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Climate group hails 'productive' meeting with minister

May 2, 2023

Climate activists from the Last Generation group say a meeting with German Transport Minister Volker Wissing was productive. However, there appears to be no end in sight to protests that have blocked Berlin's roads.

Lea Bonasera leaves after attending a meeting between activists of the "Letzte Generation" (Last Generation) and German Transport Minister Volker Wissing
The meeting went on longer than planned and was said to have been "productive"Image: Michele Tantussi/REUTERS

German Transport Minister Volker Wissing met representatives of the climate activist group Last Generation on Tuesday.

The group says it is calling for more decisive action in the fight against climate change. Members' protests — which continued ahead of the meeting — include gluing themselves to roads to block traffic.

What did the group say about the meeting?

"Today's conversation with the minister of transport was respectful on a human level and extremely productive," said activist Lea Bonasera, a member of the Last Generation group. 

"I am delighted with the willingness to engage in dialogue and that step-by-step we are getting there," said Bonasera. However, she added, it was also clear that there were considerable differences of opinion on climate policy.

The talks were initially scheduled to last an hour but ended up taking two. Bonasera said they had planned a follow-up meeting with Wissing in mid-May. However, the group's demonstrations — some of which cause substantial delays to traffic — are set to go on.

A spokesman for Wissing said there had been a thorough exchange of views at the meeting.

"In order to achieve our climate goals, we need a social consensus and not division," he said. "This consensus must be worked out democratically and must not be imposed by force."

"We have to make offers to the citizens that they find attractive and accept," he said, adding that transport had to be available and affordable.

Last Generation is calling for the establishment of a citizen's assembly to tackle climate change. They say it should discuss "how the use of fossil fuels can be ended in a socially just manner by 2030." 

The group's other demands include a speed limit on motorways and lower-cost flat-rate tickets for public transport than the one Germany just introduced.

Minister condemns road protests

Speaking to national public radio Deutschlandfunk on Tuesday morning, Wissing had said he did not tolerate such actions as blocking roads. He said he was confused that the group "makes so few sensible suggestions about combating climate change and yet also acts so radically and seeks to impede general society through criminal acts." 

Climate protest in Berlin, Germany
The activists have been disrupting traffic in the capital and mobilizing police officers, increasing the city's carbon footprint for the day therefore, for weeks nowImage: Annegret Hilse/REUTERS

Wissing is a member of the business-focused Free Democrats (FDP), arguably the party within the current government that shares the least common ground with Last Generation activists. 

"People in Germany fed up with sitting in traffic jams want the government to hold talks and for arguments to be exchanged," Wissing said, adding that the current situation of repeated protests could not be allowed to continue.

Climate campaigners block Berlin traffic

Activists block roads before meeting

Ahead of a meeting scheduled with Wissing, Last Generation activists blocked roads and intersections in Berlin. Such disruption has been a more or less daily occurrence for more than two weeks now.

A police spokeswoman said the protests, which started at 7.45 am (0545 GMT) during the early morning rush hour, had targeted at least two dozen points across the German capital, causing lengthy traffic jams on city freeways and at major intersections.

Some 170 officers were initially deployed to deal with the protests, which had been anticipated. The number was later increased to 300, police said.

According to police figures released on Friday, there have been 80 road closures in the German capital since April 19 as a result of the climate protests. The police have initiated more than 1,100 investigations into either criminal offenses (the bulk of the cases) or misdemeanor charges.

dh, rc/msh (dpa, AFP)