Green Party top candidate Terry Reintke: “Not at any price”

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Written By Maya Cantina

After the elections on June 9, the Greens want to form a coalition with Ursula von der Leyen. What compromises does top candidate Terry Reintke make for this?

Terry Reintke at Alliance 90/The Greens campaign appearance for the 2024 European elections

Terry Reintke is the German and European top candidate for the elections on June 9 Photo: Revierfoto/image

taz: Mrs. Reintke, according to a survey you are the least known of all German top candidates for the European elections. How do you want to change that?

Terry Reintke: I think we can work out some things in the coming weeks. But of course the research reveals a general challenge: measured by the influence it has on people’s daily lives, European policy should also play a greater role outside the election campaign.

This is the biggest article about you since the beginning of the year star published. It went about allegations of intimidation against Green MP Malte Gallée. The European group accused you of passivity. What did you do wrong?

Naturally, I am very concerned that there may be misconduct. We are the only group in the European Parliament that has an ombudsman system. In recent months we have taken additional measures to make it easier for those involved to submit complaints. I think it is important that our group is a safe workplace.

37, comes from the Ruhr area and has been leader of the Greens in the EU Parliament since 2022. She is the best German and European candidate for the elections on June 9.

You explicitly act as a feminist and have campaigned for #MeToo. Shouldn’t there have been more from you as parliamentary group leader?

Where there is power, there is always abuse of power. Good systems are needed to counter this. I will continue to advocate for this.

Let’s talk about the European Commission: has President Ursula von der Leyen done a good job since 2019?

Initially, it picked up the momentum of the climate movement and gave it real impetus with the Green Deal, which aims to make Europe climate neutral by 2050. However, over the past two years there have been repeated attempts from within its own ranks to delay and even reverse the package. We say: the Green Deal must be continued. And we need a strong commitment to democracy, climate protection and climate-neutral prosperity in Europe, even after the elections. If you want that, you should vote for the Greens.

In 2019, the Greens voted against Von der Leyen in parliament, even though she was on a climate course. Now you want to work together, even if you no longer trust it when it comes to the climate. How does that work?

Conservatives, Social Democrats and Liberals are no longer likely to gain a comfortable majority. You need another partner. These are either the right-wing authoritarian EKR or the Greens. I don’t need to tell you which option I think is better for people.

The Union and the EPP stand for a strict asylum policy. Would you accept further restrictions if you wanted to do business with them?

The EU has a huge shortage of skilled workers and needs immigration. We will promote this in the negotiations. In any case, with the large asylum and migration package that the EU has just decided on, the fair is not over yet. I do not believe that after implementation the suffering at the external borders will end or that Hungary will suddenly accept refugees. Both cannot stay like this.

That didn’t answer the question. Do you agree with further tightening?

So far I have been successful in conducting negotiations at the negotiating table rather than in interviews. I want to stay that way.

What asylum policy will you get if you vote for the Greens on June 9? That of the federal level, which supported the tightening of European asylum laws, or that of your group, which voted against most parts of Parliament?

A policy that wants an end to deaths at the external borders. That people fleeing war and persecution have a fair chance of asylum. That orderly procedures are established at the same time. We need to improve the situation in our communities, some of which are actually at or even above the limit. We agree on this within the party. In the specific situation we simply had different questions: in the final vote in the Council, a Minister of Foreign Affairs only has the choice between top or bottom, for or against the total package. In Parliament we were able to assess the individual legal acts and did so in a differentiated manner.

There were substantive differences – or would you have acted like Ms Baerbock if you had been a minister instead of an MP?

That’s a hypothetical question. The line of conflict is not between the Greens and the Greens, but between those who advocate human rights and right-wing populists like Meloni or Orbán who want to build a fortress Europe. The differences between the Member States are enormous; I experience these debates all the time. That’s what makes it so difficult. That is why we progressive forces must not allow ourselves to be divided. We want an asylum policy that is based on humanity and order, that protects human rights – and enables orderly procedures. We encourage this in our various roles.

Your posters say ‘Human rights and order’, you talk about ‘Humanity and order’ – the CDU also uses this slogan. Why are the Greens sounding? like Horst Seehofer five years ago?

I don’t think Horst Seehofer would agree with that. I don’t do it either. Humanity and human rights have always been at the core of our politics. Anyone who wants refugees to receive reliable primary care and quick clarity cannot be against functioning procedures. Order also means that people do not have to endure dramatic conditions at the external borders forever. The CDU and the CSU are completely different.

Your “Human Rights and Order” poster has barely been seen so far. Apparently the neighborhood associations don’t feel like it.

I now travel a lot around the country and have seen it in a wide variety of places – both in Berlin-Mitte and in the Ruhr area.

The large posters with you, Habeck and Baerbock are about safety, prosperity and freedom. Are you no longer winning with climate policy?

The greatest threat to our security is an out-of-control climate crisis. The key to prosperity is climate protection. Be that as it may, freedom only exists if we manage to preserve a planet worth living on. Climate protection is crucial so that we can continue to live well in this country. And it is clear that at a time of global conflict, inflation or attacks on democracy, we also want to provide answers to these issues. But yes, in the 2019 election campaign – before Corona, before the Russian attack on Ukraine – the debate was easier to have.

If Von der Leyen’s re-election fails, you can become EU Commissioner. According to the traffic light coalition agreement, the Greens have the right to make proposals. Do you want to become a climate commissioner?

Now I’m going to promote a strong green outcome. We go into this election claiming that we want executive power. We’ll see the rest later.

Terry Reintke, MEP Greens

“I want to be judged on what we have done in the EU Parliament over the past five years”

The EU is currently aiming for climate neutrality by 2050. The election manifesto of the European Greens has a target for 2040. The German Greens wanted to weaken this, but failed. For what purpose are you running?

It must be done as quickly as possible, if possible even faster than planned.

Once again: as the leading European candidate, do you support the demand of the European election program – climate neutrality 2040?

The challenge is this: become climate neutral as quickly as possible and at the same time expand and renew our prosperity. Europe needs both and can only be achieved together. So we need the Green Deal in the EU and a large-scale investment program – also so that the US and China do not leave us behind technologically. The steel factory in Duisburg, for example, has four blast furnaces. Converting to green hydrogen costs two billion euros each. Companies cannot do this without support, but it will pay off in the long term.

But if you want to join a coalition, you will have to make concessions – and possibly support regressions in climate policy, rather than at least contributing to the discourse as a critical voice as before. Would it be worth it?

You can also break off the negotiations. If the Conservatives are serious about scrapping the Green Deal, the question will be ours. It is crucial not only for climate protection, but also for our competitiveness. I am confident that the Union will still notice this when the election campaign is over – especially since they also supported the Paris climate agreement. So I firmly believe that we can prevail. Voices from the business community also say: you need to invest more.

But you are also under pressure not to cede the field to the right – that is, to keep the EKR out of the coalition majority.

This increases the pressure on all Democrats to reach an agreement. Of course, we have a lot coming our way. But talk to people with whom I have negotiated coalition agreements: I am very clear about the direction in which things should go, so that we become part of the majority.

After two and a half years of traffic lights, many Green Party voters are asking themselves this question: Is your party making too many compromises?

And then there are people who have the impression that the Greens always get their way. I want to be judged on what we have done in the European Parliament over the past five years. We have achieved a lot there, starting with the Green Deal. This was only possible because we also made compromises. I too will approach the majority negotiations with this attitude. Of course I want it to work out in the end. But not at any price.

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