After four years at the helm of the party, the Green Party chairmen Baerbock and Habeck are tearfully farewelled. The successful overall balance outshines the disappointing federal election result. An emergency motion indicates a low rumble at the base.
Now they’re gone. So not really, because two new Greens chairmen will not be elected until Saturday. And formally, they are only in office when the online vote of the digital federal delegate conference has been confirmed in two weeks by postal voting. And in addition, Annalena Baerbock, as Foreign Minister, and Vice Chancellor and Economics Minister Robert Habeck will remain the most influential and well-known Green politicians for the foreseeable future. But still: The Greens said goodbye to their two chairmen in tears on Friday after four years.
The most emotional moment of the first of two party conferences provided – who else? – Party icon Claudia Roth. It was up to the new Minister of State for Culture to deliver the eulogy for Chancellor candidate Baerbock. Her speech was peppered with quotes from songs that the former manager of the Rio Reiser band Ton Steine Scherben had sent to Baerbock during the federal election campaign – a new song every day from John Lennon to Joy Denalane.
Roth called Baerbock a role model for girls, “as a woman to consistently take the right to reach for power with relish, without asking men”. Roth praised Baerbock’s “empathetic down-to-earthness,” her courage and tenacity. “Thank you for rocking and rocking this campaign, which was tough with a lot of headwind,” Roth said. The praised woman accepted the praise with great emotion, little tears flowed.
Robert Habeck was also moved by his farewell, even if the laudation for him was a bit more sober: Swiss National Councilor Regula Rytz spoke in a video message about Habeck’s work over the past four years. Rytz underlined Habeck’s charismatic effect on people, “that grabbed people, also here in Switzerland”. Habeck is someone whose language and curiosity creates connections, “someone who can talk but doesn’t thresh out phrases”, who “does not travel the country as a moralizer”.
At the beginning of his words of thanks, Habeck threw himself in the dust: “For the past six weeks, I’ve been the worst party leader that one can ever be,” he said, referring to the full utilization of his person by the new ministerial post. With a view to the overall very successful four years as chairman, Habeck flirted: “I did it as best I could,” said Habeck. “Thank you, you guys are cool.” Flowers, waving, departure.
A sign of displeasure
The big farewell set the tone for the day: despite the many unanswered questions as to why the party fell so far short of its own goals in the federal election, with 14.6 percent of the votes, it was a moment of retrospect and self-assurance , not the reckoning. Many speakers used the several-hour debate to thank the outgoing board and to emphasize what they considered to be the most important tasks of the traffic light government. Baden-Württemberg’s Prime Minister Winfried Kretschmann was the only top representative who expressed clear criticism: “We started this federal election campaign as an alliance party and ended up as a milieu party.”
The party base also seems to be worried about the weak election result for the Greens compared to the spring polls. An emergency motion called for the results of the election to be processed by a separate working group instead of leaving it to the new board, which will be elected on Saturday. Habeck spoke against the application: “Let’s not incapacitate them beforehand, let’s not give them any mistrust,” said Habeck, referring to the designated successors Ricarda Lang and Omid Nouripour and Emily Büning, who is to succeed the previous political director Michael Kellner. With 370 no votes, 239 delegates voted in favor of the motion. An indication that not everyone likes how difficult issues were dealt with internally as far as possible under the outgoing chairmen, excluding the public and also the party base.
First tension topics on the table
Kretschmann’s admonition for a more moderate, “business-friendly” course aimed at the broad public should have come in handy for Baerbock, Habeck and the other federal ministers. Baerbock and Habeck did not use their joint farewell speech for a critical review either, but to prepare the party for its changed role. Habeck encouraged the party to take responsibility for difficult decisions, and Baerbock called for a willingness to fight for content. Federal Family Minister Anne Spiegel, Environment Minister Steffi Lemke and Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir also used their speaking time to support their respective projects and to emphasize the party’s historic opportunity.
The debate on the political topic of the evening shows how difficult it will be to govern: the so-called taxonomy, which according to the EU Commission also classifies investments in gas and nuclear energy as sustainable. Habeck described this classification as “mockery”. In the open discussion, numerous speakers demanded that the federal government should prevent the taxonomy or at least work towards it – this corresponds to Habeck’s line – to define gas more narrowly as a bridging technology. Only power plants and lines that can be converted to hydrogen as soon as it is available in sufficient quantities should be classified as sustainable.
Also controversial in the discussion were the purchase of armed drones and the purchase of new combat aircraft, with which Germany can continue nuclear participation. Both of these motions, which contradicted what was agreed in the coalition agreement, were clearly rejected. Not to question the contract as the basis of the government participation that had been so hard won six weeks after the start of government was also a kind of farewell gift to the acclaimed ex-chairman-to-be.