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Sunday, December 3, 2023

Green Party leader on her balance sheet: “We make a difference”

Ricarda Lang and Omid Nouripour want to be re-elected. A conversation about good migration policy and flying tomatoes.

Omid Nouripour and Ricarda Lang stand next to each other

Omid Nouripour and Ricarda Lang want to be re-elected Photo: Sophie Kirchner

wochentaz: Ms. Lang, Mr. Nouripour, when you became federal chairwoman of the Greens two years ago, your party saw itself on the way to becoming a people’s party. Now that you want to be re-elected, the Greens are considered a banned party and Your party friends are afraid of hostility during the election campaign. What did you do wrong?

48, was born in Tehran and moved to Frankfurt with his parents at the age of 13. He has been a member of the Bundestag for the Greens since 2006 and is considered part of the Realo wing. He has been federal chairman of the Greens since 2022.

Omid Nouripour: If people are afraid of hostility, it’s not a problem for the Greens, but for our democracy. It’s true that the debate is sometimes heated and we are at the center of it all. But this also shows that we make a difference.

So no mistakes on your part?

29, grew up in Nürtingen as the daughter of a single-parent social worker. She was the spokesperson for the Green Youth and is considered to be part of the left wing of the party. She has been federal chairwoman of the Greens since 2022.

Ricarda Lang: Sometimes we also lose sight of what’s important. Let’s take the end of the fossil fuel combustion engine at the European level: This is one of the most important climate policy successes of this legislation. On the way there, the country got bogged down in a weeks-long, small-scale debate about e-fuels.

That doesn’t sound really self-critical. The debate was on behalf of the FDP.

Long: We also contributed to this.

Robert Habeck and Annalena Baerbock, your predecessors, tried to reinvent the image of the Greens: out of the camp mentality, into the center – that was called the “alliance party”. There isn’t much left of it, as much camp as there was today not long.

Long: I see that quite differently. We are at the center of the political debate and make policy from there. People rub against us because we move things forward. There is an attempt to push us back into the niche. But we won’t allow that.

A large part of the population no longer sees you in the middle. You are on the defensive. What’s your plan to get out of there?

Nouripour: Solving the problems that others have caused while at the same time driving forward modernization and taking better precautions: That is the plan. It’s about bringing prosperity, climate protection and justice together. If there is a party that is up to this task, it is the Greens.

Long: There is a certain level of crisis fatigue in the country, which I can understand. This is sometimes accompanied by the desire for changes to be over. And there is an attempt to project that onto the Greens. But it was the grand coalition’s denial of reality that meant that our country was hardly prepared for crises. Change is not an end in itself, but is sometimes necessary to create stability and security for people. We have to put the social question at the beginning.

You say that often. But at the traffic lights the social question always comes at the end: The funding for new heating systems has not yet been decidedthe promised climate money does not exist, and basic child welfare is poorly equipped.

Long: I would add a few positive points to the list. Minimum wage: increased to 12 euros, although it must continue to rise. Citizens’ money: introduced and Hartz IV left behind. Basic child security: is coming and is a paradigm shift in the fight against child poverty. And the Tariff Compliance Act is yet to follow – with the aim of ensuring that state money is not spent on wage dumping. We need a promise of justice to the middle, this is also about social cohesion.

The Federal Constitutional Court’s decision on the climate and transformation fund doesn’t make this any easier; 60 billion euros are missing. What does this mean for your politics?

Nouripour: This is a significant challenge for all democratic parties, because the ruling is a very fundamental one and also affects the question of how Germany remains internationally competitive. Look at the USA, where billions of dollars are being invested in future technologies. The competition to see who is the international pioneer is in full swing. It’s about jobs and stability, it’s about standards, it’s about where innovation will emerge in the future. Accordingly, the government will find solutions together.

They were kicked out of the government in Berlin and Hesse and things aren’t looking good with the extra-parliamentary alliances either. The climate movement has turned away because the traffic light guts the climate protection law. Social associations are leaving the Green Family Minister’s “Alliance for the Young Generation”. Human rights activists are turning their backs on you because of your asylum policy. Do they lose their partners?

Long: No. We are in good and constructive exchange with our alliance partners and beyond. One example is the large project of climate-neutral prosperity. On my summer tour this year I was also in Lusatia, an area where tomatoes might have been thrown ten years ago during a debate about coal mining. There I talked to young trainees about what kind of job they would have in ten years. You know something will change there. The most important thing is honesty – and that people don’t get the feeling that we decide things over their heads.

But that’s exactly the feeling you conveyed, for example with the heating law or the liquid gas terminal on Rügen.

Long: There has been a loss of trust in democratic institutions in recent months. Above all, people want to know: What does politics specifically mean to me? They don’t care whether something is a green, yellow or red success. The traffic light can regain trust.

Nouripour: People need to feel like they are being taken seriously. That they won’t be fooled. This is something that sets us apart. We don’t pretend that we can go back to the 90s – or that everything will be fine if it just stays the way it is. And because you mentioned the movements: They have a different role than us and that’s a good thing. With their help, and also with their criticism, we can sometimes achieve more.

Some of the movements feel betrayed by you.

Nouripour: My perception is that people don’t expect us to do miracles, they expect us to have an attitude and move the business in the right direction. We also have a lot of discussions within the party. We talk about what we have achieved and of course also about what we have not achieved and what still has to come. Compromise is part of democracy and is ultimately its essence. Our impression is that people see that the direction is right, even if it is not yet enough in some places.

This text comes from the weekday. Our weekly newspaper from the left! Every week, wochentaz is about the world as it is – and as it could be. A left-wing weekly newspaper with a voice, attitude and the special taz view of the world. New every Saturday at the kiosk and of course by subscription.

With you at the head of the government, shouldn’t the party no longer contradict the government and exert more pressure so that the Greens get more done?

Nouripour: It is the party’s job to incorporate the positions into the process in such a way that as much of them as possible is reflected in the result. This is what we do. It doesn’t help anyone if the decision has already been made and the game is already over to enter the next generation.

Long: And the fact that the party is united is a great political strength, especially when there is headwind. Of course, we as chairmen will not apologize for this. Among our members, but also among the population, opposition within the government is not honored.

Ms. Lang, you as a party left published an opinion piece with the Baden-Württemberg Prime Minister Kretschmann that was intended to show the party: We will stay together on migration policy. In an interview with the taz, Kretschmann countered this by warning the Greens to move more. Does that annoy you?

Long: I don’t have time to be angry.

Hard to believe.

Long: Our contribution shows that a common position is possible. It was a signal to the public debate: Let’s get away from this competition of fake solutions and the loudest possible demands. Let’s discuss what works. We have defined three things for this: Firstly, humanity, i.e. that we have a humanitarian responsibility. Second: order, we need orderly procedures.

Nouripour: And thirdly, objectivity. Because I know from my own experience that every comma in immigration law can be vital.

“Humanity and order” is the same slogan as that of the Union.

Nouripour: We have had it since 2017. The conditions at the external borders are unbearable. People sometimes live on the Greek islands for two and a half years in degrading conditions before their applications are even considered. There is a lack of order, there is a lack of humanity. Many municipalities in our country are overburdened because there is not only a lack of money, but also a lack of living space and staff. It is therefore a great success that the municipalities are now receiving an additional three and a half billion euros.

Winfried Kretschmann said in the taz: On the migration issue, the Greens have to “let off the brakes when it comes to curbing irregular migration,” otherwise they would end up in the niche again. Ms. Lang, would you also sign that?

Long: I would sign what I wrote myself.

Nouripour: Furthermore, it is a false contradiction. For years, our program has not only included legal paths and lane changes, but also that people whose applications have been rejected and who do not enjoy subsidiary protection cannot stay.

Something different: What are you actually really proud of?

Nouripour: I am proud that the expansion of renewables is progressing in such a way that the energy transition is no longer reversible. And how united this party is.

Long: And that no one wants to escape responsibility. The last two years have given me courage. We have achieved a lot. We became independent of Russian gas within a year and got the country through last winter.

For many people, the current situation is anything but encouraging. They are worried, also with regard to the AfD’s poll numbers.

Long: When I say that the country needs courage, it also has to do with the AfD. When a lot of bad things are said, it benefits those who live from fear. Courage does not mean sugarcoating and does not mean naive ignorance of the real situation. But it is the convinced belief that we can do something better together in these real circumstances.

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