by Katja Hoyer
Tuesday, 20
April 2021
Explainer
17:09

In Germany, the Greens are headed for Government

The election of Annalena Baerbock is a sign of the party’s new confidence
by Katja Hoyer
Germanys greens are on the rise (Photo by Alexander Koerner/Getty Images)

Germany’s Green Party means business. Now only single digits behind the conservative CDU/CSU in the polls (but ahead of all parties in this poll), there is a real chance that the federal elections in September might bring about the country’s first Green leader. It is a sign of the party’s new confidence that it has on Monday picked its first-ever chancellor candidate: Annalena Baerbock.

Only 40 years old, she is the youngest of the candidates for Germany’s central political office. This befits a party that is trying to win over voters on a reform ticket. But make no mistake, Baerbock is an experienced career politician with the potential to convince even risk-averse voters that she would be a safe pair of hands.

The Greens’ consistent course of ‘constructive opposition’ during Merkel’s long tenure in government, and particularly during the pandemic, allowed Baerbock to cultivate a friendly image, devoid of the whiff of corruption and ambition that surrounds the candidates of the ruling coalition parties, the CDU/CSU and SPD. It helps that she speaks with the neutral accent of her North-German home region, avoiding the sometimes divisive regional inflections of her competitors. Her career path has been steep but without scandal: from her middle-class upbringing (which included a brief sporting career as a successful trampolinist, winning her three national bronze medals) to her professional development in journalism and politics at EU level and in Germany. She is a personable and modern politician without rough edges.

The decision this week to choose Baerbock over her colleague and co-leader of the Green Party, Robert Habeck, has not been an obvious one. The latter has long been hailed as the more likely chancellor candidate. While polls have Baerbock slightly ahead of her male colleague internally, the German public still see Habeck as the more capable candidate.

One could take the view that there isn’t much between the two Green leaders. Both have unfailingly sung from the same hymn sheet. Both are also members of the so-called ‘realo’-wing of the Green Party, the pragmatic faction willing to compromise and work with mainstream political parties.

But while both Green leaders are happy to drive a friendly, consensus-driven, centre course, Baerbock is the more Left-leaning of the two. Habeck has in the past worked on programmes with conservative politicians against radical Islamist influences in Germany, while Baerbock has been engaged in groups that furthered the course of Syrian refugees. Her instincts certainly lean a little further Left than his.

The choice to opt for the female, younger and more Left-leaning candidate over the one still favoured by the electorate, shows how confident the German Greens are going into the September elections. They know they don’t need to come first to provide the chancellor. The political system might well see them become the second largest party and pick coalition partners other than the CDU/CSU, even if the latter win the most votes.

Whatever the outcome of the election in September the German Greens are more likely to sit on the government benches than opposite.

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Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
1 year ago

So I’m curious, if the Greens get into power in Germany, what happens to the leviathan that is the automotive sector in Germany? Do they start stuffing their own automotive industry? Or is there some Germanic variety of Champagne Greenism that they can practice while salving their consciences?

Last edited 1 year ago by Prashant Kotak
Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

I have read a few articles about the Greens in Germany. Apparently they are quite rational and arguably, in economic terms even to the right of the UK’s current Tory government. (Well, that wouldn’t be difficult…). As such, I don’t think they are intent on suddenly destroying certain industries.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
1 year ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Interesting, so what green initiatives do they commit to then? Are they ok with diesel vehicles etc?

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Diesel vehicles are, I believe, more polluting than those that run on petrol. But don’t ask me. I have never bought a car as I don’t find them interesting.

Jonathan Marshall
Jonathan Marshall
1 year ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

I think that the problem with diesels is that although they produce less CO2 than petrol engines (which is why their use was encouraged by the Labour government in the Noughties) it seems they also produce another pollutant (I can’t remember which) which is bad for human health.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago

That would be NOx and particulates, issues specific to certain manufacturers and past models, which the Greens , with the help of a compliant and incurious media, have succeeded in smearing the whole industry with.
I don’t think Unherd allows links but Fritz Steinparzer of BMW diesel division makes the case for diesel.

Last edited 1 year ago by Brendan O'Leary
Stephanie Surface
Stephanie Surface
1 year ago

Nitrous Oxide which could be captured, but is costly.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

The Germans only have 60% GDP as debt! USA 130%! The rest of the West between, but most at about 100%. Above 90% means Money created as stimulus create less than 1 Dollar new production per dollar printed, so stimulus is no longer viable above 90% (unless you believe MMT). The PIIGS are a lost cause without Germany (130+% debt/GDP).

(MMT is frightening as it says a Sovereign Nation may print any amount money it wishes, any amount at all, without triggering hyperinflation. This is because there are two elements. Print Money, Tax it back. These two tools keep the money at optimal levels, change as needed, and are in effect redistributive.) (That it is insane as government is unable to manage production has been proven, and that is the role MMT requires. Instead gov is all about votes, so will use the money to essentially buy votes, as you can give everyone everything, at the cost of a strong economy)

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

I don’t disagree with any of that. But I don’t see how it relates to my post.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

It doesn’t.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago

It does.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

We shall have to beg to differ.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago

I do not hold it against you for being wrong.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

“Greens in Germany. Apparently they are quite rational and arguably, in economic terms even to the right of the UK’s”

My post is to say the Germans have the best debt to GDP in the world! That they do not take the MMT Koolaid all the other Central Banks have. The article mentions this. See where I say their debt/GDP is 60% wile most are 100-130%

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

In reply to your previous post, to which I cannot reply for some ‘techno reason ‘,
‘fair enough’.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Well, yes, that was the somewhat tangential link to my post – and to be honest i was aware of that. But I suspect that Germany will eventually succumb to MMT. They now have untold millions dependent upon the state, and you can only keep that going with MMT.

Nick Faulks
Nick Faulks
1 year ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Also they have ludicrous amounts of off balance sheet debt within the EU which will have to be accounted for one day.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
1 year ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Screwing other EU member states by Advantageous Euro Exchange ?..

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Thanks for clarifying MMT (Modern Monetary Theory aka More Maynardkeynes Than even keynes thought sensible) .
Not be confused with Modern Mechanical Theory which holds that the high energy density of hydrocarbons and nuclear can somehow be substituted by Perpetual Motion Machines of weak intermittent density like wind and solar without destroying the world.

Last edited 1 year ago by Brendan O'Leary
Rob Nock
Rob Nock
1 year ago

Think it actually stands for Magic Money Tree.

Alex Delszsen
Alex Delszsen
1 year ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

To the right? Please explain.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago
Reply to  Alex Delszsen

Balance a budget rather than MMT. Austerity and all that still on the table. Some push to keep the factories going during lockdown.

Stephanie Surface
Stephanie Surface
1 year ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Don’t believe that the Greens are rational. There are only 2 Green individuals in Germany, who are fairly rational: the Mayor of Tübingen, Palmer, often very much in conflict with his party’s Green leaders. He is competent and therefore people voted for him as an individual. The same goes for Kretschmann, “Minister President” of Baden Württemberg. But A.Baerbock would be a disaster for Germany‘s industry. She is a political melon, outside green, but deeply red inside. Her experience in life was only in politics, from being part of the Greens at the EU and later in German Parliament. She is loved by most of the German MSM, but even she can‘t hide her total ignorance, when it comes to green energy. Recently she mixed up the chemical “Kobalt(=cobalt)” in batteries with Kobolds(goblins). People were falling over each other laughing at so much ignorance. Germany’s automotive industry will suffer enormously and eventually people will wake up to the destruction of their own country. She wants to increase corporate and individual taxes, which would destroy many “MittelStand” Companies in Germany. Also like the Democrats in the US, the Greens believe in open borders and the refugee crisis will become even worse. The hidden green streak in Angela Merkel will finally become open German policy. Angela Merkel will delight in having her “Wunsch” Candidate.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago

The German “MittelStand” companies are among my favourite things about that country, and are in sad decline elsewhere.
It seems to be an iron rule that legislation accompanied by anti-Big Business and anti-corporate rhetoric always, in reality, hits SMEs harder.
As my wise economist friend wrote:
“Regulatory complexity is a subsidy from small business to big business”

D Ward
D Ward
1 year ago

Just look at all the EU directives!!!!

Alex Delszsen
Alex Delszsen
1 year ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Tesla moved there. Perhaps they will follow the electric model. Which will make the electricity providers and the state ecstatic, as they already have the highest costs or second highest for electricity and other utilities in Europe.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago
Reply to  Alex Delszsen

German auto manufacturers already make market-leading EVs, which they can sell thanks to 1. Subsidising EV losses from profits on their ICE vehicles . 2. Generous government subsidies to EV owners and tax concessions.

(Lest the term EV mislead you, let’s be clear that we are talking about cars, not heavy vehicles, since the battery power/weight ratio just doesn’t work for heavy goods or earthmoving vehicles)
Since I can’t do links, I post this table, which makes Tesla look better by splitting other manufacturers’ sales by model:
Best-selling battery electric vehicles in Europe region in 2020 (Source: Jato Dynamics)
1 Renault Zoe: 99,261
2 Tesla Model 3: 85,713
3 Volkswagen ID 3: 56,118
4 Hyundai Kona: 47,796
5 Volkswagen eGolf: 33,650
6 Peugeot e208: 31,287
7 Kia eNiro: 31,019
8 Nissan Leaf: 30,916
9 Audi E-tron: 26,454
10 BMW i3: 23,113
For comparison to EVs, we should note that German market-leader VW sold 1.35m vehicles of all kinds in Europe in 2020.

Conlan O'Connor
Conlan O'Connor
1 year ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

The Greens are, as Fraser Bailey also mentioned, not really seen as “radical” in Germany at all. They’re Lib Dems essentially, and fairly conservative ones at that. They tend to do very well in local elections, but until the last few years haven’t translated that to federal success.
There is no way they would torch Germany’s car industry, certainly not with a fairly bourgeois voter base. In several jurisdictions climate activists have left the party to form “Climate List” parties, starting the party formation cycle anew.

Jonathan Marshall
Jonathan Marshall
1 year ago

They sound much more sensible than our home-grown version, who are extremely authoritarian as well as barking mad, but I still wouldn’t trust any of them.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
1 year ago

Are you referring to our home-grown Greens, or our home-grown Lib Dems? Or both?

Hugh Jarse
Hugh Jarse
1 year ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

And for further clarification, by ‘our Greens’ do you mean English Greens or Scottish Greens. Bonkers both but one significantly more so than the other.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
1 year ago
Reply to  Hugh Jarse

Scottish Greens,have Coerced with SNP on draconian, ”Hate ”Laws,it can mean anything?..kept them in power for a decade ..Time for Change in caledonia…

David J
David J
1 year ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

The EV evolution is probably doing their job for the Greens.
A bigger challenge could be what they do with Russian gas, and their responsibility for coal-burning power stations.

James Watson
James Watson
1 year ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

They’ll speed up the current move to electrification.

J Bryant
J Bryant
1 year ago

I wish the author had explained what effect the Greens in government is likely to have on German politics. How will German politics and policies be different with more Greens in power compared to the Merkel years?
Maybe a knowledgeable Unherd reader can answer that question?

James Rowlands
James Rowlands
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Electricity at nearly 30p per kwh. No aircon anywhere, ticks overunning the countryside and the cities are in visable decline despite massive taxes and investment.

They are also well into the 200+ genders rubbish!

This is the kinder description.

https://m.dw.com/en/what-do-the-german-greens-want-if-they-gain-power/a-57248907

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago
Reply to  James Rowlands

Your link said nothing really interesting as the migrant thing is what I wonder about.

That the last German nuclear reactor will be up to discussion to shut, but the Greens may not push it is just reality. 10% globally electricity is Nuclear, and in USA 17%, there is no other green ‘Base Line Generation’ possible, and I am invested in Kazatomprom, as anyone should be since electrification requires uranium – that Germany shut its Nukes and built Coal is mindbogglingly non-Green really. Arabia are building Nuclear Reactors! It has to be the thing of the future. I have even been buying Cameco and Dennison as I think USA may require domestically sourced uranium as a strategic supply with the electrification.

Conlan O'Connor
Conlan O'Connor
1 year ago

Another interesting point: The Greens are Germany’s most liked political party. They like that.
The Greens have a very tightly run PR apparatus, and do very little to rock the boat in terms of saying anything controversial. Climate activists have begun to leave the party to form a “Climate List” for a more direct-action activist feel, as in their minds, the Greens are already too conservative. In terms of foreign policy, the Greens are actually quite conservative, and are harder on China than the average CDU member, especially the Merkel/Laschet wing.
However, they tend to grate me, because of how transparently “likeable” they are. Party leadership has said nothing about Corona for a solid year, because they know people could get angry at them over it. It’s just easier to let the CDU and SPD take the blame for unpopular things. I personally know SPD voters who find the Greens too conservative and hold grudges from the Greens’ first time in power from 1999 to 2005, where they approved German troops to partake in the NATO intervention in Kosovo and approved controversial welfare reforms. These actions heavily damaged the SPD, but the Greens somehow managed to become more popular.
Long story short, they’re greenwashed, feel good center left for happy, successful families. On policy not very bad, but I personally find the party culture stifling and inauthentic.

Stephanie Surface
Stephanie Surface
1 year ago

As I mentioned above, they are not the lovable and acceptable Greens as the German Middle Class wants to believe. People should just take a look at the disaster which is Berlin Politics. A city totally destroyed by Green- Left politicians. Migrants and Antifa occupying houses, rent control introduced by the Berlin government, which just recently was declared unconstitutional by the German Federal Court of Justice. Parks are overrun by drug gangs , Arab Clans rule supreme and soft policing everywhere. Reminds me of what’s happening in LA and CA right now, where middle sized companies are leaving in droves. So far in CA they still have the woke Tech Cooperations.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago

Ha ha, so the inventors of Zyclon B are to go Green. What a delicious irony!

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
1 year ago

Still ”Greenwash” Another Scam,hysteria So they Can tell us how to behave,whilst They Scoot around the World on Private jets,Bill Gates Greeny has at least 24 GT cars,2 Private Jets &Grass reared Steaks ie Cows …more rubbish Today,by Biden,Johnson,Trudeau,Chinese..