German Greens in dispute over the Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link
04-10-2016
The Greens in Schleswig-Holstein will no longer block major infrastructure projects in the State. Political scientist identifies election strategy behind the shift.

Schleswig-Holstein's Finance Minister, Monika Heinold, the Greens' designated candidate in the forthcoming state elections, has recently called for a change of course in the party's transport policy. The Fehmarnbelt fixed link and the upgrade of the A20 motorway are not green projects, but her party should now accept the reality of the situation, the Minister said in a newspaper interview.

At the Greens' regional party meeting in Neumünster in November this year, which will primarily discuss the manifesto for the election in 2017, will be the basis for the party to confirm Finance Minister Heinold's change of course.

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The State's Green Environment Minister, Robert Habeck, declined to comment on his ministerial colleague's change of view, but supported Heinold's statement.

Habeck has ambitions to occupy one of the Greens' two leading candidate posts in the Bundestag elections, which take place in the autumn of 2017. He is currently "campaigning" with four other green politicians in an internal ballot on who should lead the Greens through Bundestag election. The results should be known in February 2017.

 

Support in the state-positive messages from Hamburg

Finance Minister Heinold has received support from the Greens' transport policy expert in Schleswig-Holstein, Andreas Tietze:

"We should not get into fights over transport policy decisions, which are ultimately taken in Berlin," he said.

Furthermore, the Green Second Mayor of Hamburg, Katharina Fegebank, offered a positive opinion on the Fehmarnbelt project on 20 September at Fehmarnbelt Days 2016, which was held in the city. Among other things, she expressed active support for the future cross-border development of the STRING corridor, especially in the fields of science and research.

Werner Süss, President of the East Holstein-Plön business association said: "It is never too late to accept reality," when he commented on the Greens' change of strategy on major infrastructure projects in Schleswig-Holstein.

 

Division in the hinterland

The BUND and Landesnaturschutzverband environmental groups, which together have over 20,000 members in Schleswig-Holstein, reacted with frustration. They blame the eco-party for betraying the resistance to the Fehmarnbelt link. A green party without a core belief has outlived its usefulness, was the environmental organisations' conclusion.

There is now a dispute between the fundamentalists and realists in the green hinterland concerning political direction. How it will all end remains to be seen.

The East Holstein party association, which also includes Fehmarn, is refusing to change its current basis for decision-making at both State and federal levels. Party association spokeswoman, Gaby Braune said:

"Political toleration of this socio-economically idiotic fixed link cannot be reconciled with our clear political position."

 

Political scientist: Green coalition strategy?

"So far I have only seen a pattern where the Greens - when the party has government co-responsibility - only reluctantly engage in major projects. And have marked it down as a concession to a coalition partner; where there are (ecological) compensatory measures in return," says Dr. Niko Switek, political scientist at the renowned NRW School of Governance at the University Duisburg-Essen.

" 'New Green Deal' was a former large-scale attempt to move the Green Party towards a "green" industrial policy. This was about industrial development and new jobs. During the election campaign in 2009, this was a much-used line, but has been scarcely mentioned since. Seen in this light, the Habeck and Fegebank positions are unusual for the Greens, even for the party's reformist wing," points out Switek at stringnetwork.org.

"I can easily imagine that coalition strategic motives are currently at play. CDU and SPD are usually behind these largescale projects and the Greens remove potential conflicts. On the other hand, this is a pre-programmed party dispute that could possibly have been avoided if they had waited for clarification in terms of specific coalition negotiations," he emphasises.

The trial run for the change of course for the Greens will be the three state elections in North Rhine-Westphalia, Saarland and Schleswig-Holstein - all in advance of the Bundestag elections in September 2017. 

 

 

Sources: Lübecker Nachrichten; Kieler Nachrichten;  Fehmarnsches Tageblatt;  Neues Deutschland; Sat 1regional; Grüne/Bündnis 90 Pressedienst