On April 20, Germany’s ruling CDU / CSU finally decided who would run as a conservative candidate to win German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the September 2021 federal election: the arrogant and unpopular Armin Lashete. Just days earlier, the German Greens had fielded their own candidate, Chancellor, the young and moderate Analena Barbak.
On the day Lashech’s candidacy was confirmed, a pre-election poll on the same day found support for the German Greens at an unprecedented 28 percent. Only 21 percent of respondents said they plan to vote for the CDU / SCU union in the same poll. Since then, the leadership has grown stronger, with the Greens overtaking the CDU for the first time to form a poll, suggesting that the Conservatives, who have ruled Germany for the past 16 years, could be ousted in September as the Bundestag’s strongest party.
Speculation has already begun in Germany and beyond about what the Green Barbaric Channelship might mean. And there are a few places where a dramatic political earthquake will be felt as strongly as in East Germany’s neighbors.
It is not just the geographical proximity that makes Germany prosperous in Central European countries such as Poland, Czechoslovakia, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia and other regions.
Given Germany’s perfect economic weight and Merkel’s close political ties with Central European countries over the years, a green government in Berlin will significantly change the regional momentum.
Trade between Germany and Central European countries has grown exponentially over the past two decades. Trade between Poland and Germany alone increased from .7 15.7 billion in 2003 to .5 87.5 billion in 2014, an increase of 457 percent. By 2019, the already impressive number has risen further to 8 148 billion. In addition, seasonal labor from Central and Eastern Europe is the key to German agriculture and the German automotive industry has opened large factories in several Central European countries such as Slovakia, Czechia, Hungary and Poland.
Meanwhile, Central European governments in Berlin have generally found a suitable and willing political partner. Germany’s CDU is the most prominent member of the Pan-European European People’s Party (EPP), the main body for political cooperation in Europe’s Transnational Center-Right. This is especially true of Central and Eastern Europe, the “heartland” of the EPP in many ways. Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Lithuania, Latvia, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Hungary are all ruled by EPP parties. These governments are naturally politically very close to Berlin.
But with the green victory in the federal election, all of this could change in September.
The EPP-approved Central European governments have little in common with the German Greens. The right-wing PIS government in Poland or the leadership of the Czech people is not a natural ally for the left-wing environmentalist party. After all, with the exception of Austria, where they rule in alliance with local EPP affiliates, the green parties in Central Europe are still not decisive actors in mainstream politics.
Although Barbarak is a member of his party’s moderate party, Green’s victory in Germany’s upcoming elections will still mark the most important political division between Berlin and the rest of Central Europe since the European Union expanded into the region in the early 2000s.
The Conservative Chancellor has made enough spots in Germany and even in Berlin and Brussels. It’s hard to see how they wouldn’t collide any more with the green one. The same is true of Hungary and Slovenia.
Nevertheless, the huge influx of labor, goods and investment between Germany and the rest of Central Europe will probably put Berlin and its neighbors under the green vice chancellor in the near future.
Moreover, if they take the lead in Germany in September, the Greens will have the opportunity to move regional governments on an issue that is more important to them than anything else: climate change.
Many Central European countries are notoriously behind the rest of Europe in terms of climate issues. Poland, for example, still derives percent0 percent of its energy from coal, and it is the only European country in the world where carbon emissions have increased over the past decade. Climate Rarely is there a problem with hot buttons in this region. Most Central Europeans see migration rather than climate change as the most important challenge facing the EU.
The hostility of regional governments to green politics and the lack of interest in climate change in the Central European elections will undoubtedly make it difficult for the German Greens to persuade the region to take action on climate change. Add to that the fact that the Central European governments have a strong preference for nuclear power over the strong anti-nuclear roots of the German Greens and are sure that there will be no shortage of hostility in policy making at the European level.
Nevertheless, the Green Chancellor can still use Germany’s economic clutches to guide Central Europeans towards green politics and policies.
Central European countries are largely opposed to green policies because they believe that going green will have a negative impact on their economies. They are also concerned about the social impact of stepping up some polluting industries like coal.
If Barbeque could demonstrate the economic opportunity for Germany’s neighbors to relocate to the East, he might be able to persuade many of them to join the fight against climate change. Central European countries would be particularly receptive to the idea of taking money to modernize polluting industries and build green infrastructure.
Central Europe will not turn green overnight but will come in September, Germany probably. What this means for Central Europe is new political divisions, but also new opportunities. Which can go not only to green Germany, but also to green Europe. A lush green Central Europe, at least.
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the author and his editorial position on Al Jazeera.