As federal finance minister, he is fighting the consequences of the Corona crisis with more than EUR 300 billion in new debt. And as a candidate for chancellor? Olaf Scholz is being criticized for the Wirecard and Warburg Bank scandals.
Mr Scholz, before the SPD proclaimed you Chancellor, the SPD was up to 15 percent in surveys. Now it is one to two percentage points more. Is that the whole Scholz effect?
First of all, it is good that we have won something. But it is not about a short-term effect. We determined the candidate for chancellor early on, so that we would have enough time to discuss with voters what is important for Germany’s future.
How dare you bet the SPD will be ahead of the Greens in federal elections a year from now?
I said I want to win – and lead the government as Social Democratic Chancellor.
That means: 22 percent plus x?
With an election result of over 20 percent, the Social Democratic parties in Scandinavia are currently the head of government – we want to end up in this situation.
How much do you bet on actually becoming a chancellor?
I never bet – but I am a confident person.
Politicians from the SPD, the Greens and the Left are currently talking about a left alliance again. Are you ruling out a coalition with the Left Party at the federal level?
In the next general election, many things will be different from normal: no one who is already Chancellor will run, but the Vice Chancellor will stand. There will be many parties that will make it to the Bundestag. The party with the strongest faction will not be as strong as it was 20 or 30 years ago. This is where our opportunity arises. One thing is clear: there is no tactical mood. You must choose the side you want to give to the Chancellor. And then all the other questions come up.
However, that did not answer the question.
That was my answer to the question.
Which Union candidate for chancellor do you expect?
I do not know that. I don’t even care.
We don’t believe you. Friedrich Merz as a conservative stimulus figure would be perfect for the SPD.
I take it as it comes. You can trust me.
Olaf Scholz “doesn’t care” who the Union candidate for Chancellor is. (Source: Marco Urban)
At the end of last year you wanted to become head of the SPD – and that failed. You are now the main representative of the party. A bit weird, right?
The SPD is acting more closely than it has in a long time. We want to convince the citizens with our unity. As a candidate for chancellor, I feel supported by all parts of my party.
The right staff is important in the election campaign, but also the right topics. What will be the big substantive debate next year?
Of course, the current crisis is central and the related question of what will come after Corona. Will our efficient community, a well-developed welfare state and a functioning health system be maintained after the crisis – or will all of this be reduced? The SPD wants to safeguard the community and the welfare state for the future.
And beyond Corona?
I see three issues there: respect, future, Europe.
Let’s start with respect. What exactly is it for you?
Many citizens feel that our society is divergent. I want to change that and I am committed to a society that treats each other with mutual respect. It’s also about good and sure jobs, for example for the Corona heroes, who feel like they are applauding on Saturday, but no one is interested in them from Monday to Friday. It will be different when I become chancellor. And it’s about something fundamental: no one should consider themselves better than the others.
But arrogance cannot be banned by the state.
Not that, but as chancellor I want to make sure that society values the services of the workers and workers in the garbage collection as much as that of the theater director – and the work of a craftsman and that of a young man in an advertising agency.
Olaf Scholz wants to score points in the election campaign on the topics of respect, future and Europe. (Source: Marco Urban)
We understand it. And what will your future model look like?
It is mainly about modernizing our economy. In this decade, we need to chart the technology course so that in 20 years’ time there will still be competitive medium and large companies and good jobs. And even if we want to operate CO2-neutral in the fight against climate change after 200 years of industrialization based on fossil fuels by 2050, we can only do that with a real technological leap. That it will be organized from Germany is the central question for the future of our country.
But that sounds more like “More Germany” than “More Europe”.
Not at all. In an increasingly restless world, we need a strong European Union. In a few decades, there will be many influential nations in this world with a population of ten billion – not just the US and China, but countries in Asia, South America and Africa. If we then want to secure everything that unites us as European democracies, we can only do that if we work together.
That sounds plausible. But don’t we get all of this from other parties?
The Union is not against more respect for the Corona heroes. The Greens also want more climate protection. The new FDP general secretary says the state can do many things better than the private sector.
Three times no. It concerns the fundamental differences in the political concepts: whoever wants a society with respect, with recognition as an engine for cohesion, must vote in a social-democratic way.
With the exception of four years, the SPD has been part of the federal government since 1998. Why are you only now discovering the topics?
All three subjects stem from our tradition.
All the more you should have discussed this earlier.
Do we have. What’s New: In a society that has become as pervasive as ours, we don’t want to shrug our shoulders to accept when some say they want something better with college or higher income and infer that they’re less care about others Must be considerate. Our society only works if we stick together – Corona has proven that again.
Why does the SPD benefit so little from the fact that the federal government is guiding the country through the crisis relatively successfully?
After all, it is widely recognized that the SPD is doing very well and has achieved major improvements. Now we have to convince, because as a party we have a clear perspective for the future and the SPD candidate is the right chancellor for the coming period.
However, as a candidate for chancellor you are under pressure: you live from the image that you always do everything right and conscientiously. Now you are threatened by two committees of inquiry in Berlin and your old home in Hamburg: one on the bankrupt Wirecard, one on the private bank Warburg. Not afraid of being scratched?
No. In fact, I am happy with the Wirecard study. Because I can already see how powerful interest groups are trying to prevent reform. We need auditing with more bite and changes in the auditors. It cannot be the case that a company is repeatedly controlled by the same companies. Nor can we hold on to the current close amalgamation of research and advice.
Therefore, you want to separate the consulting company from the audit company. Isn’t it hypocritical to criticize the major providers when the federal government has awarded them 400 million euros worth of contracts in recent years?
Federal contracts are awarded according to very precise and transparent criteria. The problem is not the existence of accounting firms. The problem is that there are few great players who can complete such large assignments.
You mainly criticize the accountants. But the financial regulator BaFin also played a dubious role. Rather than investigating the allegations against Wirecard, the officials there preferred to report to journalists.
It is not happy that this impression has been created. In fact, in 2019 BaFin put the responsible balance sheet police DPR on the company so they are investigating the allegations. The task now is to create the legal framework to strengthen financial supervision. The agency must be able to conduct forensic investigations at companies quickly.
And does nothing have to change at BaFin itself? After all, employees have been speculating on Wirecard stock.
I am committed to changing the legal framework for own transactions for BaFin employees.
To change means to quote?
Yes, there will be stricter rules. It must.
Has Robert Habeck ever asked you what BaFin does? He still doesn’t seem to know for sure.
He does not have.
Should he do it?
I personally have a good relationship with him. I also like to explain what BaFin does. But I think you shouldn’t have too much fun at the expense of others. That’s not my style.
Olaf Scholz (Source: Marco Urban)
In Hamburg, where you were first mayor for a long time, you also have problems. In the course of the so-called cum-ex scandal, the Warburg Bank tax authorities waived 47 million euros in tax refund …
… You say it: the Tax and Customs Administration – and not the Senate – makes the decisions.
Nevertheless, Hamburg is a city governed by the SPD. And of course there is a bank for the rich exempt from taxes. Are you happy with that?
The decisions of the tax offices in Hamburg are independent and are based on the assessment of the legal criteria and not on anything else. The main question I have to ask myself is, was there any political influence?
And your answer is probably no.
I agree. By the way, this is not only what I am saying, but also the tax authorities of Hamburg, the tax authorities of Hamburg and my successor Peter Tschentscher. I am therefore sure that not even a committee will reach a different conclusion.
However, when you were first mayor, you met Warburg-Bank co-owner Christian Olearius several times, although there were investigations against him and the institute.
I have met him several times. But as you know, I had no influence whatsoever on the process.
We want to get into another point: you said you couldn’t remember the details of the conversations. Aren’t memory deficits a pretty weak defense?
This whole issue was many years ago and I have conversations all the time – years later I can’t remember it.
However, as chancellor you have more conversations than as the first mayor in Hamburg. And you should be able to remember that too.
It is important that you always remain true to your principles – and I am.
The Chillreport editors Sven Böll and Kati Degenhardt in an interview with Olaf Scholz. (Source: Marco Urban)
We would like to conclude with a small private survey: In the run-up to the interview, we asked several citizens who have nothing to do with political Berlin: “What question do you have for Olaf Scholz?” And we looked in rather empty faces. Why does so little of what you and your colleagues are doing in the ministry reach the people?
I’m not sure if this is the case in general as I have totally different experiences at the moment. May I?
I experience a new, even increased confidence in politicians in Germany. Not only in federal governments, but also in federal states, cities and municipalities. I notice that when people talk to me: in the current Corona crisis, they are very grateful that they live in Germany and that they are well run.