There are still two and a half weeks until the general election. Green Chancellor candidate Annalena Baerbock and her team are traveling across the republic these days on a tour bus. The aim is to gain ground against the SPD and the Union in numerous events, public debates and television appearances. By the end of the election campaign, Baerbock will have traveled around 14,000 kilometers. Thorsten Knuf and Dorothee Torebko also conducted this interview on the way – while traveling from Berlin to Rostock.
: Mrs Baerbock, who will be the Federal Chancellor – Olaf Scholz or Armin Laschet?
Annalena Baerbock: I am giving everything so that there is a Green Federal Chancellor – because we need real changes and not the pursuit of the grand coalition.
In the polls, things are looking bad for the Greens at the moment. Have you already struck off the internal chancellery?
No. The election is not yet over. It’s all in there, we keep fighting for every vote. The constant driving on the spot in Germany must come to an end. During the pandemic, this meant children could only be taught digitally for months with great stumbles because schools are not well digitized. The most recent extreme weather events have shown once again that we finally need effective climate protection. If we do this now, it will also give German industry a boost for modernization. Olaf Scholz and Armin Laschet want to stick to coal-fired power generation for another 17 years and thus slow down renewable energies. It won’t work like that.
In the 2017 elections, the Greens won 8.9%. Could doubling the vote this year sound like a defeat because the party actually wanted to go to the Chancellery?
The count will take place on September 26 from 6 p.m. There was a point in recent history when the country felt that after a long Chancellery a new start was needed. It was in 1998, when the government of the day was defeated and the Red-Greens took over. I feel a great mood for change.
You and Olaf Scholz recently made it clear that they would prefer to rule in a bipartisan coalition of Greens and Social Democrats. Is Scholz now an opponent or a partner in the latest campaign push?
It is true that we, the Greens, would like to govern with the SPD. But of course under green leadership. We are for renewal, Olaf Scholz for getting confused like the Groko. Its attachment to coal is incompatible with the Paris Climate Agreement. We also have other ideas on social justice: We Greens want to invest heavily, for example in local public transport and in the construction of new social housing. But Mr Scholz is not trying to create the necessary leeway by reforming the debt brake.
What if that wasn’t enough for a bipartisan alliance? So do you prefer the traffic light, Jamaica or red-red-green?
I want the strongest greens that ever existed. And of course, our international partners must also be able to count on Germany in the future. I have doubts as to whether this would be possible if the Left Party participated in the government. Just recently, the left was not even ready to agree to rescue German citizens, local workers and women’s rights activists in Afghanistan. In doing so, it left the beaten track in terms of foreign policy.
Why is it so difficult for you to clearly reject an alliance with Die Linke?
Democratic parties cannot refuse to speak to other Democratic parties. In Thuringia we saw where something like this can lead: first an FDP Prime Minister took office with the help of the AfD, then new elections failed. After a poll, each party should look for where it has the greatest overlap with other democratic forces. But if it turns out that a central issue cannot be reliably dealt with, then a coalition cannot arise.
During these weeks you will travel all over Germany in a diesel-powered tourist bus. Why doesn’t it drive electrically?
Because the electric bus market unfortunately does not yet produce what is needed for a week-long country tour through Germany. Moreover, it is also a point on which it is urgent to move forward.
The Greens reject new registrations with internal combustion engines from 2030. Electric cars are currently expensive. How do you plan to ensure that rural families are not left behind?
I grew up in the village myself. Without a car, bus or train, you are almost lost. That is why it is our duty to manage the shift to clean mobility in rural areas as well. In many places, of course, this includes the expansion of local public transport. But you can hardly do without cars in the country. So we need to expand the infrastructure of charging stations, especially in rural areas, and do it differently when promoting electric cars.
What would you do differently?
I want to align the subsidies for electric cars so that lower income people get higher subsidies, especially when buying a used electric car. Because reality has long overtaken politics. The major automakers will only be bringing electric cars to the market in a few years. Cars are getting cheaper and a market for used cars is emerging.
How do you want to accelerate the expansion of the charging infrastructure?
We need a policy that actively gets things done. Just like in Baden-Württemberg: there Prime Minister Winfried Kretschmann and his last government ensured that there was a charging station every ten kilometers and a fast charging station every 20 kilometers. In the new coalition agreement, it is now anchored that there should be a fast charging station every five kilometers. This is exactly what we need all over Germany. For this to be successful, we want to speed up planning considerably. Funding is expected to be approved and disbursed faster – at the moment, some companies cannot start construction for months. In addition, funding should be more location based. Specifically, this means that for more charging stations to be built in rural areas as well, the subsidy must be higher there than before. Currently, there is only one public charging station in one in three municipalities.
They want to spend 75 euros per inhabitant per year to cushion climate protection. The competition thinks it’s impractical. How should the money get to the citizens’ account?
I wonder why the Union and the SPD defend themselves above all against social balances in terms of climate protection. If you want it can be done. One possibility is to reach people via the tax identification number. An expert opinion from the Federal Ministry of the Environment also considers this route to be possible. For people without an account, there is the possibility of paying in cash at the post office.
As Chancellor, you will also have to deal intensively with foreign policy. After taking power in Afghanistan, the Taliban demanded diplomatic relations and financial aid. How do you feel about this?
The Taliban are trampling on all human rights. They despise women, marry twelve-year-old children and do not allow free expression of opinion or demonstrations. This Islamist terrorist organization cannot be recognized as a government and diplomatic relations cannot be established. However, the catastrophe of the past few weeks has led to the need to speak to the Taliban so that people who are at risk of dying – for example because they have worked for us or campaigned for women’s rights – can hopefully on, be made safe.
What must happen before the Taliban regime is recognized?
We are talking about a human slaughter organization. So don’t think that the Taliban may not be that bad. This distracts attention from the fact that the federal government has not fulfilled its responsibility. It is important now to hold a conference on Afghanistan as soon as possible, in which NATO states, neighboring countries, but also Russia and China come together. The focus should be on emergency aid to those at risk, but also on the future of Afghanistan. It is important to prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven for international terrorists.
You did a lot of sports when you were young – trampoline jumping and soccer. Have you ever been a captain?
Not with football. Only later in politics.
What makes a good captain?
Don’t just think about yourself, but also keep an eye on the team. Too often there has been conflict within the federal government in recent years. For example, more recently during the pandemic between the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Economic Affairs – with the result that corona aid did not reach those in need quickly enough. The next government must once again see itself as a team. Ideally, with a female captain in the chancellor’s office. (knuf)
December 15, 1980 she was born in Hanover as the daughter of a social worker and a mechanical engineer. The politician from Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen has been federal president of her party with Robert Habeck since January 2018. Baerbock is the Greens’ candidate for chancellor in the federal elections of 2021; With Habeck, she forms the party’s best duo for the election campaign. She has been a member of the German Bundestag since 2013. Previously she was president of the Brandenburg regional association from 2009 to 2013. Baerbock is assigned to the “Realo” wing of her party. She practiced trampoline gymnastics as a competitive sport throughout her childhood and adolescence. (f)