Friedrich Merz should actually say hello first, but the leader of the opposition is just the leader of the opposition, and Merz is just Merz. And he won't be stopped by an agenda that includes the "Chairman's Report of the CDU Germany", i.e. his actual speech, in front of the approximately 1,000 delegates at the party congress, is scheduled for later in the afternoon. So attack, right from the start in Hanover: "Especially at a time like this, in which leadership, a clear course and action are required, it makes sense Our country is probably one of the weakest federal governments of all time," he exclaims. "We say: Germany can do it better!" Probably means: The CDU and Friedrich Merz can do it better. He will come back to that later.
Now he has to greet the people first. "It just feels really good," says Merz. From the warm applause it can be heard that the party leader is not alone in the exhibition hall with this feeling. It is the first face-to-face party conference of the CDU since November 2019. And with it the first major family reunion of the party after the end of the Angela Merkel era. The former Chancellor is said to have been invited in writing by Merz, but apologized with reference to her injured knee joint. Merkel, says Merz, expressly asked him to convey her warmest greetings to the party congress. If the subsequent applause is also a mood test for Merkel's legacy, then it can probably be described as cautiously positive.
Greetings to the Chancellery
Before things really get going, the CDU is of course also talking about the Queen's death that day. Despite all the trials and tribulations of world history: "Queen Elisabeth was the rock in the surf," says Merz. His CDU in Germany would like to do something similar again soon.
It is no coincidence that the CDU speaks of a "labor party conference". Merz obviously wants to avoid the impression that his party is working more on itself than on the political opponent. He actually manages not to mention the word "quote" in the 43 minutes of his speech. The vote on the introduction of a women's quota in the party on Friday evening had been eagerly awaited (after the editorial deadline for this issue).
But Merz prefers to talk about the traffic light rather than the quota. He said he "could never have imagined" that Germany would one day have a chancellor who "silently accepted" how the head of the Palestinian Authority spread anti-Semitism in the chancellery. A blow to Olaf Scholz, to whom this happened with Mahmud Abbas.
Then the turn to the all-determining issue of Ukraine: He, says Merz, would deliver more and faster heavy weapons to Ukraine, "do everything to help this country." His message: Chancellor Scholz is not doing everything. In order to meet Russian President Putin, you need "clarity, if necessary toughness, consistency in what you do". At this point, greetings to the Chancellery.
"We are not Bullerby"
Merz is also working on the crisis management strategy of the traffic light government for gas shortages and inflation in Germany. He already threw the main points at Scholz in the Bundestag on Wednesday: companies had forgotten the traffic lights in relief packages, and in times of energy shortages nuclear power plants had to run longer. Robert Habeck appears not only as Economics Minister, but also as a writer. Merz reads from a children's book by Habeck, then he says: "We are not Bullerbü". The country's problems cannot be solved "with children's books and philosophy" alone. "The chancellor must not allow second and third levels to dabble in it!"
To stay with amateurish energy policy: In hindsight, Angela Merkel will probably be glad she wasn't there. In his speech, Merz also touched on Germany's dependence on Russia for gas: "That was a mistake, it was a huge political blunder," he says. After all, he still reminds us that not only the CDU, but also the SPD has governed a lot in the past two decades.
Merz also makes a substantive proposal. Germany cannot become climate-neutral by 2045 just by reducing CO2. One must also "understand CO2 as a raw material". Merz therefore wants to make Germany a pioneer in technologies that can be used to extract and use the greenhouse gas from the atmosphere. Overall, this is more the speech of an opposition leader than a party leader.
Nevertheless, this is of course also a self-employment party convention. In addition to the election of Christina Stumpp as deputy general secretary and the debate on a charter of basic values, the CDU in Hanover also wants to deal with almost 500 applications in less than a day and a half. So it's also about what General Secretary Mario Czaja calls "the inner constitution of our party". Or as Merz puts it: "In order to give the country momentum, dear friends, we have to give ourselves momentum."