In the dispute over citizen income, the leaders of the CDU and SPD have shown possible compromise lines. “We have to provide incentives to quickly return to the labor market,” said CDU leader Friedrich Merz on Saturday at the Junge Union’s Germany Day in Fulda.

SPD leader Saskia Esken told the “Tagesspiegel”: “There will be a good compromise in the mediation committee.” FDP General Secretary Bijan Djir-Sarai told the German Press Agency in Berlin: “I am confident that a quick agreement on citizen income can be achieved if the Union participates objectively and results-oriented in finding a common solution.”

CDU boss demands concessions

Merz called on the traffic light coalition to make concessions. “We expect this government to take a step, and a big step towards us, if we want to find a common solution for this so-called citizen’s income in the next few days and weeks.” A week ago, Merz said in an interview: “Compromises are difficult.” Now the CDU leader emphasized that the Union is discussing, in particular with the Social Democrats, “whether you can still do something with this messed-up reform”.

From the point of view of the Union, those affected should be allowed to keep too many assets through the reform and have to fear too few sanctions if they do not follow the requirements of the job center. Even before the CDU/CSU offspring, Merz reiterated that there should be no waiting periods and – “if necessary” – sanctions must be imposed. “The Federal Constitutional Court has given us, as legislators, very little leeway here,” Merz admitted at the same time.

The Constitutional Court had restricted cuts

In 2019, the court severely restricted the sanctioning practice of the job center after years of criticism, for example from the SPD and the left. It decided that month-long reductions of 60 percent or more are incompatible with the Basic Law and that monthly benefits can only be reduced by up to 30 percent if Hartz IV recipients do not meet their obligations.

Merz said: “Using this narrow leeway (…) is a requirement of the welfare state, including for those who pay taxes and social security contributions.”

Vogel: Those affected should be able to earn more than they do today

The FDP Vice President Johannes Vogel emphasized planned performance incentives. “The citizen money has a strong liberal core – and that is the stronger work and performance incentive for those affected,” said Vogel of the German Press Agency. Vogel explained: “With the citizen’s allowance we want to enable those affected to earn more than they do today.” That increases their chances of advancement. It makes your effort more worthwhile. It is wrong to “only raise the standard rates and leave everything else as it is today with Hartz IV”. This brought the Union into play.

Labor Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) did not get a majority in the Bundesrat for the basic income bill. This Wednesday, the mediation committee of the Bundesrat and Bundestag is to tie down a compromise. As was heard from the coalition, informal talks are in full swing.

Djir-Sarai said: “The Free Democrats have already made it clear that they are open to constructive proposals from the Union, such as sanctions, protective assets or even more performance-friendly additional income rules.” Esken said: “The SPD is ready to talk, and that’s why I’m optimistic.”

Scholz: Union in social policy “taken off”

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) accused the Union and Merz of aloofness in social policy. So it was “snooty” that the Union did not even raise its hand “a little bit” when voting for a higher minimum wage in the Bundestag, said Scholz at the party conference of the Baden-Württemberg SPD in Friedrichshafen. “That has absolutely nothing to do with ‘performance must be worthwhile’.”

Esken accused the CDU and CSU of disinformation in Friedrichshafen. If the Union claims that work is no longer worthwhile if the standard rates are increased, that is “fake news”.

The labor market expert from the employer-related Institute of German Economics (IW), Holger Schäfer, criticized the planned “trust period” in the “Rheinische Post”. This sends out a signal that the unemployed can take their time looking for a job. In the “trust period”, the first six months of receiving the benefits, it should no longer be possible to reduce benefits if someone, for example, has not written any applications or attended training courses contrary to the agreement. On the other hand, sanctions for multiple non-appearance at job center appointments should also be possible at the beginning.