While he was very popular in the federal elections, his relationship with Chancellor Scholz soured in the East. That said, she did pretty well with the citizens’ dialogue in Cottbus.
In his sixth meeting with the Chancellor, Olaf Scholz dared to go to a difficult area for him, Cottbus, on Tuesday. A partymate ruled the great city in Lusatia for 100 days. But in the city parliament, the AfD is the strongest faction. Additionally, Lusatia is at the start of the biggest upheaval since reunification: in 15 years, the days of open-pit mines and coal-fired power stations will end. There is increasing pressure in the region to phase out coal by 2030.
But none of them played a role in the civil dialogue. The Federal Chancellor had given 90 minutes – without prior consultation – to ask any questions at the Cottbus town hall.
peace talks? Scholz is not in a hurry
Right at the beginning there was a question about the Ukrainian war. Heidemarie Konzack, “Why do you describe the Peace Manifesto as naive?” asked. The Cottbus retiree witnessed WWII as a child and supports the call of Sahara Wagenknecht and Alice Schwarzer, signed by 741,000 Germans:
The Federal Chancellor spent more time answering the 15 or so questions that evening. Finally, he clarified his position: “The basis of peace is the will to withdraw troops. Negotiations are not enough, the result must be acceptable to the Ukrainians.”
East-West divide is not a problem
Other questions revolved around concerns about education, basic child safety, a shortage of rural doctors, inflation, and environmental protection. In this way, they were no different from previous debate events that took place primarily in West Germany.
Even when it comes to retirement, there was no East-West distinction, but the difference between civil servants’ salaries and workers’ and civil servants’ salaries.
Fight at traffic lights? “Even if there is noise”
When the Federal Chancellor was asked how he experienced the long-standing public disagreement among the traffic light coalition, people listened attentively.
Scholz acknowledged that “the nights are getting hot” as ministers from the three parties talked about some questions. The public “just gets a little bit of that,” he assured. “But I’m definitely in favor of not running away from problems. And I’m actually in favor of really leading the great awakening possible for our country. Sometimes with a roar and, if it were my way, something less loud.”
Criticism from the AfD
After the event, most of the 150 spectators were convinced that they had seen the Federal Chancellor live. Many of the people interviewed by ZDF looked pretty cute, calm and sane.
Andy Schöngarth of the Cottbuser AfD complained that he “goes around many energy policy questions, for example, and does not answer them directly and concretely” and “always looking for excuses”. Electricity and heat would become more expensive and we are “going out of coal and nuclear power”. Teacher Anja Huber asked for “more appreciation for my work” and the Federal Chancellor’s promise to create more school and university places.
Craftsmen impressed by Scholz
Scholz was also satisfied when he had met artisans and women before. Cosmetics master Mandy Rechenberger says, “She’s someone who gets to work. She’s always very discreet. Maybe that makes a lot of people uncomfortable.” But the Chancellor convinced them, too: “In our conversation, he told us what he was doing behind the scenes.” Bicycle salesman Matthias Hübner was also impressed by his “quiet, relaxed demeanor”.
The Chancellor was not once embarrassed during his five-hour visit to Cottbus. He left the city without any major events or incidents. It should have been an evening purely to his liking – without much noise.
Jan Meier is an editor at ZDF-Studio Brandenburg.
I am Timothy Glover, a professional journalist and content creator. I specialize in writing and editing for news websites, specifically covering politics. I have been working as an author at News Unrolled for the past five years and have built up a reputation for producing quality content that is both informative and engaging.