A green Zauberin for Germany?

Judging by the headlines in various European countries, starting with the German press, the news that Annalena Baerboek has been nominated as the Greens' candidate for Chancellor in next September's federal elections is a truly historic one; in any case, it is in itself a sign of the enormous leap in credibility, reliability and strength made by the German Greens in recent years. The 'green magician', 'Annalena, the stage is yours', 'the candidate who represents a break with the past', 'she knows how to transform her weaknesses into strength', are just some of the headlines in German and European newspapers that greeted the news of her nomination.

The choice announced by Robert Habeck, the charismatic former minister of Schleswig Holstein, who shares with her the presidency of the German Greens from 2018, was made  between the two of them; but this, far from showing an elitist attitude, shows instead how both have the full confidence of a unified party, which governs in 11 out of 16 Länder, which has experienced cadres and competent figures at its disposal, and in which the selection of elected officials s at all levels is not made out of loyalty to the leader, but after a precise process of internal apprenticeship and requires intense consultation, training and study. All of this is based on certain principles that all European Greens have adopted, but which the German Greens were the first to operate with intransigence, first and foremost the equality between men and women; women leadership and presence is considered also an issue for men, and it is a given that in Germany the leading candidates in the lists are always women. The long practice of the double leadership, which in my experience is a winning system from all points of view, allows today Annalena Baerbock to emerge as the obvious choice for the chancellorship not because she is a woman, but because of her characteristics, organizational strength, knowledge of the contents, popularity in the party, firmness of values, starting with an unshakeable faith in European federalism, but also her empathy and personal kindness allow the Greens and her to accredit themselves for the first time as a credible alternative to the 'usual' CDU or SPD, (which not coincidentally line up two gentlemen in the sign of continuity) and at the same time overcome the handicap of a lack of direct experience in government.

I met Annalena as soon as I was elected to the co-chairmanship of the European Greens in 2009. She was the delegate of the German Greens and I immediately liked her federalist faith, her curiosity, the rigor in her work and her loud laugh, so far from the severe and somewhat superior image that German ecologists maintain even in their non-conformism. Her decision to become a mother and a national MP has taken her away from her European commitments, but has not stopped her career, on the contrary; but even after being elected co-leader she has remained approachable and smiling.

In her investiture speech she talked without complexes about the climate as the battle of a lifetime for this generation, and she did that because she and the Greens are credible on many other issues, from the economy to Europe, human rights and democracy. She claims the diversity of a green style of leadership, i.e. more human and empathetic, and repeatedly reaffirms how important it is, even when faced with tough decisions, to maintain an open approach to the positions of others. Annalena is part of a group of women, young and old, who fill elected assemblies and governments at all levels in Germany. They have been able to express their talents by emerging in a party that has given them space, through youth organizations or through structures in which they have been able to grow and learn, and which has also supported their family choices, lived with serenity. For me, the strength of the German party and the enormous difference not only with the Italian one is precisely the stable political context, the electoral laws that do not change constantly, a political and media debate in which content counts, the close link with civil society that is also taken care of by integrating its representatives, but also the enormous work for a collective project and a party strongly convinced that it is the organization that allows media attention and competent leaders to emerge and impose themselves and not the other way round; the fact of innovating and of knowing the dossiers in depth are the trump card for a party that proposes radical and by no means easy changes and that has managed, despite hardly ever being in a dominant position, to impose its autonomy and to be able to choose its allies according to its contents. I don't think that the German context is necessarily simpler than others. The German Greens have had serious defeats, in 2013 they started with polls at 20% and ended up at 8.4%, and in the early 1990s they hesitated in the face of the urgency of reunification and experienced hard internal conflicts. But they have never 'broken' and have patiently sewn up and rebuilt, weaving relationships even with the initially more hostile social and productive sectors: it is not by chance that Annalena spoke of the need to convince the rural world and the most disadvantaged sectors, going beyond the urban sectors that represent the heart of their electorate.

That said, it is important to note that the chances of Annalena Baerbock becoming the first Green Chancellor are not very big, and Robert Habeck has said that if the Greens come first they will be able to resolve the question of alliances, but even if this does not happen, they are candidates to govern the country.

If the German Greens get into government, they will not have an easy task or a smooth road. Achieving the European Green deal is difficult; even at EU level and in countries with very strong Green parties, it remains a transformation that meets with a lot of resistance. But there is no doubt that the arrival of the 'green magician' and her big party would be a very strong boost for all those who, like me, think that the future will be green or won’t be.