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Politics

Opinion: Debate? What debate?

Not every Bundestag debate in Germany can be about war and peace. But if it's labeled "general debate", it should include locking horns with political rivals, writes DW's Dagmar Engel.

Traditionally, the debate about the Chancellery's budget is considered a general debate, a slugfest about the government's work.

Well.

The problems are called power and success: for the first time in more than half a century, Germany has a budget without new debt, the economy is growing and the number of jobless is dwindling.

From parental allowance money, to billions spent on education, to retirement pay, and toward the very end, care of the elderly. From the cradle to the grave, there's more assistance, more security – we're doing well, we Germans are. That's according to the chancellor, her government and most Germans.

The International Monetary Fund agrees: Germany is far ahead of the other major economies in the eurozone. Only smaller economies, for instance Luxembourg or Slovakia, have better growth rates. Germany - the anchor of stability, Europe's A student.

But the other states in the European Union aren't the only ones to doubt whether Germany, the model pupil, is permitted to decide where everyone is headed. Even the German vice-chancellor recently sided with less ambitious members, demanding – cautiously put – a relaxation of the stability pact.

It's a topic that will define the EU summit this week and EU policies over the next years, a topic that caused a stir in the media and among economists, and fueled debate – just not in the German Bundestag.

Silence on controversies

Differences of opinion between parliamentarians, whose political parties make up the government, appear not to be worthy of debate. The usual and expected verbal attack in all directions from the whip of the opposition Left party left the chancellor cold. The time allotted for speeches by the opposition was short and for the government coalition long and full of praise for the job they've done.

At the moment, we Germans are doing just fine. At the moment. but it won't necessarily stay that way. Talking about how things should go from here, arguing over it, negotiating the future with controversy and passion - we're not very good at doing that.

In a democracy, voters always get what they deserve in the end. That's why we have debates that don't deserve the name.

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