Energy GAS LNG Nuclear SECURITY 9 February, 2024 7:35 am   
Sarah Pagung. Fot: DGAP
COMMENTS: Sarah Pagung

Pagung: Farmer protest show an irrational support for radicalism (INTERVIEW)

Bundestag Government Buildings Reichstag Berlin Bundestag Government Buildings Reichstag Berlin

– If we look at farmer protests, we can see that support for AfD is partly irrational. For example, in their program they want to reduce any support for the farmers and in the meantime some protesters support AfD, which makes no sense – says Sarah Pagung from Koerber Stiftung for How did German energy policy towards Russia change since 2022?

Sarah Pagung: I think Germany is doing quite well. Nowadays it’s not a big topic in public and it’s probably due to the fact that we don’t have an energy crisis. This winter prices went down or even were lower before the russian invasion in Ukraine has started. After the russian full scale invasion in February in 2022 everybody was concerned about energy security and energy supplies. In that time many Germans were even afraid that our economy will collapse. Fortunately, this scenario didn’t happen.

How is the LNG revolution in Germany going?

The main proceedings are still going on, but the construction of LNG terminals is not in endangered. There are still protests by environmentalists and other groups. These are instrumentalized by Russian propaganda channels and supported by pro-Russian movements. In my opinion, most of the German public isn’t against this investments project, because Germans are aware that we still have to handle energy crisis. However, many Germans have environmental objections or question whether we need all of the built and planned terminals.

In Germany there some pro-Russian parties like AfD, which want to restore business relations with Russia. Is it a hot topic for German public?

If we look up polls, we can see there is a broad consensus for supporting Ukraine. However, there are some people, who are opposing this strategy and I think this part of public is used by far-right parties and populists to criticize german policy.

There are to reasons why people are against this strategy. First of all, these people think supporting Ukraine is senseless, because in the end Russia will win or some of them have pro-Russian sentiment. Second of all, they try to express their dissatisfaction with the present government.

Germany has gotten rid of nuclear energy and shut down its last reactors. However some politicians of CDU discuss restoring this source of energy. What is the current situation?

The discussion is focused on fact that we have problems in developing green energy sources and our dependence on chinese solar panels and wind turbine. A lot of people are aware how difficult is to reduce the import of these facilities from third countries. On the other hand, I think there is not much determination to restore nuclear power plants and building new ones from scratch is extremely expensive and takes decades, especially when we look to situation of delays of nuclear reactors in Great Britain.

Moreover, for a long time in Germany we have discussed how to deal with nuclear waste. Nowadays, no politician has presented realistic way of restoring nuclear reactors.

Should we expect some spectacular changes in German government in 2024?

I really doubt this scenario will materialize. The present coalition of CDU, SPD and The Greens is unpopular among society, but at this moment none of there parties is interested in early elections. I think they will wait until the usual election in 2025, but in this autumn the discussion about who will be the chancellor or which parties can set up the coalition will increase.

Right now, Olaf Scholz is highly unpopular and maybe we will be needing to discuss issue of future candidate with SPD. What’s more, we might consider how to manage the support of AfD, because present polls of righ-wing parties are highly worrying. At the moment, we are having big debate about this issue. In one poll people say that AfD will diminish, if the government does better. Another shows that the support of AfD is based on the opposition to the democratic system and against values like antiracism as well. Honestly, I think there is a truth in both of these theses.

I think German politicians need to create better federal state policy. If we look at farmer protests, we can see that support for AfD is partly irrational. For example, in their program they want to reduce any support for the farmers and in the meantime many protesters support AfD, which makes no sense.

How the war in Ukraine can impact political situation in Germany?

Most of the parties express strong support fot Kiev, except AfD and the new party of Sahra Wagenknecht. I think every coalition in 2025 will maintain the support for Ukraine and a scenario of setting up the coalition with right-wing parties in unrealistic.

If they raise topic of supporting Ukraine, it will be very challenging for coalition, because German public has already got used to Russo-Ukrainian war. The other fact is that in Germany we have a lot of domestic issues like the lack of digitalization, problems in education, infrastructure, military budget and economic stagnation. We will have a hot debate how to spend the public funds and a lot depends on how big the future budget will be like and how much money can we send to Ukraine.

Recently, we had a change of political power in Poland. What are the prospects for polish-german cooperation in the field of energy security?

I hope it will get easier to communicate and find a compromise in crucial areas. Polish-german relations might not be the question of domestic policy as mush as it was before. However, I think we will still argue with new polish government, but these issues like supporting Ukraine or stronger integration with EU will be a common topic.

Interview by Wojciech Jakóbik