An Monday evening at 6.15 p.m. it was clear: Olaf Scholz is no longer looking at the dispute between the Greens and the FDP over the use of the remaining three nuclear power plants. For a long time, too long for many, the chancellor had remained under cover, giving the impression that the traffic light coalition was all about strife and that the weal and woe of the republic depended on the issue of nuclear power plants. Even in Scholz’s own party, some only found the word “ridiculous”. But now the Federal Press Office sent a letter from the Chancellor to Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP), Environment Minister Steffi Lemke and Climate and Economics Minister Robert Habeck (both Green).
The very beginning of the letter makes you sit up and take notice: “As Federal Chancellor, I have made the following decision in accordance with Paragraph 1 of the Federal Government’s rules of procedure”. That paragraph deals with the Chancellor’s authority to set guidelines, it reads: “The Federal Chancellor determines the guidelines for internal and external politics. These are binding for the federal ministers and must be implemented by them in their area of responsibility independently and under their own responsibility. In cases of doubt, the decision of the Federal Chancellor must be obtained.”
The content of the letter surprised even more than this procedure, which was unusual for the Federal Chancellor. Scholz decided that all three nuclear power plants that are currently still in operation will continue to run, not just Isar 2 in Bavaria and Neckarwestheim 2 in Baden-Württemberg, but also the Emsland power plant in Lower Saxony. The legal basis should be created to enable the operation of the three nuclear power plants “beyond December 31, 2022 until April 15, 2023 at the latest,” Scholz instructed his ministers.
Satisfaction with the FDP
This news hit political Berlin like a bomb. Because it means that the chancellor is actually cashing in on a party conference decision by the Greens that is just two days old. Robert Habeck decided that the Emsland power plant should not remain connected to the grid, albeit under pressure from his party, and the Greens had cemented that over the weekend. However, the FDP does not get what they asked for from Scholz either. She wanted all three nuclear power plants to remain online until at least 2024. Nevertheless, the party leadership gave free rein to its satisfaction with the Chancellor’s decision on Monday evening, as if it had won a great victory. The further use of the Emsland power plant is “an important contribution to grid stability, electricity costs and climate protection,” wrote Lindner on Twitter. The spokesman for energy policy of the FDP parliamentary group, Michael Kruse, took the same line: The FDP had “fought hard in the last few months to ensure that all available power plants remained connected to the grid. The result of the negotiations shows that well-founded positions prevail.”
The Greens needed a little more time to react. Steffi Lemke is the first to summarize everything that is positive from a green point of view. Germany will finally phase out nuclear energy on April 15, 2023. There will be no lifetime extension and no new fuel rods.” However, the word Emsland did not appear in her tweet. The Green parliamentary group leaders Katharina Dröge and Britta Haßelmann were much more critical. “We note that Chancellor Olaf Scholz is exercising his authority to set guidelines,” they wrote in a distant tone. The Greens parliamentary group will now discuss “how we will deal with the Chancellor’s decision”. It is “unfortunate” that Scholz and the SPD are apparently ready to put the Emsland nuclear power plant “in reserve operation, although there is no factual or technical reason for it.” That sounds like a tangible noise in the coalition.