This Friday evening belongs to Robert Habeck. The German Economics Minister and Vice-Chancellor urgently needed the result, which the 800 delegates at the Green party conference in Bonn gave him an hour earlier than planned: The two southern German nuclear power plants Isar 2 and Neckarwestheim are allowed to run longer. With a large majority, the Greens support temporary reserve operation of the two nuclear reactors.
Anything else would have massively damaged the former party leader. The delegates absolutely wanted to prevent that, because Habeck has been under pressure for weeks. In the past few weeks, Habeck has been treated by the opposition, but also at many demonstrations, as the whipping boy of the energy crisis.
The economics minister was also insulted in front of the Bonn World Conference Center, where the Greens gathered this weekend for their 48th party congress. Some demonstrators consider top green politicians like him to be warmongers, others to be traitors to the green climate cause.
But inside, in the hall of the Visavis congress center built in the middle of the former government district, the Green delegates are cheering him on.
He pretends to be combative, swearing his party into a hard winter: "We will experience hostilities because we stand for everything that Putin and his German trolls hate." Not only at this point does he get great applause.
The topics of the evening revolve around social issues and energy. In fact, it's all about nuclear power. Because the Greens of all people should soften the decision to phase out nuclear energy on December 31, 2022, by agreeing to stretching the southern German nuclear reactors Isar 2 and Neckarwestheim. In the event of an energy emergency, they should be allowed to continue running until April 15, according to the federal executive board's proposal, which was approved by the delegates.
Habeck announced the reserve operation two weeks ago. That is not enough for the coalition partner FDP, the Liberals are demanding longer terms until 2024.
At their party congress, the Greens made it clear that they were serious about the red lines they had announced: stretching yes, buying new fuel elements: no. Nothing lasts longer than spring. The parliamentary group of the Greens has now even in writing from the party conference: For the “extreme emergency, we agree to create a conditional, time-limited and strictly monitored by the nuclear supervisory nuclear operational reserve”. The Greens would not agree to any legal regulation on the procurement of new fuel elements in the Bundestag. "They are not required for an operational reserve."
This means that Robert Habeck was given clear negotiation limits in the negotiations with Chancellor Scholz and FDP leader Christian Lindner. This was apparently also politically desired. Habeck will no longer have to talk to Lindner about longer terms because his party has just forbidden him to do so. Time is running out, a decision must be made in the cabinet by Sunday evening, otherwise even the stretching operation threatens to fail.
The debate at the party conference was not very controversial, but all the clearer. The Green Environment Minister Steffi Lemke spoke of an impertinence, "also for me personally". But they advertise this impertinence because you can't completely rule out a power outage in winter. Otherwise, the following applies: "The Greens are the guarantor for the nuclear phase-out."
With the decision, the party congress cleared the biggest political hurdle right on the first evening. Discussions about European arms exports to Saudi Arabia are expected on Saturday, and climate policy debates on Sunday. The Greens want to present themselves as a party that lives up to its responsibilities in government and is prepared to jump over its shadow in times of crisis.
Shortly after the opening of the party congress, Habeck's speech also revolved around the self-image of the Greens as a governing party. "It's worth being in government," said the former party leader - and listed traffic light projects such as the 49-euro ticket, the increase in the minimum wage and the expansion of renewable energies.
He doesn't want to gloss over "that there are sometimes problems in many places, and it's not nice at all, sometimes not nice to look at". He only hinted at the smoldering dispute with the FDP. “You can only open your arms and be generous if you know where you stand and where you want to go. And that's how we keep the shop together." It pays off for the Greens that they "do not behave in a partisan small-minded manner, but can be measured against reality".
The Greens don't have to think about why they are in government: "We don't need to raise our profile," he exclaimed to the cheers of the delegates. "We are also subjected to a stress test," he said - but the Greens passed it. Openness and unity are "quality features of this party".
The fact that the delegates followed him with a large majority in the unloved stretching operation was also due to the fact that the compromise had been massively promoted in the past few weeks and also on the same evening. There were no fight votes, differences were settled in the background.
However, the Greens have also made it clear where they have reached the end of their resilience. The signal to the FDP is: We have moved. Now it's your turn.