Green leadership in Germany

Following their recent electoral successes, the German Greens reflect on what the future holds for the party and, more widely, the country.

German Greens
Andie Woerle and Sibylle Steffan

Clearly, we expected more of the recent elections in Germany. Following polls of above 25 per cent in spring, 14.8 per cent must seem slightly disappointing. But, looking at the facts, the election result on 26 September was the biggest success of the German Green Party in history, with thanks being owed to our leading candidate Annalena Baerbock. 

We almost doubled our election result from 2017 (8.9 per cent), with 118 Green members now elected to Parliament  – the biggest Green group ever. It was one of the biggest election victories a Green party has ever achieved globally. This is a reason to be proud, as well as proof that the backing of our Green transformative policies is growing – fighting the climate crisis is a reason to vote, and, importantly, to vote Green.

There is reason to believe that the German Green party will return to the German Government in the next election, with the coalition deal between the Greens, SPD, and Liberals having been established this week, and Olaf Scholz due to be sworn in as the next chancellor of Germany next month. Public debates on ministries and personnel are heating up, too, with the big question of whether or not Robert Habeck will be the next (and first Green) finance minister. This would be decisive in shaping European policy.

Expectations couldn't be higher

No matter who you ask, the expectations of us are huge. From our European neighbours to our voters, from the countless environmental, social activists and NGOs to our Green party members. Many expect no less from us than to save the climate and the entire world. No doubt, there will be disappointments. Change needs time and deep transformative policies require a lot of citizens’ goodwill and adaptation; all difficult in a four-year term in an ongoing pandemic that demanded a lot of all of us.

The next German government must do everything in its power to get back on the path towards the Paris climate agreement. We need to change the way our social economy works and shift it towards the social-ecological economy outlined in the EU Green Deal. We also need to change transportation and agriculture, adding them to the agenda in the energy transition. For us, it is clear that we can only reach our climate goals by providing European solutions.

Europe is our interest

That is why the next German government must undoubtedly be pro-European. There is a lot of catching up to do. Although criticised, Angela Merkel did a lot to keep the European Union together during her chancellorship – you can call it historic that she agreed to Next Generation EU, an instrument financed by common European bonds. Whether the Conservatives agree to our assessment or not, it is a step towards a fiscal union. On the other hand, however, she also neglected to act, instead simply reacting to the crisis we find ourselves in the middle of.

Both of us being glowing Europeans, we expect more from the next German Government. We want it to honour and fight for European fundamental rights, to overcome national reflexes, to do everything in its power to transform the European Union into the first carbon-neutral continent on our planet and to work for a better and just European future. We can do all that, if we dare to fill the buzzword of European sovereignty with life. And with more sovereignty, there comes a bigger capacity to act for the EU, alongside like-minded partners on a global scale. We suggest European sovereignty could be strengthened by following up on these three things:

Strengthening European democracy and its institutions

Strengthening European sovereignty first requires legitimacy and credibility. We have to start with ourselves; we have to defend European values and the rule of law. Our green goal is the ‘Federal European Republic’, which we see as the ideal prerequisite for expanding European sovereignty by strengthening the legitimacy of the institutions. That is how we can bring the EU closer to its citizens and make our decision-making structures more agile. Until the unanimity principle in the Council has been overcome, we advocate for more ‘enhanced cooperation’ in relevant areas between progressive member states, for whose decisions the majority principle should apply. Furthermore, we want better transparency in negotiations for all Council working groups. As part of the next German government, we want to make our position in any discussion publicly available.

Making use of our economic power to fuel change

As the largest internal market in the world, the EU must make use of that leverage for the transformation of our economy and the implementation of the EU Green Deal. In order to do so, we have to expand what makes it so attractive: innovation; high labour, social, environmental and consumer standards; and cross-border cooperation. The transition to a CO2-neutral and digitalized circular economy in the internal market could become the standard in international trade, and lead to shorter and more diverse supply chains. In terms of economic and financial policy, we must stand up for fiscal union and further develop the European stability mechanism.

A new push for multilateralism

In a world full of old and new conflicts, ongoing crises, more competitive superpowers and structural global injustices, an active EU is needed more than ever. We face common global challenges, such as the climate crisis or the corona pandemic, and must work to achieve peace, human rights and global justice. One thing is clear – the EU cannot do this alone. The EU must take an active role in the world – for the next four years we propose the strengthening of the European Foreign Service, including the role of the High Representative. We must also increase funding for crisis prevention and make international politics feminist. Moreover, we must renew the transatlantic partnership and seek a constructive dialogue with countries like China and Russia as competitors and partners instead of systemic rivals, fostering a willingness to work together, and at the same time consistently demanding an end to all human rights violations.

 The ongoing negations with the Liberals and the Social Democrats were not easy and clearly, what we outlined above will not translate directly into government action. But we are fighting for this with a clear compass. And we continue to be optimistic – for this, indeed, is what we have been elected to do.