In the midst of the energy crisis, German ecologists and industrialists cultivate the art of compromise

In the midst of the energy crisis, German ecologists and industrialists cultivate the art of compromise

InvestigationUnlike what prevailed in the 2000s, companies and the Greens in power are maintaining a model dialogue to get the country out of its dependence on Russian gas, while maintaining the course of decarbonization.

On the afternoon of June 21, under the spotlights of a huge concert hall in Berlin, on the banks of the Spree, the German Minister for the Economy and Climate Protection, the ecologist Robert Habeck, is preparing to close the Industry Days. The meeting, at the invitation of the powerful federation of German industries (BDI), is one of the biggest annual meetings of “made in Germany”; the only one held in this political capital so unloved by industrialists, who most often prefer their region of origin. On the same day, Social Democratic Chancellor (SPD) Olaf Scholz and Finance Minister Christian Lindner of the Liberal Democratic Party (FDP) already spoke to this demanding audience.

Robert Habeck knows he is under pressure. Never, in Germany, has a political leader from the Greens occupied the Ministry of the Economy, the traditional bastion of German ordoliberalism. At the same time, the situation for companies is extremely precarious: the war in Ukraine, record inflation, the disruption of supply chains and above all the Russian gas crisis, with the drop in deliveries of 40% in mid-Junehave formed a kind of perfect storm on the German economy, which fears a serious recession.

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As usual, the Minister speaks without notes, in a personal and direct style. He evokes these simultaneous crises and the “painful day” of June 19, during which he had to resolve to agree to relaunch the coal-fired power stations to save gas.

He makes no secret of the fact that the action plan drawn up by his ministry to deal with the energy crisis could well fail. “We can only succeed if there is a collective effort to debate between politics and economics”he warns, praising the quality of the current dialogue with companies, industrial federations and unions.

“When I became minister, we had a meeting with the bosses of the DAX [le principal indice boursier allemand], he says. One of the participants said: “If we had seen each other five years ago, we would have mainly told you not to interfere in our affairs, to stay in the background. (…) Today, this approach to economic policy is visibly over. (…) This form of cooperation made Germany strong. »

A dialogue more intense than ever

A few minutes later, on stage, Martin Brudermüller, boss of the global chemical giant BASF, one of the largest consumers of fossil fuels and emitter of greenhouse gases in Germany, speaks. “I don’t think we’ve ever had such a speech at Industry Days, he addresses to Robert Habeck. I can say, on behalf of this room, that we are on your side. » The applause is fed.

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