What’s going on with the Greens?

Et is not long ago that the Greens made every effort not to publicly get too excited about their poll numbers and the good results in the state elections. The traffic light must shine, not only the green ones, it was said. Now the green light is also dim, for many reasons. Two issues are particularly depressing: the gas levy and the nuclear issue.

Reinhard Bingener

Political correspondent for Lower Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Bremen based in Hanover.

This week was “cleaning week”, as one Green said. The party would like to sweep out both problems. That may not succeed, but Habeck at least got things going. On Tuesday he announced that two nuclear power plants could remain connected to the grid, and together with Chancellor and Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP) he announced on Thursday that the gas levy would end.

There has not yet been an official decision on the fate of the two nuclear power plants Isar 2 and Neckarwestheim 2. Habeck had chosen his word well: The two reactors will “probably” be left online in the first quarter of 2023. “That’s the status today.” He had agreed with the operators on the key points for the so-called operational reserve. Everything should now be prepared so that the two nuclear power plants can continue to produce electricity beyond December 31, the official date of the nuclear phase-out.

“The nuclear phase-out is decided on December 31, 2022”

The wording leaves room for interpretation. That was already the case with the concept of the operational reserve, which some understood as confirmation of the nuclear phase-out and others as its postponement. Opponents of continued operation stressed that nothing had been decided yet. Britta Haßelmann, leader of the Green Party and a committed campaigner against nuclear power, said the very next morning on Deutschlandfunk that Habeck’s announcement did not mean an extension of the service life. “The decision to phase out nuclear power is December 31, 2022, and it will stay that way. Atomic energy has no future.” Jürgen Trittin, actually known for his clear words, expressed himself somewhat smugly in “Spiegel”: He advised “a proper and open-ended procedure for a possible extended operation of the two nuclear power plants”, Habeck should not anticipate any results. Who makes the final decision is still a matter of debate. The green parliamentary group is of the opinion that the emergency must be determined by parliament. From the government’s point of view, this should not be a political decision.

“Gallic village of the anti-nuclear movement”

The faction is a kind of “Gallic village of the anti-nuclear movement,” said a Green. In fact, things are much quieter across the board in the Green Party, which now has 125,000 members. This probably has something to do with the fact that the two party leaders made every effort to take the base with them. The party leadership is said to have held several dozen conference calls with Greens at all levels on this question alone. At the party conference of the Greens, which begins in two weeks, the Federal Executive Committee itself will submit a motion on nuclear power. There is no fear at party headquarters that he will fail.

The nervousness is only slightly greater with a view to Lower Saxony, where a new state parliament will be elected next Sunday. The Lower Saxony Greens, which are closely associated with the anti-nuclear movement, had worked hard within the party in the summer to ensure that the use of nuclear power in Germany ended on New Year’s Eve as planned. The stress test result presented by Habeck seemed to correspond to this request to a large extent. However, the fact that the Federal Minister of Economics is now pulling his emergency option does not drive the Greens in Hanover to the barricades. There is a “certain disappointment”, admits the green co-lead candidate Christian Meyer. “But we still stay within the framework of the stress test result: the two nuclear power plants in the south run a little longer.

Don’t upset local nuclear opponents

The Lower Saxony nuclear power plant in Lingen will go off the grid as planned on December 31.” The latter is important for the Greens because it does not upset the local opponents of nuclear power in the state association. It is said that there was no major upheaval within the party after Habeck’s announcement.

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