Habeck at Söder: Superminister meets the Sun King

To analyse

Status: 01/20/2022 05:14 a.m

They are power-conscious, and both also understand something about self-portrayal: When Superminister Habeck travels to Söder in Bavaria, it is primarily about wind power – but not only.

Those involved sounded a bit stilted when it came to Robert Habeck’s visit to Bavaria this Thursday last week. He wanted to “discuss a real management task” with the “proud Prime Minister” Markus Söder at the coffee table, announced the new Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection. Specifically, it is about Habeck’s plan to reserve two percent of the country’s area for wind turbines in the future.

Söder answered promptly. “Whether coffee or tea: drinks are not the problem in Bavaria,” he said BR. But don’t be fooled by the politeness: “We simply have interests that we have to contribute.” As usual, Söder sent the “Münchner Merkur” confidently – knowing that it would be the other way around: “I will present our energy plan to the Federal Minister of Economics.”

Publicity tour for climate protection

With the visit to Munich, Habeck continues his advertising tour through the federal states. He knows: Effective climate protection does not work against state and local politicians, and cannot only be decreed from Berlin. And he also knows that local wind turbines in particular repeatedly cause disputes, partly for rational, partly for irrational reasons. A loud and ugly disfigurement of the landscape, say some. A necessary and clean source of energy, others say.

In Bavaria, it’s not entirely unusual, it’s particularly complicated. The 10H rule has applied in Bavaria since 2014. A wind turbine must therefore be built at least ten times as far away from the nearest residential building as it is tall. Exceptions are possible, but rare. The 10H rule has effectively stopped the expansion of wind power in Bavaria. In the first three quarters of 2021, not a single new permit application was submitted. In 2013 there were 400 applications. The numbers come from the answer to a request from the Greens in the state parliament.

Basta politics is not Habeck’s style

So one thing is clear: With the 10H rule, Habeck’s nationwide two percent target, at least in Bavaria, is unattainable. However, the federal government could simply cash in on the rule by having the traffic light groups remove the legal basis for the Bavarian exception. That would be a demonstration of power – but also atypical for Habeck’s style of government, if the analysis of his ministerial time in Schleswig-Holstein is not deceptive. Here he relied more on dialogue than on Basta politics.

So convince instead of prescribing? Not excluded – because Söder is also faced with a tricky puzzle. Last July he announced in a government statement that he would modify the 10H rule. In Bavaria’s state forest, among other things, a minimum distance of 1000 meters will soon have to be maintained. Nothing has happened since then, but the announcement has not been forgotten. In addition, Söder often emphasizes how important climate protection and the expansion of renewable energies are.

With a strict no to more wind power, Söder would not automatically win in Bavaria. Because opinions differ widely. District administrators, tourism representatives, even the CSU itself: everyone disagrees internally. On the other hand, in addition to the Greens and SPD, the Association of Bavarian Business, which is actually close to the CSU, is now also calling for the 10H rule to be abolished. The Bund Naturschutz is also in favor of more wind turbines and wants to open Habeck’s visitation day with a demonstration in front of the State Chancellery.

The second major environmental association in Bavaria, the State Association for Bird Protection (LBV), also wants more wind power. “10H must fall now,” said the association recently. There is also no contradiction between nature and climate protection: “There are no bad wind turbines, there are only a few bad locations.”

What are the Free Voters doing?

In the coalition agreement between the CSU and Freie Wahlern (FW) there is a medium-strong commitment to the 10H rule, literally to the “applicable Bavarian legal situation”. However, Söder’s coalition partner is actually for more wind power and against 10H. Environment Minister Thorsten Faithr (FW) announced last May that he would work to abolish the 10H rule. At the end of 2017, when he was still in opposition, Glauber put it more bluntly: “The regulation is diametrically opposed to the state government’s purported goal of promoting the expansion of renewable energies.”

Hafter and Economics Minister Hubert Aiwanger are also expected to meet Habeck during his visit – separately from Söder, with whom only one hour is planned. At the end of all talks there could be a compromise: Bavaria leaves the 10H rule in place, but softens it further – and thus at least allows more wind turbines in Bavaria.

“Bavaria is sunny country”

In return, Habeck could insist on more photovoltaics in the Free State, which Bavaria’s Prime Minister has nothing against. Söder wouldn’t be Söder if he didn’t already have a slogan for it: “Bavaria is sunny country.” And: Every federal state should play to its strengths.

Despite past mockery of each other, both politicians have something in common: a sense of power, self-portrayal, clear messages. Just a year ago, Habeck and Söder could well imagine renewing the country together. In a joint “Spiegel” interview, Söder attested a “great appeal” to a black-green alliance. Both political forces have the “big questions of our time in mind,” enthused the CSU leader at the time.

It turned out differently: the SPD, Greens and FDP govern in the federal government. Not black and green. And so Söder’s appearance that day will also show how he fulfills his role in opposition to the federal government – as Prime Minister fixed on Bavaria, but also as head of the opposition party CSU. Because Habeck’s visit is actually about the really big questions: climate protection, security of supply.

“We will be a constructive opposition,” Söder announced in early December. The fight for the windmills will also show whether this will happen and what he understands by that.


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