April 19. 2024. 7:38

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The Brief — The German Greens’ third wheel syndrome


Everybody who has been in a three-way situation knows that there is a high risk that one of the three is left unsatisfied. This universal truth has also been confirmed in Germany, where the Greens increasingly feel neglected by their two partners in the ruling coalition.

When the German Greens, the Social Democrats, and the liberal FDP formed the government in 2021, they entered largely uncharted territory: Never before had three German parties entered a coalition at the federal level.

One and a half years in, the political experiment has degraded into intense infighting, public slurs and the swallowing of many bitter pills.

As an example of the relationship’s descent into toxicity, in mid-March, one of the senior FDP members of parliament compared the Green Economy Minister Robert Habeck to archnemesis Russian President Vladimir Putin himself.

“That’s a concept of freedom that Vladimir Putin could easily translate to his own ruling manner,” Wolfgang Kubicki, vice-president of the German Bundestag for the FDP, said regarding Habeck.

While Kubicki later backpedalled and apologised for his behaviour, it’s only one of many examples of the sad state of the three-way coalition.

Last week the three unlikely partners tried to rekindle their tarnished relationship in a special coalition committee that would address the most contested issues, like the right approach to tackle the climate crisis, child care or the end of gas heating – to name only a few.

The result of the therapy session was especially displeasing for the Greens. Asked in a TV show how often the Greens had to give way in the negotiations, Habeck replied resignedly: “It doesn’t matter.”

The German magazine Der Spiegel compared Habeck’s speech after the negotiations to a funeral oration.

Britta Haßelmann, leader of the Green caucus in the Bundestag, was also disappointed. “Despite the worsening climate crisis, there is apparently only one coalition partner who wants more regarding climate protection,” she told the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland (RND).

The FDP, the smallest of the three partners and the closest to free-market industry interests has diluted environmental goals.

After it became apparent that the FDP-led transport ministry had failed to meet its climate protection targets, FDP chief and Finance Minister Christian Lindner managed to water down the climate targets by removing the sector-specific targets for each ministry.

However, Lindner was not alone. He was also backed by Chancellor Olaf Scholz, a document leaked to Die Zeit revealed. Scholz, who once declared himself the “climate chancellor”, has been slowly edging closer towards the FDP in many areas – much to the dismay of the Greens.

“We should no longer have any illusions about the SPD,” Christian Kühn, the state secretary in the Environment Ministry, told Der Spiegel.

“They will push us against the wall.”

For a long time, the Greens have been considered the partner of choice for the SPD in this polyamorous relationship, while the FDP was widely seen as a mere pragmatic choice needed to reach the required majority.

But the winds seem to have turned, and the Greens still struggle to accept that they are now the third wheel in the coalition.


The Roundup

The Belgian police raided the headquarters of the European People’s Party (EPP) in Brussels on Tuesday, a source close to the matter told EURACTIV.

Nintendo has pledged to provide free repairs of a faulty controller after prompting from the European Commission over a consumer rights complaint.

The UK’s data protection authority sanctioned TikTok £12.7 million for multiple data law violations, including the unlawful use of children’s personal data.

The EU competition authority launched on Monday a Phase 2 investigation on whether the merger between Orange and MasMovil in Spain breaches the EU Merger Regulation and reduces competition in the country.

Ukraine was the second-largest recipient of German arms exports, receiving €500 million worth of deliveries in the first quarter of 2023 amid promises of further support from Berlin.

Paris plans to focus part of its Armed Forces budget on replenishing ammunition stocks over the next seven years, the government’s new finance bill published on Tuesday (4 April) shows.

Don’t forget to check out this week’s Transport Brief: Germany’s transport targets sacrificed to save faltering coalition.

Look out for…

  • Commissioner Nicolas Schmit receives Ståhl Claes-Mikael, deputy general secretary of ETUC, and Doreste Ignacio, senior adviser at ETUC.