As Germany grapples with the challenges of reforming the country's health care, welfare, educational systems and tax code, Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück apparently knows where the priorities really lie.
Steinbrück has identified what's really important
Steinbrück threw around Germany's weight on Tuesday to ward off European Commission plans that might hit his fellow citizens just where it hurts -- in the pub.
The EU executive proposed adjusting alcohol taxes to reflect inflation. EU-wide minimum tax rates on alcohol had not been changed in 14 years, it reasoned, and the increase would make a bottle of beer no more than one euro cent (less than one US cent) more expensive in Germany.
But that was obviously one cent too many for Germany's finance minister, who was possibly concerned the move would be a blow to his fellow citizens' wallets and their local bartenders' profits.
"We don't want to surprise the German public with beer getting more expensive," he told journalists at an EU meeting in Luxembourg.
Besides, the issue of an extra cent here or there is hardly a small matter in a country with more than 1,000 of the EU's 3,000 breweries.
Beer is king
Defending a German institution
Steinbrück didn't go so far as to threaten to use Germany's veto to block the plans, a step that his beer-loving neighbors in the Czech Republic had already taken. But he made it plain that Germany would only approve the tax hikes if beer was excluded from them.
"That's the good news for all those who like to drink a good pilsner," he said of his protest.
Steinbrück did, however, make clear that tax rates could gladly be increased on wine and liquor. After all, they're already higher in Germany than the EU plans foresee.
The minister's insistence ought to ensure that all those who like to drink pilsner -- or ale, porter, stout or wheat beer -- pick up his tab the next time he fancies a drink.