge of the Ministry of Health. The members of the Coalition were not able to make a common decision with regard to the health system, this will be re-negotiated in 2006. In the face of exploding costs in the health sector, the major issue is the curbing of costs in relation to the pharmaceutical Lobby. The insurance companies, doctors and pharmacists are on the one side, and on the other side it‘s about balancing payability of costs for citizens.

Much prayer is needed here!

4. A family-friendly society

‘Our aim is an integral policy for families, senior citizens, women and young people which will improve and strengthen the relations between the generations and the whole of society. We want more children in families, and more families in the society; we want to make this clear - Germany has no future without children, families are the foundation of this society. We want to strengthen both performance, and personal responsibility; beginning with traditional families, then patchwork families, stepfamilies and lastly single-parent families‘. (Agreement page 111).

The 1st sentence of the ‘integral policy‘ includes the basic request of Minister - Ursula von der Leyen - namely the model of a ‘Many Generations House‘ (MGH), with 3 generations living together and supporting each other (not only relatives).

A full fragment of the policy has been dedicated to the ‘Early Stimulation of Endangered Children‘ (page 114).

Of course, the issues of ‘family-friendly working conditions‘ and ‘financial incentive‘ have also been dealt with. Instead of Child Benefit, which is given for at least 6 months, parents will receive a 12 month Parent Benefit; which will be 67% of the net salary of the parent who looks after the child. Admittedly the other partner will also have to look after the child for at least 2 months otherwise the benefit will only be paid for 10 months.

At the end (page 119) are the ‘equal rights policy‘, the ‘women‘s rights policy‘, as well as the ‘equal opportunities on the labour market‘, the policy to ‘combat violence against women‘, right up to the question of ‘late-term abortions‘ have been dealt with. There it says: ‘In 1992 the Federal Constitutional Court joined together with the legislator, the responsibility to observe and improve the law regarding abortion‘. Also in the 16th legislative period we will carry out our duty, and if necessary, we want to check how the situation regarding late-term abortions can be improved. We who consider abortion to be detestable can refer to the 1 st and 2 nd sentences.

5. As far as the Interior-State Security is concerned (for which Wolfgang Schäuble is responsible), the main emphasis is put on the different possibilities we have in the fight against terrorism, in co-operation with Minister Brigitte Zypries who is in charge of the Ministry of Justice. At the same time it is also very clear that it is impossible to protect all targets, as we learned from the attacks in Madrid and London. Therefore we need incessant prayer for protection.

6. Regarding the environmental policy for which Sigmar Gabiel is in charge, the SPD gained it‘s position by rejecting the idea of running the nuclear power stations for a longer period of time. Despite the request of the CSU, based on the dispute between the Ukraine and Russia; Russian gas has been confirmed once again as a viable option by the SPD and the CDU. Throughout the world, for long-term good, we have to move towards ‘recyclable energies‘. This is where Germany has been ranked first for many years due to the political emphasis made by the Greens.

7. In foreign policy, the new government (under Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier), follows of course the same baselines as before. Also, Angela Merkel and some of her foreign secretaries have made some important distinctions.

Thus Angela Merkel wants to strengthen relations between Germany and the USA. But right during the middle of Rice‘s visit (the foreign secretary of the USA) to Berlin, the kidnapping of the German-Libanese El-Masri was suddenly announced by the CIA in a large press conferences in the USA – a tough nut to crack. Nevertheless, the original course and policy made by Chancellor Schröder towards the USA, will be changed completely.

The same is true for the policy in Europe; made at the 1 st summit in Brussels from 15-17th December 2005, Angela Merkel proved to be a successful saviour for the EU during it‘s hardest crisis, because she hadn't had such a close relation with Chirac as Schröder had had, due to him being on France's side from the very beginning. “The best thing about Angela Merkel is that she is not Schröder”, said a Brititsh Diplomat. She has been accepted by Blair and Chirac as an honest broker; and God let her succed in this – in humility she said this was her ‘contribution‘.

Also regarding Russia, she will set her own course. We are looking forward to see how she will address the statesmen of this world – including Putin - regarding the violation of human rights, as she has promised.

The Turkey question is a reflection of the measure of willingness to allow compromise in the Coalition Agreement. On the one hand they say that the aim of the negotiations was Turkey's membership with the EU (according to the SPD's point of view); on the other hand they stress the duration of the negotiations. According to the CDU, it seems to be either that the EU is not able to accept new members, or that Turkey is not able to join the EU; they wanted to consider it a ‘privileged relation‘.

The ratification of the European Constitution Agreement is to be continued, and for the first half of 2007 the EU is promised new inputs whereas the Council Presidency will be shifted to Germany.

8. As far as the defence policy is concerned, the general compulsory military service will be carried on as before. Franz Josef Jung is in charge of the Ministry of Defence.

9. In the Reformation of Federalism they have almost come to an agreement. It is about fencing-off the responsibilities of both the Federations and the individual States. Until now, 65% of Federal Government laws have had to be approved by the Federal Council and the State committees. This has enabled a blockade of policies over and over again in the past decades. The number of laws requiring approval will be reduced to 30% in future.

The Federations leave the education policy up to the individual States. The Federations will only be responsible for the extracurricular apprenticeships, licences, and certificates for universities.

I didn't mention all the departments here. You will find them in the list of addresses of Ministries.


The Ministers and Their Offices in the 16th legislative period
of the German Bundestag:

Federal Chancellor

Angela Merkel
Willy-Brandt-Straße 1
10557 Berlin

Telefon: +49 1888 400-0

Fax:Telefon: +49 1888 4002357
E-mail: poststelle@bk.bund.de

Federal Ministry for Labour and Social Affairs

Franz Müntefering

Mohrenstraße 62
10117 Berlin
Telefon: 01888 527-0
Telefax: 01888 527-4900
eMail: poststelle@bmas.bund.de

Foreign Office

Frank-Walter Steinmeier

Werderscher Markt 1
10117 Berlin
Telefon: 030 5000-0
Telefax: 030 5000-3402
eMail: poststelle@auswaertiges-amt.de

Federal Office of the Interior

Wolfgang Schäuble

Alt Moabit 101 D
10559 Berlin
Telefon: 01888 681-0
Telefax: 01888 681-2926
eMail: poststelle@bmi.bund.de

Federal Ministry of Justice

Brigitte Zypries

Mohrenstraße 37
10117 Berlin
Telefon:01888 580-0
Telefax: 01888 580-9525
eMail: poststelle@bmj.bund.de

Federal Tax and Finance Ministry

Peer Steinbrück

Wilhelmstraße 97
10117 Berlin
Telefon: 01888 682-0
Telefax: 01888 682-3260
eMail: poststelle@bmf.bund.de

Federal Ministry of Research and Technology

Michael Glos

Scharnhorststr. 34-37
10115 Berlin
Telefon: 030 2014-0
Telefax: 030 2014-7010
eMail: info@bmwi.bund.de

Federal Ministry for Nutrition, Agriculture and of Labour and Consumer Protection

Horst Seehofer
Wilhelmstraße 54
10117 Berlin
Telefon: 030 2006-0
Telefax: 030 2006-4262
eMail: internet@bmvel.bund.de

Federal Ministry of Defence

Franz Josef Jung
Stauffenbergstraße 18
10785 Berlin
Telefon: 030 2004-0
Telefax: 030 2004-8333
eMail: poststelle@bmvg.bund400.de

Federal Ministry for Family, Seniors, Women and Youth

Ursula von der Leyen

Alexanderplatz 6
10178 Berlin
Telefon: 01888 555-0
Telefax: 01888 555-0
eMail: poststelle@bmfsfj.bund.de

Federal Ministry of Health

Ulla Schmidt
Wilhelmstraße 49
10117 Berlin
Telefon: 01888 441-0
Telefax: 01888 441-4900
eMail : poststelle@bmgs.bund.de
eMail for publication inquiries and requests from citizens: info@bmgs.bund.de

Federal Ministry of Transport, Construction and Urban Development

Wolfgang Tiefensee

Invalidenstraße 44
10115 Berlin
Telefon: 030 2008-0
Telefax: 030 2008-1920
eMail: buergerinfo@bmvbw.bund.de

Federal Ministry of Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety

Sigmar Gabriel

Alexanderplatz 6
10178 Berlin
Telefon: 01888 305-0
Telefax: 01888 305-4375
eMail: service@bmu.bund.de

Federal Ministry of Education and Research

Annette Schavan

Hannoversche Straße 28-30
10115 Berlin
Telefon: 01888 57-0
Telefax: 01888 57-83601
eMail: bmbf@bmbf.bund.de

Federal Ministry For Economic Cooperation and Development

Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul

Stresemannstraße 94
10963 Berlin
Telefon: 01888 535-0
Telefax: 01888 535-3500
eMail: poststelle@bmz.bund.de

Federal President

Horst Köhler

Spreeweg 1

10557 Berlin

Telefon: 030 20 00-0
Fax: (030) 20 00-19 99
E-Mail: poststelle@bpra.bund.de


Call to Prayer

God has listened to the many prayers for our Government. He has given us many men and women who have the fear of the Lord in their lives. God is worthy of our gratefulness and our trust. Let us also have confidence in those who he has chosen to be a spearhead for our people.

CONFIDENCE - new confidence is the theme of our republic:

•  Confidence between the Coalition partners; only thus can a good government develop policy.

•  Confidence between the Ministers and Angela Merkel, and vice versa.

•  People's confidence in the new Government despite necessary cutbacks and measures.

•  Confidence in the economy i.e. the industry and the medium-sized companies in the Government's ability.

•  Confidence of the population for the future of our country in every respect;

•  Confidence for couples to get married;

•  Confidence for couples, to both have and to raise children.

•  Confidence of the nation in the opportunities they have this year; for expectation to increase and thus for creativity and responsibility to improve their own situation, thus the situation of the whole country via individual lives – “You are Germany”.

•  Confidence that the Football World Championship will help our country in every way; in both giving, receiving, and for it to be a joyful occasion whether we win or lose.

•  Above all, let us pray for Germans to learn again how to trust in the living God. We don't need ‘rose-coloured' confidence which overlooks the dangers, but we do need a 'climate of trust' for what God is able to do supernaturally in our country, and even in the completely secular processes of politics and the economy, in schools and in families. Therefore, let us pray for this 'God-like climate', which is called shalom, peace.

Let us pray in detail:

•  For the consolidation of the budget;

•  For an upturn in home trade, through more confidence amongst the citizens in our nation.

•  For a revolution of social conscience among the managers of companies who subscribed for shares, in order to create new jobs, and not to destroy them;

•  In order to find lasting solutions and compromises for the Health Policy something, which will also appeal to the older generation.

Let us pray for protection.

•  For our country from terrorist attacks,

•  For political leaders against sicknesses, dis-honesty, pride, burnout, wrong decisions and dangerous friends,

•  For our people against a complaining spirit, of negative talking, and of bourgeois complacency.

Let us praise God.

•  Who loves our country,

•  Who was, and is patient with us,

•  Who has forgiven our sins and has placed our feet on a solid rock,

•  Who has poured out his Spirit upon our people, causing both prayer and worship to increase,

•  Who has aroused again the search and longing for the meaning of life, for moral values in our country, and that this desire will increase in importance,

•  Who brings this country closer together through the Spirit of Jesus: fathers and sons, men and women, churches and denominations, foreigners and local residents.

Praise be to our God, who has let His light shine brighter in this land. He is worthy of our trust.

Ortwin Schweitzer

Sources:

Fischers Weltalmanach 2006. Zahlen-Daten-Fakten.//Gemeinsam für Deutschland “With Courage and humanity Coalition Agreement of DIE ZEIT: Nr. 48(24.11.05), Nr. 47(17.11.05). (Rhein. Merkur Nr. 46(17.11.2005), Nr. 49(8.12.05) Stgt Zeitung vom 24.12.05. ideaSpektrum: Nr. 49(7.12.05).

You are welcomed to pass on “The Political Page” as well as my homepage address www.beter-im-aufbruch.de.vu where you also can download the page.  If you print it, please include the sources.

We wish all our readers a heart filled with confidence in God for their private lives and also for the life of our country for the New Year 2006.