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Angry Greens upset at German government allies

March 24, 2023

The Green Party is accusing its partners in the German coalition government of dragging their feet on climate protection policy. Now the Greens' parliamentary group has rallied the troops.

Robert Habeck
Robert HabeckImage: Martin Schutt/picture alliance/dpa

Since the center-left government of Social Democrats (SPD), Greens, and neoliberal Free Democrats (FDP) took office in December 2021, they have had to deal with one unexpected crisis after another: The war in Ukraine, the question of weapons deliveries, high energy prices, inflation.

The Green Party lawmakers met in the tranquil town of Weimar in Thuringia this week for the closed-door meeting to discuss how to refocus on other urgent issues, such as climate protection.

Controversial issues: Gas heaters and internal combustion engines

The Greens are unhappy with their coalition partners, particularly the FDP, who they accuse of putting the brakes on the plan by Economy and Climate Protection Minister Robert Habeck to ban new gas and oil-fired heating systems as early as next year.

Christian Lindner (FDP) und Robert Habeck (Buendnis 90/Die Gruenen)
FDP leader Christian Lindner (left) und Robert Habeck have had much to discuss in recent weeksImage: Florian Gaertner/photothek/IMAGO

The initiative had been leaked to the media before it had been fully reviewed. Vice Chancellor and Economy Minister Robert Habeck vented his anger about this in a prime-time TV interview with public broadcaster ARD, where he said that talks among coalition partners about his plans had "probably been disrupted on purpose, for the sake of a cheap tactical advantage." And he went on to say he had been "a little alarmed as to whether there was any will to reach an agreement at all."

This promptly drew a reaction from Chancellor Olaf Scholz's party, the SPD, whose chairman Lars Klingbeil took to the media for a public appeal to members of all three parties in the government to end public disputes immediately.

'Climate protection is not just our responsibility'

Conflict topic number two: The EU's plan to ban new cars with combustion engines from 2035. Germany, thanks to pressure from the business-oriented FDP, has stalled this measure, much to the consternation of other member states.

Green Party lawmakers have described this as a disaster for Germany's reputation. The delegates in Weimar complained that Scholz is failing to rein the FDP in.

The Greens have argued that pushing climate protection should be a task for the entire government, rather than the Greens alone. "It is a matter for society as a whole to push through this transformation. It is not just a task for the Greens, to ensure that we become climate-neutral by 2045," Franziska Brantner, state secretary in the Economy Ministry, told DW on the sidelines of the Weimar meeting. "And we have seen, after all, that dependency on fossil fuels means limitations that we all agree we never want again," she said.

Weimar | Katrin Göring-Eckard und Janosch Dahmen, grüne Bundestagsabgeordnete
Katrin Göring-Eckardt (right) talked to peace protesters in WeimarImage: Jens Thurau/DW

Greens stable in the polls

The Greens are well-aware that the FDP is especially keen to sharpen its public profile after experiencing a string of terrible results in regional elections.

The Greens, on the other hand, are polling at between 17% and 19%, which is above their result of 14.8% in the 2021 federal election.

Outside the venue in Weimar, two demonstrators were holding up a Green Party election campaign poster from 1989, when the Greens were still a fundamentally pacifist party, which opposed arms exports of any kind.

Katrin Göring-Eckart, a prominent Green Party politician, confronted the protesters in a bid to defend her party's outspoken support for weapons deliveries to Ukraine. "The fact is that Russia's President Putin invaded Ukraine. He is the one who responsible for the killing," Göring-Eckart told them. "And Ukraine is permitted under international law to defend itself. But they can't do it alone."

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, also of the Green Party, has repeatedly advocated for more weapons for Ukraine.

It's a view shared by the vast majority of Green Party caucus members, despite the party's roots in the peace movement of the 1980s. Since 2016, Green Party membership has nearly doubled to nearly 130,000. Most of the new members are young and don't share the pacifist beliefs of the older generation.

So the Greens are doing well as a party, despite the bickering between coalition partners in Berlin. And nobody is calling for an end to the government coalition because of it. Not even in Weimar.

Edited by Ben Knight

While you're here: Every Tuesday, DW editors round up what is happening in German politics and society. You can sign up here for the weekly email newsletter Berlin Briefing.


Thurau Jens Kommentarbild App
Jens Thurau Jens Thurau is a senior political correspondent covering Germany's environment and climate policies.@JensThurau
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