Federal party conference: The Greens between Europe and Thuringia

The headwind that is supposedly constantly blowing in their faces is the most overused metaphor at the Green Party's federal party conference in Karlsruhe.

Federal party conference: The Greens between Europe and Thuringia

The headwind that is supposedly constantly blowing in their faces is the most overused metaphor at the Green Party's federal party conference in Karlsruhe. The officials and candidates who strive for this image like to emphasize that they are still not wobbling and are rewarded with applause or even cheers. This is good in times when the Greens are suffering from the unpopularity of their traffic light coalition with the SPD and FDP and new upheavals at the EU level are painful. Many find warm words for the commitment of their own ministers, especially Federal Minister of Economics Robert Habeck and Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock.

The only tough confrontation occurred on Sunday night during a debate on refugee policy and upcoming tightening measures. Shouts of “No human being is illegal” ring through the hall. Outraged Greens with accusatory posters walk through the ranks. The leader of the Green Youth, Katharina Stolla, warns: "Anyone who follows the right will stumble."

No majority for amendment from the Green Youth

Habeck counters. Action should not be guided by the desire to “be on the right side” on this issue. He warns that the junior organization's proposals are actually "a vote of no confidence in disguise" and an indirect call to leave the traffic light government made up of the SPD, Greens and FDP. In the end, there was a lot of vocal support, but no majority for the Green Youth's amendment. The youth organization had submitted an application with which they wanted to prohibit ministers and parliamentary groups in the federal and state governments from agreeing to "further tightening of asylum law".

Right at the beginning of the debate on her party's program for the European elections, co-federal chairwoman Ricarda Lang emphasized that "Europe is not something that is done on the sidelines, but rather the basis of our political action." Baerbock describes Europe as “our life insurance”. Europe is also a place of longing for many Greens, where one's own politics can be pursued - or at least formulated - beyond consideration of actual or possible coalition partners.

But in practice, some of what is currently being negotiated at EU level is becoming a stress test for the Greens internally - similar to what the Union experienced in government responsibility from 2010 onwards, when, contrary to the beliefs of many German conservatives, new "rescue packages" were constantly being introduced. for Eurozone states threatened with bankruptcy.

In the asylum debate, Baerbock appeals to the delegates' sense of reality and emphasizes that Germany, with its liberal stance on refugee policy at the EU level, represents a minority position, just like the Greens in Germany.

Baerbock: “Our diversity is our strength”

When it comes to foreign policy issues, it sometimes becomes clear that unity in the European Union “is not a sure-fire success,” admits Baerbock. It was not just the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine that was a challenge. The EU is also being "tested in recent weeks by the situation in the Middle East, where - we have to be honest here too - we as Europeans have not always found a common language," she adds.

The federal government says less than most EU states about the proportionality of Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip after the Hamas terrorist attack. Baerbock fails to mention that the federal government also occupies a minority position here. Instead, she wants to put a positive spin on the disunity: "Our diversity is our strength."

The fact that the members of the government and leading representatives of the Bundestag faction are promoting thinking outside the box and reaching out to potential voters beyond the classic Green Party supporters is sometimes not well received by the grassroots, as represented in Karlsruhe. Delegates demand that one should not define “prosperity” as a goal, but rather clearly state the limits to growth in view of the climate crisis - but this initiative fails.

Only a third want the traffic lights to continue

Many party conference participants see the fact that the first Federal Chancellor Konrad Adenauer (CDU) is quoted in the draft for the European election program supported by the Federal Executive Board as unnecessary ingratiation with conservatives. They have nothing wrong with the content of the quote: "The unity of Europe was a dream of a few. It became a hope for many. Today it is a necessity for all of us." They care about the person. In the end, a majority supported the amendment and the passage was deleted from the draft.

The unpopularity of the government alliance between the SPD, the Greens and the FDP is only mentioned in passing in Karlsruhe; according to the ARD Deutschlandtrend, only around a third of eligible voters want its continued existence. If you ask top Green Party politicians, you often hear that the traffic light coalition doesn't communicate well and sometimes doesn't understand how to showcase its successes.

"It's about the sausage," says a sticker from the Greens from Thuringia that young delegates are handing out at the party conference. No, this is not about vegetarian nutrition in the land of bratwurst. Rather, they want to drum up support for a difficult election campaign. Current surveys see the Greens involved in the Erfurt government in Thuringia below the five percent hurdle - and the AfD in first place.