A green future for Germany and Europe
Natural disasters. Plagiarism scandals. Russian misinformation. The chaotic federal election campaign of 2021 could almost be mistaken for a US presidential campaign. However, there is one major difference: the undeniable presence of an ascending and ready to rule Green Party in Germany and Europe.
On September 26, German voters will elect Angela Merkel’s successor. Merkel, who has been Chancellor of Germany since 2005, has been adored by Germans for years. His nickname, Mutti, is a German term for affection meaning “mother”. Almost 16 years after Merkel first seized power, voters are heading to the polls in a world radically changed by the coronavirus pandemic and the climate crisis. As their longtime chancellor retires, there is evidence that the Germans are looking for change.
In April 2021, young Greens candidate Annalena Baerbock, 40, looked well placed to potentially replace Merkel as German Chancellor, with the party reaching first in some polls. More recently, the Greens took third place in the polls, but they nonetheless consolidated their status as one of the country’s three major political parties, alongside the conservative trade union party made up of the Christian Democratic Union of Germany and the Christian Social Union in Bavaria, also known as CDU / CSU, and the Social Democratic Party, known as SPD.
âThe Greens are playing a key role in the radical change that the German party system is undergoing today,â explained Dr Stefan Leifert, Munich bureau chief of the German national public broadcasting station, ZDF. In an interview with the HPR, he said the era of German politics where the CDU / CSU and the SPD consistently won 40-50% is over. “Probably never again can a German government consisting of only two parties be formed again.” Leifert added: “This will give the Greens a role almost as important as the CDU and the SPD.”
Now the Greens must convince German voters that they are more than just a party of activists shouting slogans. The Greens are eager to prove that they can follow the rhetoric in governing and passing transformative legislation. Every indication shows that they are ready to do it.
Ready to rule
The Greens have been excluded from the German federal government since Merkel became Chancellor in 2005, and they are eager to return to power. The first time the Greens were part of a government coalition was in 1998, when they had three ministers in the cabinet of Chancellor Gerhard SchrÃ¶der. Due to the lack of experience in governance, some argue that the Greens are not ready to take a leading role in a coalition.
Leifert disagrees, pointing to the Greens’ experience in the country’s various regional governments as to why they are ready to lead at the federal level. “At the level of the 16 German LÃ¤nder, the Greens are part of the governments in most of them, including in Baden-WÃ¼rttemberg where they even run the government,” said Leifert. Indeed, the Greens are part of the government coalition in 10 German LÃ¤nder behind only the SPD and the CDU / CSU, which govern in eleven LÃ¤nder. By asserting regional dominance and gaining experience leading state governments, the Greens have proven they are ready to lead nationally. “In case this is a coalition with the participation of the Greens in Berlin, I would expect them to come up with a team of well-prepared and experienced politicians,” said Leifert.
Critics frequently attack the Greens as a party obsessed solely with climate change and criticize the party as incapable of governing in matters of economic policy and foreign affairs. Annalena Baerbock and her party worked overtime to change this image. The Green Party manifesto released ahead of the 2021 election campaign is over 200 pages long and details all aspects of the Greens’ ambitious agenda, from fiscal policy to United Nations reform. A chapter on foreign policy includes entire paragraphs devoted to the Greens’ position on the United States, Russia, Turkey and China.
Rasmus Andresen, Member of the European Parliament from Germany representing the Greens, addressed the HPR from Strasbourg, where he was attending a plenary session of the European Parliament. During the call, he was just as eager to talk about the dangers posed by Big Tech as he was to discuss the climate crisis.
Indeed, Andresen attributed his party’s success to its focus on tackling the major crises plaguing the world. âThings are changing in more conservative places like Germany because many people can see the big challenges that lie ahead: tackling global warming, social inequalities and other issues like gender inequality and racism. . “
The Greens also have the possibility of assuming different roles depending on the coalition that is being built. In a coalition with the presence of the Left Party, the Greens would work more closely with the establishment parties to ensure the stability of the government. In a coalition with the CDU / CSU or the SPD, the Greens could take on a more familiar militant role urging parties to be bolder on climate change.
Although the Greens are not limited to activism, activists still play a central role in their coalition. One of the most complicated issues the Greens will face if they succeed in returning to power is maintaining the support of their overwhelmingly young, militant and anti-establishment electoral base. Andresen insisted that any concessions his party makes in coalition talks must take into account militant groups that support the Greens. âWe will have to strengthen the links and the alliance that we have with certain youth movements, but also with others in civil society,â said Andresen. “We need to have a close relationship with them, communicate with them and discuss our compromises with them.”
These militant groups and protest movements deserve to be congratulated if the Greens succeed in pushing the SPD or the CDU / CSU to accept their more ambitious agenda on climate change and social equality. Andresen believes that the support of the German electorate is essential. “If there is no pressure from the streets, then there will be no balance in the political debate.”
More than a German election
The outcome of the German election will have consequences that will extend far beyond national borders. German voters will elect the leader of the largest nation in the European Union. In the EU, where heads of state and government wield significant power like the European Council, everyone will be very attentive to the results of Sunday’s vote.
In addition to her official post as head of the German government, many also saw Merkel as the unofficial ruler of Europe. A recent European Council on Foreign Relations poll found that a plurality of Europeans would choose Merkel to lead the European Union over French President Emmanuel Macron. Merkel’s lack of leadership skills will be missing at European Council summits, where she was instrumental in helping leaders reach unanimous agreements. His successor will have very large shoes to fill, both in Berlin and in Brussels.
The EU may not find its next leader in this election, but it will gain a strong supporter and supporter. “If you look at the top three chancellor candidatesâ¦ you can see that all of them, in a way, want to make Europe stronger,” Andresen said. âIt’s not as if any of them are anti-European or against the European Union. This is not the case.”
While acknowledging that the other two major parties are pro-EU, the Greens have attempted to distinguish themselves as the political party of the European Union. One of their main political positions is to advocate for a transfer of power from the Member States to the EU.
âOn the climate, the European Union does not have enough power to act as it should. You can look at the Paris Agreement as an example, âsaid Andresen. “We think we need to fight more against Big Tech, where we would like the European Union to come up with stronger laws against Google, Facebook and others.”
The Greens are ready to present their bold change plans directly to the Reichstag and the European Council. Although they are open to compromise on some issues, they are also ready to strongly reject others, particularly on the climate.
During a televised debate between the chancellor candidates of the SPD, CDU / CSU and the Greens, SPD candidate Olaf Scholz insisted he would resist quick and expensive climate change proposals. âWe want to go the moderate route,â Scholz said. Green Party politicians insisted it was proof that a vote for the SPD would be a vote for more of the same.
“It’s just not enough,” Andresen said of the SPD’s climate program. “We need to see more action.”
Image Credit: Mika Baumeister’s image is licensed from Unsplash