12 Mar 2024, 13:55
Benjamin Wehrmann

Debate between German econ min and Saxony's state premier illustrates energy transition woes

Die Zeit / n-tv

A public debate between Germany’s economy minister Robert Habeck and Saxony’s state premier Michael Kretschmer in Berlin has showcased many of the problems the country is currently facing in its bid to reconcile climate action with economic recovery while fending off the threat of far-right populist parties, newspaper Die Zeit reports. Habeck, who hails from the Green Party, invited Kretschmer from the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) to debate the challenges of a successful economic transformation in Berlin. Despite governing eastern German Saxony in a coalition with the Greens at the state level, Kretschmer has gained a reputation as one of the most vocal critics of the Green Party at the federal level and, during the debate, he accused Habeck of imposing “unpredictable” energy policy on the country. The constant attacks by Saxony's state premier on the Greens are widely regarded as part of a strategy to woo voters away from the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which rejects the overwhelming scientific consensus on human-made climate change and currently leads in the polls for the upcoming state elections in September this year, the article says. Kretschmer said climate policies and other sustainability measures, such as Germany’s supply chain law, come at the wrong time. “Why do we need such laws now, at such a difficult time?” he asked. Faced with a period of minimum growth, Germany instead should make increasing its economic competitiveness a priority, he argued.

Habeck countered that the government had worked hard to bring energy prices back to almost the level before the energy crisis and Russia’s war on Ukraine. At the same time, the court ruling on new government debt, which was the result of a lawsuit filed by the CDU, currently posed the greatest hurdle to economic recovery and transformation, Habeck argued. He added that the coalition government had managed to revive renewable power expansion and would advocate for a quick reduction of bureaucracy, which often was held up by the states rather than the federal government. “A lot of things are decided by the states,” Habeck said according to news site n-tv, adding that especially wind turbine licensing, which is particularly slow in coal mining state Saxony, would depend on the state governments. “I’m often angry about what I read from you,” Habeck told Kretschmer, adding that he would often “ask myself how I would talk to the people if I was Saxony’s state premier,” where the threat by the populist AfD is more severe than in any other state.  

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