On Saturday, the Greens will have a blast

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Low in the polls, a partly incapacitated traffic light coalition and now a deep dispute over Germany’s approval of the EU’s migration policy: the Greens are rumbling more than ever. Because an important party committee is meeting at the weekend, there is an inevitable showdown.

Both sides agree on one point: it’s been a long time since the Greens have had such a bad argument as this one. And the situation for the party has certainly not been as dangerous for many years as it was this summer, when the Greens are approaching unity in polls, while the AfD, as a self-proclaimed anti-Green party, is setting records.

The Greens have already had to cope with a lot over the past two years: a chancellor campaign that overwhelmed the candidate and the party apparatus, coalition negotiations with painful concessions to the FDP, massive military support for Ukraine, the reactivation of coal-fired power plants and the extension of the lifespan of nuclear power plants in the Energy crisis, the approval of dredging Lützerath and finally a heated argument about the heating law. The dispute that has erupted over the past few days over migration policy is the overflowing camel that has been full to the brim for some time.

One deal, many interpretations

“The conflict is definitely even bigger than Lützerath,” says Timon Dzienus, co-chairman of the Green Youth. The youth organization almost caused a scandal at the federal party conference of the Greens last fall. A motion by the Green Youth against the government compromise with RWE, which saved five villages but sealed the end of Lützerath in return, almost succeeded despite urgent intervention by the party leadership. When the state council meets in Bad Vilbel, Hesse, on Saturday, a kind of small party conference, the uprising against the party leadership and in particular against Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and Economics Minister Robert Habeck could be successful – and the conflicts in the traffic light could be exacerbated again.

The stumbling block is the agreement reached by the EU member state governments at the end of last week to reform EU migration policy. This deal, which Interior Minister Nancy Faeser of the SPD called a “historic breakthrough,” is interpreted very differently in the ranks of the Greens. The left wing of the party sees nothing less than an abolition of the right to asylum with the help of a federal government supported by the Greens. Most, but not all, members of the competing Realo wing support Baerbock’s reading of the “painful compromise”. At least it has been possible to overcome the previous division of the EU, to steer migration in a more orderly direction in the future and to either involve other states in taking in refugees or to ask them to pay for their refusal.

Conflicting stories have long been circulating within the party: before making the decision, the Federal Foreign Office gave the faction and party leadership a false sense of security that Germany would not agree to any worsening of refugee rights. There is no sense of guilt there: the agreement in Brussels was reached at very short notice, it does bring improvements and was always better than letting an agreement fall apart.

The Green MEP Erik Marquardt, a fighter for refugee rights who is particularly valued by the party left, has been spreading his interpretation of the EU deal on Twitter, among other things, for days: children should be held in prison-like conditions in the EU border procedure, the border procedure also threatens refugees with very good chances of staying like Syrians and Afghans, there is no binding regulation that obliges all EU states to accept migrants.

“Content Gutting Out of Fear”

“This is how Moria becomes the European standard,” warns Dzenius, referring to the highly controversial Greek refugee camp, where up to 20,000 refugee men, women and children lived until the fire in 2020. Grassroots Greens have used swearwords on the agreement between the 27 EU governments on social media, but MPs from the party also curse the compromise negotiated by Baerbock, among others, behind closed doors.

A member of parliament, who is actually one of the foreign minister’s supporters, reports a “crass atmosphere” in the party. The deal was a “content gutting out of fear” because Baerbock and Habeck wanted to avoid another debate about “ideological Greens” after the heating dispute. In the district associations you know, there are already more resignations than during the dispute over Lützerath. In fact, many of the newer Green Party members among the 120,000 joined the party in the years after 2015 because of refugee policies and the fight against AfD and other far-right forces. The Greens say that many of them no longer understand the world. Migrant women’s rights have become an identity for the Greens.

The Green Youth will therefore submit a motion to the state council on Saturday that calls for a more humanitarian course in migration policy, Dzenius announced. A member of the Bundestag says she wants “that we can continue to say from a strong position in the future that we are the party that will not be driven by a shift to the right and populism. To do this, we have to admit that Germany made mistakes in the Council last week has.” Svenja Borgschulte, spokeswoman for the Greens’ internal federal working group on migration and flight, said at the weekend: “We have to count Annalena.”

He has not seen anything like this in his party for a long time, says a confidant of Baerbock about the uproar among the Greens. The aim of the attacks is unclear to him. Baerbock and Habeck, who explicitly stood by their side, weaken? In a situation in which the Green federal ministers are already subject to constant criticism and are embroiled in a coalition-internal feud with the FDP: What is the point of that?

A task for the divided leadership

It is also striking that in the dispute over the right to asylum, even experienced party strategists jump on cabinet members. The former parliamentary group leader Katrin Göring-Eckardt, who is actually assigned to the Realos, is one of the critics of the asylum deal, as is the left-wing party Jürgen Trittin and the chairman of the European Committee, Anton Hofreiter. Aminata Touré, state minister in Schleswig-Holstein, who counts as Reala, and MEP Hannah Neumann also criticized the agreement. It is by no means only the inexperienced younger generation or the left who are rebelling.

It is the task of the chairmen of the party and parliamentary group to moderate and bring together such a deep division. But their double seats instead reflect the inner turmoil of the Greens themselves: co-party leader Omid Nouripour and co-group leader Britta Hasselmann sided with Baerbock, co-leader Ricarda Lang and co-group leader Katharina Dröge are against the deal. Now Lang and Nouripour, who probably want to apply for re-election as party leaders in the fall, are looking forward to a showdown on Saturday: the party has to let off steam, but come out of the meeting in Bad Vilbel more united than at present.

The foreign minister, who is also a member of the extended executive committee of the party council, will travel there herself. She will declare herself, advocate for the need for painful compromises and try to rally the majority behind her and the other Green members of the government. It is also to be expected that at the end there will be a leading motion that assures the party that the Greens will not participate in further dismantling the right to asylum – for example in the expansion of the list of safe countries of origin to Morocco and Algeria announced by Chancellor Olaf Scholz. In this way, the base could actually once again be gathered behind the green government team. But then they have to implement their promise – against the migration policy goals of their own coalition partners.



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