If Wolfgang Schäuble and Olaf Scholz had planned to surprise everyone, they certainly succeeded. At a news conference back in May, these political rivals were expected to announce an agreement on a multi-billion euro spending plan for education and research. Instead they proposed a major federal shake-up, challenging the relationship between states and the federal government by pushing for a constitutional amendment that would relax a ban on education cooperation.
Mr. Schäuble, Germany’s finance minister, and Mr. Scholz, Hamburg’s mayor, are now working on their next idea for reforming the long-standing state-federal relationship in Germany. The unlikely bedfellows, whose parties form Germany’s current coalition government, want to use ongoing negotiations on the country’s fiscal equalization scheme (a redistribution of money between its 16 states) and its solidarity surcharge (paid by Germans in the west to subsidize those in the former East Germany) to agree a major reform of the relationship between federal and state governments.