Greens face standoff over nuclear deal
At their federal party congress in Münster (North-Rhine Westfalia), scheduled for 23 and 24 June, the Green rank and file were slated to decide on the so-called nuclear compromise negotiated between the Red-Green federal government and the nuclear industry.
The agreement, which still has to be passed into law by the cabinet and then to be adopted by the Bundestag, envisages the prohibition of new nuclear power plants and a gradual "switch-off" of existing ones, which are to go out of service by 2032.
Green federal ministers and the large majority of prominent Green politicians have urged the "party basis" to accept the deal as the best offer achievable, warning against a coalition crisis with the co-ruling Social Democrats.
Still, the party may be stretched to the breaking point over this issue.
Antje Radcke, one of two Green chairpersons and a representative of the left wing, has announced she will step down if the agreement is endorsed by the Congress, saying she fears a break-away of the left wing with lethal effects for the entire Green party. In her opinion, the deal is not good enough because it leaves the plant owners too much leeway in implementation.
Radcke invoked a stipulation in the 1998 Red-Green coalition treaty providing for "legislation in dissent" (ie a unilateral nuclear exit policy) in case the industry would not agree to a 30-year time limit. Rather than scaring the party rank and file into submission by anticipating a coalition break-up, Radcke says the Green ministers should have urged the Social Democrats to abide by the treaty.
However, the pro-agreement "realists" are accusing Radcke of creating an atmosphere of confrontation through her backing of the left wing "from above." The man essentially in charge of the nuclear compromise, Minister for the Environment Jürgen Trittin, is himself regarded as a member of the left wing, but defended the deal with the nuclear industry as a great achievement.
In practical terms, Trittin said, most of the older nuclear plants would not continue to operate for much more than a decade. The Red-Green government, he said, had a unique opportunity to force the long-dreamt-of Atomausstieg (nuclear exit) because, with the defeat of the liberal-conservative parties in 1998, the nuclear industry lost their natural friends on the other side of the negotiating table.
Fittingly, representatives of the nuclear industry have made it known that they see the agreement as a preliminary step that does not yet seal the fate of their industry - a new government might well be ready to scrap the deal. Indeed, the Christian Democrats (CDU) and Free Democrats (FDP), presently in opposition, have said they would do so.
Apart from this crucial decision, the party congress is also set to adopt a new party structure, hoping to end the (in)famous "grassroots chaos" which has repeatedly made the Greens the laughing-stock of the more traditional parties and hampered many a political decision.
Under the restructuring, two chairpersons will work with the Bundesvorstand (federal party board of six persons) and the Parteirat (party council of 16 persons). The latter is to act as the coordinating body between the party, parliamentary club, cabinet ministers and regional bodies.
The "realist" fraction expects a major boost for its policy line in the wake of Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer's notice that he would be a candidate for membership in the Parteirat. For some time, Fischer has been regarded as the Greens' "virtual chairman," but this is the first time that he has stood for a formal post in the party.
Greens stay in North-Rhine Westfalia government
After weeks of nerve-straining negotiations, the future of the Red-Green government of North-Rhine Westfalia seemed to hang by a thread early this week, yet almost unexpectedly recovered by mid-week.
On Wednesday, Minister President Wolfgang Clement (Social Democrat - SPD) unexpectedly won re-election by the Landtag (regional parliament) in Düsseldorf, receiving 119 of 230 valid votes. This result was perceived by government parties as an early sign of success heralding "five good years in office."
Clement's success compared favourably to his first election five years ago, when he took over as minister president from Johannes Rau. Then, he was elected with only a small margin and with several Social Democrats voting against him because of his coup d'etat against Rau.
The minister president called the new coalition treaty a viable working start, and announced that there would be "more open and pro-active" cooperation with the Greens. During the negotiations, Clement, a right-wing Social Democrat, pushed the Greens toward a more business-friendly position.
Police unions outraged over officer's slaying
Gerhard Vogler, chairman of the Deutsche Polizeigewerkschaft (German Police Union) and his colleague Norbert Spinrath of the Gewerkschaft der Polizei (Union of Policemen) have called for harsher punishment of crimes against policemen in the wake of the murder of a 32-year old policeman on Thursday, 22 June, in Niederwalluf, in the Land of Hessen.
The suspect, a 25-year old Turkish citizen, was detained for questioning on drug-related charges in the street by two police officers when he snatched one officer's pistol and opened fire. The officers returned fire, injuring the gunman, but one officer died later from serious injuries.
The shooting Thursday was the fourth time a police officer has been killed in the line of duty in the past week. Last weekend, criminals in the Ruhr area in North-Rhine Westfalia gunned down three other officers.
Vogler called on the Länder ministers of the interior to convene an extraordinary meeting on the issue of better protection for police officers on duty.
Since the Second World War, and particularly after the 1968 "revolution," German politicians have tended to require police to keep a low profile so as to avoid any illusion of a police state. In the 1980s, this policy allowed left-wing extremists to target on-duty police units, while the latter received little backing from political leaders who had enacted the policies against which the extremists were reacting in the first place.
In Germany, regular police are under Länder control, which has led to widely varying approaches to dealing with anti-police violence.
Public service strike averted
In a last-minute agreement, employers and trade unions in the public sector managed to avoid a
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The continuing wage differential between eastern and western Germany, a special bone of contention, will be raised in three stages so that eastern wages will hit 90 per cent of the comparative western levels.
Additional pressure may now come from some civil servants that were not included in this deal. Due to their special status, a minority of civil servants are not allowed to go on strike, but are nevertheless demanding similar salary increases.
Jens Boysen, 24 June 2000
ZDF (Public German TV) Online News
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung