By keeping the three German nuclear power plants still operating longer, chancellor Scholz has managed to avert a government crisis. Especially the German liberals get their way.

In recent weeks, tensions between the German liberals (FDP) and the Greens have risen so high that the cracks in the Berlin coalition were clearly visible. But on Monday evening, the parties, together with coalition partner SPD, agreed on the headache issue of nuclear energy.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) addressed a letter to the responsible minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Robert Habeck (Greens) with the message: the three remaining nuclear power plants will remain connected to the German grid until mid-April next year. And given the ongoing energy crisis, probably longer.

While some members of the Greens reacted with disappointment, Habeck showed satisfaction with the deal, which also provides that the nuclear power plants are no longer allowed to process additional fuel elements. That was for the Greens, once founded as a party against nuclear energy, a’hard-hitting red line’. With the current elements, the power plants run for up to 4 months longer.

On Sunday, the Greens didn’t seem so far away. At the party congress in Bonn, party officials watched nervously as the climate movement Fridays for Future fiercely criticized the party’s course. Nevertheless, the main concerns of the party administration were directed to that one point of contention within the Berlin coalition.

“The Greens are willing to step over their own shadow to ensure energy security (of Germany). I hope that there is willingness on the other side to do the same,” said 28-year-old Ricarda Lang in an enthusiastic speech to the FDP.

In doing so, the youngest party chairman of Germany was referring to a – According to her – big concession that the Greens already made on Friday: two of the three nuclear power plants (Isar 2 and Neckarwestheim) can remain open after next year in case of emergency. A small majority of the group voted in favour.

But also the third nuclear power plant (Emsland) had to and would remain open, it sounded from a liberal angle. Chancellor Scholz foresaw problems and called his main government members Christian Lindner (FDP, finance minister) and Habeck together for a crisis summit. An agreement followed 36 hours later.

The turn of the Liberals is somewhat striking, because a month earlier the party still agreed to the closure of the plant in Lower Saxony at the end of this year. But after the painful electoral defeat in this state – the FDP was swept away, while the Greens won – the party crawled back.

“Lindner will drive the fight to the forefront so that he can say in the event of a blackout: it’s all Habeck’s fault,” a party colleague told tabloid Bild.

According to the 43-year-old FDP party leader Lindner – given the extreme energy prices and their consequences – there is no other option than nuclear energy. The concerns of German industry and business about the sky-high production costs are increasing, others also see.

With the core deal, Lindner seems to be the moral winner. Habeck was already firmly under fire within his own group for his advocacy of coal. In the last agreement, the economics minister points to Scholz in the face of critical party members. “He took a big risk, and that’s why I think we should follow him, because anything else would be politically irresponsible.”

In order to keep the three nuclear power plants open longer, a rapid reform of the nuclear law from 2011 is required. Habeck expects the Greens to agree despite all criticism: “Germany and Europe are in a serious crisis. To put the government at risk in this situation does not seem to me at all proportional.”

About the author: Damien Karlström

The editor-in-chief worked for many years as a literary editor in Bern's leading publications. Over time, I decided to become the editor-in-chief. The main direction of materials is international relations and society.

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