German Greens eye centrist vote with draft manifesto

Annalena Baerbock and Robert Habeck at the presentation of the election program. They will soon decide who will be the candidate for chancellor. [EPA-EFE | Filip Singer]

With their draft election programme, Germany’s Green party want to finally say goodbye to their image as an opposition party. Climate protection and expensive investments are central, but their ideas for tax and financial policy could become contentious.

Under the title “Germany. Everything is possible.” [Deutschland. Alles ist drin.] the Greens have set out their draft proposals for the next four years in 137 pages ahead of September’s election.

“After an era of political short-termism, we bring the staying power, clear compass and assertiveness to lead our country – at the heart of Europe, facing the world – into a better future,” the foreword reads.

The party is focusing first and foremost on its core issue of climate and environmental protection; with the issue to be woven into all ministries in a bid for Germany to help limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.

The Greens would see the country’s CO2 emissions reduced by 70% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels, instead of 55% as currently planned. Fossil fuel subsidies would be ended, photovoltaics promoted, and the phase-out of coal brought forward from 2038 to 2030.

In industries and regions that have been particularly harmful to the climate, targeted transformation funds are to be used to work toward a “social-ecological market economy.” However, no details are given about the level of expenditure.

The party’s economic and financial policy is likely to be contentious. Research, development, transport infrastructure, the carbon-free economy, building renovation and broadband expansion are to be promoted with a €50 billion investment program per year.

The money could come from a wealth tax on assets of two million euros or more and a digital corporation tax on Google, Facebook and the like.

Direction instead of bans

The draft programme is careful to steer clear of extreme positions.

“I would describe it as a feasibility program,” political scientist Wolfgang Schroeder from the University of Kassel told EURACTIV Germany.

For example, on the topics of phasing out coal or the internal combustion engine, directions are given, but “the whole thing does not come across as a prohibitive or ultimatum position, but remains in the style of negotiation,” said Schroeder.

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For example, the party says it is “committed” to completing the coal phase-out by 2030. Meanwhile they only speak of “wanting” the phase-out of the internal combustion engine from 2030. Schroeder considers the latter to be unrealistic and should be understood as a statement of direction.

The draft programme’s release on Friday (19 March) was promptly met with criticism from environmentalists, including from within the party’s own ranks.

Jakob Blasel, a former spokesman for the Fridays For Future movement who is now running as a Green candidate, said it “fails to fully spell out the necessary measures.” Specifically, he said, the CO2 price proposal is “far too unambitious” and the measures to replace the price are “toothless.”

These critical voices could help the Greens in the election, Schroeder thinks, because they send an important signal to the middle of society: If the activists reject the Greens, this makes them appear more moderate, and thus electable.

“The Greens will lose at the margins,” to micro-parties like the Climateists, Schroeder said, but gains with the broad majority of voters will outweigh the losses many times over.

“That’s the beauty of this programme technique,” the political scientist said, adding that he sees the programme as a coalition offer to all sides.

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“We are the European Party”

Europe is the second theme running through the draft Green manifesto, with special emphasis on proposals for a European Green Deal as the most effective means of combating climate change.

“Our election programme shows we are the European party,” Franziska Brantner, Green spokesperson for European policy, told EURACTIV.

“Our mission statement is a European Federal Republic. We want the next federal government not only to talk about Europe, but to think and act in European terms, and that’s what we Greens stand for,” she added.

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‘Green classics’ in digitalisation

Digitalisation is a third major theme throughout, with demands for a transparency law to make open data the standard in administration, and discrimination in algorithms is to be more closely monitored and prevented. Broadband is to become a basic right, and young women are to receive special support in learning digital skills.

“Green classics are now being included in the digital horizon,” Green party digital expert Laura Dornheim told EURACTIV Germany, with the party’s earlier scepticism towards tech now replaced with enthusiasm that sees digitalisation as an opportunity.

The paper is only a first draft by the party leadership, to which members who collect at least 20 signatures from other members can submit amendments by 30 April.

The election platform is to be decided at the Green Party convention in mid-June.

[Edited by Josie Le Blond]

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