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Coalition of the Center (October 13, 1982)

In his inaugural address to the Bundestag, Helmut Kohl not only discusses the country’s economic stagnation but also describes the intellectual and political crisis that necessitated a “coalition of the center” between the CDU/CSU and the Free Democrats. As part of the proposed policy measures, Kohl promises new jobs, the protection of the social net, a humane policy towards foreign-born residents, and a rethinking of the basic principles of German foreign and security policy.

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“Coalition of the Center: For a Policy of Renewal”: Policy Statement by the Federal Chancellor, Delivered on October 13, 1982, before the German Bundestag in Bonn

Mr. President, honored ladies and gentlemen, the coalition of the center formed by the CDU, CSU, and FDP is starting its work during the most serious economic crisis since the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany. This crisis has shattered the confidence of many people, of many citizens, in the ability of our political system to act. This new government became necessary because the previous one proved unable to jointly fight unemployment, guarantee a social safety network, and bring order to devastated state finances.

Since the SPD party congress in Munich, at the latest, it became increasingly clear that the former coalition partners were moving in different directions. With respect to pressing foreign and domestic policy issues, the SPD abandoned its own head of government. Federal Chancellor Schmidt lost his majority.

The Free Democratic Party, as all of us know – and particularly as all of us experienced in the debate on the floor of this assembly – did not make its decision an easy one. In the interest of our country, it has made a new government possible, as prescribed by the constitution. This coalition of the center will lead our country out of the crisis.

Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, in this hour the people of our country have a right to hear the truth, the truth about what has been done, and the truth about what has to be done. What is the state of the Federal Republic of Germany? At the present time we are experiencing unemployment that is even worse than during the years of reconstruction. Almost one in every fourteen people of working age is currently out of work. This winter, almost 2.5 million might be unemployed. Even more are afraid of losing their jobs. After a two-year stagnation, aggregate production has been declining for months. Never before in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany have as many companies gone bankrupt as this year, and never before have so many independent livelihoods been destroyed. This alone has cost roughly 500,000 jobs in recent years. The number of insolvencies this year will even surpass the sad previous record. Perhaps 15,000 or more companies will have to file for bankruptcy. This will mean an additional loss of far more than 100,000 jobs. Worst of all, almost 200,000 young people are unemployed. Many cannot find a place to receive training and are therefore not only without work, but without a chance to gain professional qualifications.

[ . . . ]

The ideologies of the go-getters and the saviors have not intensified any sense of reality in the country, not reinforced self-responsibility; they have misjudged the challenge of the time. We again need the virtues of wisdom, courage, and moderation for the future of our country. The question of the future is not how much more the state can do for its citizens. The question of the future is how can freedom, dynamism, and self-responsibility unfold anew. The coalition of the center is based on this idea. Too many have lived too long at the expense of others: The state at the expense of the citizens, the citizens at the expense of other citizens, and – we need to say it honestly – we have all been living at the expense of future generations.

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