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Berlin calls climate activist's criticism of Scholz 'absurd'

May 30, 2022

Climate activists are outraged after the chancellor lectured hecklers. A government spokeswoman said Scholz did not compare environmentalists to Nazis, as a leading German activist alleged based on what she had inferred.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz speaking at the Katholikentag event in Stuttgart
Though Scholz promised to be the 'climate chancellor' activists say he is failing to act with appropriate urgency Image: Marijan Murat/dpa/picture alliance

Germany's deputy government spokesperson, Christiane Hoffmann, on Monday called criticism of Chancellor Olaf Scholz by climate activist Luisa Neubauer "absurd."

Neubauer made headlines in the German press after she called out Scholz on Twitter with the words, "Scholz compares climate activists to Nazis," along with a segment of video in which black-clad climate activists interrupted him during a podium discussion in Stuttgart, Germany, over the weekend.

Activists repeatedly interrupted Scholz as he spoke of the need for empathy toward coal workers facing redundancy as a result of the country's transition to renewable energy.

Scholz refrained from using specific terms, saying only that he was familiar with the "theatrically practiced" disruption: "I have to say honestly, these antics, staged at various events but always by the same black-clad people, remind me of an era that is, thank God, long past."

He then said the activists' behavior was not about, "participating in a discussion, but rather an attempt to manipulate an event to serve one's own purposes." He added that they should not behave in such a way.

The video shows the chancellor receiving applause for his stance from many in the audience.

Assumptions, outrage and side-stepping

The reaction on social media, however, was less approving, with climate activists joining Neubauer in her outrage, calling Scholz's phrasing unacceptable and claiming, "the mask has fallen."

Deputy Spokeswoman Hoffmann admitted she could not say exactly what "time" Scholz was referring to, only that his, "words speak for themselves."

Though activists were quick to assume he was talking of the Nazi era, others have suggested he may have been referring to the student demonstrations of the 1960s and the disruption of lectures and public discussions that were common at the time.

Germany's government after 100 days

Activists start petition, demand Scholz clarify

Neubauer on Monday turned up the pressure, starting an online petition demanding Scholz clarify exactly what he meant and suggesting again that he was defaming environmentalists as ideologues.

In an open letter to Scholz, Neubauer said that she and fellow activists were "aghast" at his choice of words and that he was presenting "climate activists as the problem" while his government fails to meet the requirements of the Paris climate agreement.

Committed to climate or industry?

Scholz and his coalition government consisting of SPD, the environmental Greens and the neoliberal FDP, have pledged to abide by the country's climate commitments and signaled a desire to turn the country's fossil-fuel dependency around. Still, the war in Ukraine and the German industry's need for energy have hampered decisive action.

The chancellor's Social Democratic Party (SPD) has traditionally been allied with Germany's trade unions, among them the coal workers' union. The party is coming off of devastating state election losses in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), one of Germany's top coal-producing regions.

Scholz made the comments on Friday during a discussion on "Society and Politics in Uncertain Times," which centered largely on Ukraine and energy policy.

The discussion was part of a semi-annual event known as the Katholikentag (Catholic Days), a multi-day festival of German-speaking Catholics.

Ukraine tops WEF agenda in Davos: DW's Kristie Pladson reports from Davos

js/msh (dpa, epd)

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