Wednesday, 02. February 2022
Green Party Congress In search of new leadership and compromises in governing
At their party conference, the Green Party, as expected, elected Ricarda Lang and Omid Nouripour as their new leaders. Their task is great: they must reconcile the values of the party with the reality of governance. Conflicts are already emerging.
By Gudula Geuther | 27.01.2022
Thoroughly researched and carefully prepared analyses: In the "background" the most important topics from home and abroad will be dealt with. This also includes particularly relevant economic and social developments or formative debates in social and cultural politics. The program conveys antecedents and contexts, provides insights and outlooks – an important guide in an increasingly complex world.
Wheel to wheel tractors stand in front of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture in Berlin-Mitte last weekend. Slogans such as "Agricultural policy for farmers, climate, animals and diversity" or "Creating perspectives for people, animals, climate and the environment" are written on banners on the raised tractor shovels." These are formulations that could also come from the Greens. And the green minister takes pains to emphasize this proximity. We are pulling in the same direction, says Cem ozdemir.
"In concrete terms, this means first of all that this artificial opposition – on the one hand the interests of farmers and on the other hand the interests of animal welfare, climate protection and species protection – the or must be out and replaced by an and. This is the guideline of this house that stands behind you."
"The Greens can show that they have arrived on the political scene"
The tractor parade as part of the "We’re fed up" campaign takes place every year, but this time a lot is different. The actual demonstration has been cancelled due to the pandemic, for the same reason the Arbeitsgemeinschaft bauerliche Landwirtschaft has only called the organic farmers from the immediate surrounding area to the tractor meeting. The minister waits for three quarters of an hour in the freezing cold in front of the entrance to his ministry – and this is also new – together with his state secretaries.
This arrives. And yet, even in front of this audience, the Greens still have a lot of convincing to do. Question in the round: does it make a difference that the Greens are co-governing?
"For the time being not yet, because nothing has happened yet. It gives us a small glimmer of hope, of course. In fact, experience shows that we have to wait and see what actually happens. That the positions can be enforced above all also on European level." – "The question is yes: How much freedom they take out afterwards. Or do they let themselves be pushed into a corner again by the lobby associations and continue as before?."- "Well, it’s just getting started – so I’m in good spirits!"
"I spoke to a neighbor a while ago, a large conventional company that certainly doesn’t vote Green. And he was quite relaxed about the whole thing and said: "It’s probably not going to be that bad. (laughs) That means for me: Probably – exactly. So the promises that are being made now, they probably won’t happen anytime soon either. I am quite sober."
"The Greens can now show that they have really arrived on the political stage from the bathing-slipper party, and can manage what others have not managed for years."
Producer prices are an issue for society as a whole, not just a political one
The organic farmers here are concerned about the death of farms, about land ownership and the ban on the weedkiller glyphosate, about fair payment and an end to subsidy criteria that they regard as unfair. And Cem ozdemir? Ask for patience.
"Unfortunately it is not quite so simple. Because it’s not like the Federal Minister of Agriculture just presses a button and then it happens." Indeed. The Minister of Agriculture and Food has already faced headwinds when he declared war on "junk prices" for foodstuffs. The organic farmers are here with the Greens: social groups should not be played off against each other.
"On the one hand, it’s about fair producer prices, of course, and then the argument is immediately there: well, food has to stay affordable. Well, of course they have to. But that’s another discussion. That people get paid fairly, that wages go up, that this is an overall societal difficulty."
Meat is too cheap, says one, another warns: First of all, the farmers have to agree among themselves how they want to deal with the food companies, politics can do little anyway.
Criticism from the climate movement
Still much more critically the Greens are observed from another movement, from which they actually feed: The climate movement. Here, too, Economics and Climate Protection Minister Robert Habeck has already made an effort to dampen expectations, announcing that Germany will not achieve the targets it has set itself in the next two years; on the contrary, CO2 emissions will rise for the time being. There is a lot of catching up to do, emphasizes the still party leader in the Bundestag, which he asks for support.
"So that means: minus 65 percent CO2 emissions in eight years. The average approval time for a wind turbine in Germany is six to eight years. You don’t have to be particularly bright or have paid attention to mathematics at school to realize that this can’t work. So we have to become more efficient and faster in the planning and approval processes."
Criticism from the grassroots on the subject of traffic policy
On 28. January begins the digital federal delegate conference of the party. This is what the Greens call their party conferences. Lang wants to be elected one of two new party leaders, alongside Omid Nouripour. This is necessary because according to the statutes of the Greens, Robert Habeck and Annalena Baerbock are not allowed to hold ministerial and party offices at the same time.
The agricultural turnaround and climate protection – these are just two examples of issues where the Greens have set expectations very high, and where many compromises will have to be digested. Others are similarly important to some members. And the necessary concessions are similarly painful. A visit to the grassroots, board meeting at the Green district association Berlin-Pankow:
"I have to say with me: I mainly care about transport policy. From this point of view, I cannot be satisfied in the area of transport policy."The chairman of the district association, Ruben Joachim, laments on the sidelines of the board meeting that with this federal government there will probably be no speed limit, not on the highway and not as greater room for maneuver for municipalities. And he would have liked – like many of his party friends – also a Green Minister of Transport. Among other things, this blank space led many an observer in the media to conclude that the Greens had made themselves too small in the coalition negotiations.
Ruben Joachim disagrees. "When I look at how the government has started now, I’m super-happy." He lists the ministers: Robert Habeck and the energy transition, Annalena Baerbock and the first accents in foreign policy. The fact that the Minister of Agriculture ozdemir and the Minister for the Environment and Consumer Protection Steffi Lemke want to work together instead of blocking each other, that it is also the Minister of Family Affairs Anne Spiegel, among others, who wants to delete the controversial paragraph 219 a and thus the so-called ban on advertising for abortions from the penal code – all this is worth compromising on, she says. Not only he sees it in such a way, also others in the circle executive committee, at the basis in the citizen of Berlin north.
"I believe that we as a party are more willing and eager to take responsibility and shape the future. Because we know we need majorities, and that’s why we have to make certain compromises, and that’s why we can’t avoid certain issues, can’t shirk them. So I already believe that this is the prevailing mood."
Peace movement as self-image of the Greens
More on the topic of the Greens:
"I think now that we are in government responsibility and with the foreign minister provide the person who is responsible for diplomacy, the discussion has a completely different quality there in our party. And we must be aware of the responsibility that we have as party members when we vote there. We are no longer an opposition party that can say: We are against war and therefore against weapons."
Does the party have to bend for this? At least, says the Pankow district chairman: "I think it’s already difficult for many in the party. This will be very difficult for many and this will be a tough discussion and I don’t know how it will end up."
Others here at the Berlin base also believe that there will be a lot to digest in the coming years. "I think it’s important to then dovetail members – including rank-and-file members – and caucus and cabinet well together and see where you can create forums of exchange? How do we get the discussion to take place at a level where everyone feels heard, where they can contribute their opinion?. And that it’s not the feeling: there are two, three people deciding where we go as a party in a certain direction."
Controversial discussion: the possible extension of the Iraq mission
And it’s not just the members who are in a new role as a result of the Greens being in government, but more importantly the MPs too. This will soon become apparent in another question of war and peace, when the extension of the Bundeswehr’s mission in Iraq will be voted on. Until now, the majority of the Greens were against. Now the mandate has been changed, Syria, which was also flown over by German reconnaissance aircraft, has been deleted as a deployment location. Whether that really overrides previous Green concerns about international law compliance is debatable, even though the group’s experts have positioned themselves this way.
"Mandates are, of course, always among the most sensitive issues for members of parliament, affecting basic personal convictions, conscience – after all, it’s about such decisions as war and peace. That’s why that’s the point where there’s always the most wrangling," says Katharina Droge, one of the two faction leaders. So far, the discussion has been very objective.
"And of course it’s the case that government factions have to achieve majorities in the end. That’s another big task that Ms. Habelmann and I have, of course, to still talk to MPs, and to convince them to go along the way. That’s different in government – or even more important than in opposition."
The Iraq mission is not on the agenda of the party conference, but the two probable new party leaders have positioned themselves. Omid Nouripour applies for the job. He had voted in favor of the mission before anyway, and now he’s all the more for it. Ricarda Lang gives a different reason for her approval. "By saying very, very what we got out in improving this mandate, by showing: It makes a difference that we now have a green foreign ministry, by showing very clearly: What were our guidelines for this, whether we can say at the end: For us, this is justifiable under international law and what improvements we have also achieved there."
Omid Nouripour: using experience to sharpen the role of the Greens
The 46-year-old Hessian, who came to Germany at the age of 13 as the son of Iranian academics, is the party’s foreign and defense expert. He has been in the Bundestag since 2006, a year after the Greens’ first participation in a federal government came to an end; in the party, he has been around much longer. And he also applies with this experience.
"I sat on the federal executive committee the last time we governed. That was an exciting, very smooth time. Just with an SPD, which also provided the chancellor. That was the time when we still discussed cook and waiter. I think I have a firm idea of what the party’s role is in these times. I know the actors we are talking about well to very well, and not only in the Green Party."
It is about cooperation and coordination. About the Greens becoming chancellor or chancelloress in four years’ time. "That’s why I’m applying for this most beautiful job in the world."
Ricarda Lang: social justice as a personal issue
Ricarda Lang grew up in Baden-Wurttemberg with her single mother, as she herself repeatedly points out. Their position as a social worker in a women’s shelter was eliminated due to budgetary constraints. "I’ve seen that not everything is always fair in our society, that those who work the hardest and who work for society often can’t live on it."
In politics, it is mainly because of social justice. She rejects the impression that you have to be able to afford the Green Party. "Because if the climate crisis continues to develop in the way it is doing at the moment and if we don’t manage to get a grip on it, then the consequences will hit the very people who already have the least today."
Whether it’s the cost of climate policy or higher food prices, Lang points to the higher minimum wage and the basic child benefit that the traffic light coalition has agreed to, and to the fact that her party still wants more, especially higher standard rates in basic benefits.
How much power the future chairmen will have?
As the previous deputy party chairwoman, she is one of the leaders currently under investigation by the Berlin public prosecutor’s office on suspicion of embezzlement.500 euros per person. The money is paid back. At the grassroots level in Pankow, the process is considered a mistake, but it no longer carries any weight. Whether the whole party congress sees it that way may be seen from the exact result of the vote. Even if Lang as well as Nouripour can be considered as set, serious competition does not exist. In Pankow, at least, the team is raising hopes.
"So I think with Ricarda Lang and Omid Nouripour are two representatives of the wings, who are running there, stronger than that was before with Robert and Annalena, which thereby I think more strongly also act again in the party purely and there also again more strongly enable the discussions. That we really do have controversial discussions about the party’s direction."
However, it is not yet clear what power the party and its chairmen will have. Because the current leaders Habeck/Baerbock continue to set the tone, as do the other Green ministers, plus the parliamentary group. Parties like the FDP have an easier time of it, with a party leader [*] who is also deputy vice chancellor.
"I do not believe that there are three centers of power and that there should be three," emphasizes Omid Nouripour. "There will be one thing only can give, and that is the coalition committee. And for the Greens, of course, the round representing the Greens in the coalition committee. If I am elected, we will talk to each other every day about how we coordinate, what roles we run in and what the tasks are. We will only be successful together."
Nevertheless, the role of the party chairman is different in times of government participation, Omid Nouripour knows that, and people in Pankow at the grassroots also believe that. "I believe that our ministers will continue to be in the public eye and that the party leaders will have a greater impact on the party. Whether this is really the case in the end remains to be seen."
New impetus from many young deputies in the Bundestag parliamentary group
That is above all a chance, finds the Co-Fraktionsvorsitzende Katharina Droge. Also a chance not to do everything as before. "We also gave ourselves a structure as a parliamentary group right at the beginning, and it was enormously important to us to get significantly more people involved in responsibility. Because we said that if you work with 118 deputies, then it’s not just a few people on the parliamentary party board who can steer the ship."
But also many young people, for whom formats would be created in which they can ask how what works. But not only the parliamentary group has grown, but also the party, the number of members has more than doubled in the past five years, to over 125.000. This, too, is to be taken into account at the upcoming party conference: With a seemingly formal motion of the party executive committee, which is to provide for a more manageable procedure of the party congresses. No longer should only 20 members be able to submit an application. Instead, a much higher quorum should be required, currently it would probably be 125.
Dealing with old values
"I think the party conference is also a bit not only about a personnel reorganization, but issues are dealt with there that also break a bit with the very grassroots democratic principle of our party perhaps." So basically arranges it the circle chairman in Pankow. And finds it right, "because we simply had such a massive number of motions at the last federal delegates’ conferences that we have to get to work on it. And I think this will become controversial."
It will become more important to build networks, at least in the digital space. So here, too, for the Greens it is a matter of dealing with old values and new realities. Voices from the base: "Well, I’d say we’re still very open to discussion."
"I believe that if we want to take into account the fact that we are no longer a small niche party with five percent, but that we have the claim to lead the center-left, then we are a party of a size where we also have to implement something like this."