The Last Generation climate group demands ultimate support from cities for their goals. This causes angry reactions. But the political and legal evaluation is not uniform.
The Last Generation climate group is once again making a big splash. In letters she has given ultimatums to various cities. Anyone who wants to avoid further road blockades with activists stuck in place should publicly support their goals for a radical climate change. Some cities reacted with outrage, such as Hamburg, Berlin and Cologne. The group threatens them with “maximum disruption of public order”. Others negotiated with the young people and achieved a halt to the protests. Can you do that? Or is the state open to blackmail?
“In the case of blackmail, you would have to do something that goes against you, that goes against your own position or leads to your own damage, and none of that is the case here,” said Hanover’s Mayor Belit Onay (Greens) in early March on ARD. “We have a common denominator here, and that is climate protection.” Onay was the first to make a deal with the last generation, including their demands in a letter to the parliamentary groups. Now the city has peace again from the “climate stickers”. Marburg and Tübingen followed.
“Protest for the Common Good”
According to the climate group, talks are being held with other municipalities. For the first time, the activists don’t just sit at crossroads or motorway exits in stormy weather, rain or shine, but also at the table of political decision-makers. “It is gratifying that more and more politicians, regardless of how we evaluate our form of protest, understand that our substantive concerns are of existential importance and that we are protesting for the common good,” the group wrote on Twitter.
It is clear that many are now extremely annoyed by the disturbances of the last generation. A color attack on the constitution artwork in Berlin recently even brought them a comparison with the Taliban. When they call for “Resistance in Berlin” at the end of April, some are already groaning.
Can politics be blackmailed?
Not only does Federal Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP) reject a negotiated solution, but also Gerd Landsberg, chief executive of the German Association of Towns and Municipalities. “Regularly, the procedure involves criminal offenses such as coercion, dangerous intervention in road traffic and property damage,” said Landsberg of the German Press Agency. It is “not usual for criminals to be accommodated with political promises”.
So, can politics be blackmailed? The Erfurt law professor Tim Wihl waves it away. It is not about blackmail because this requires a monetary claim, Wihl told the dpa. He also doesn’t see any coercion on the part of the city leaders in the road blockades or the threat to do so. On the one hand, the pressure exerted is not so great that the mayor has to respond to demands. “It’s still a free decision,” said Wihl. On the other hand, it is “questionable whether the remedy is reprehensible”. The jurisprudence of the Federal Constitutional Court from the 1980s and 1990s is clear: “Even robust blockade actions fall under the right of assembly.”
If a company threatens to close a plant under certain political conditions, nobody thinks of coercion, said Wihl. “It’s uncomfortable for mayors, and they would probably meet with the company. It’s similar with large demonstrations: they build up pressure to meet. It’s no different with the blockades of the last generation.”
Other lawyers see things very differently – such as the Mayor of Cologne, Henriette Reker. “I don’t think you can stand up and say if I don’t get what I want, then I’m stuck,” said Reker on Deutschlandfunk. “For me, that’s a coercion I can’t give in to.” The public prosecutor’s office in Hamburg assessed the letter from the activists to the city as possible coercion by constitutional bodies. Courts across the country have now convicted “climate glue” of coercion. Wil says: wait and see. The Federal Constitutional Court has the last word.
A similar constitutional debate exists over the Last Generation’s central demand for a “social council.” This is to be filled by drawing lots and reflecting the breadth of society. “Vegans: inside and car fans discuss common solutions, because they also have a shared interest: protecting the basis of life on this planet and making the way there socially just,” is how the group imagines it. The Council should make proposals “how Germany will become emission-free by 2030” – well before the current target year of 2045. And the government should publicly promise to introduce these measures as legislative projects in Parliament.
Another necessity? Should the elected parliament be bypassed here and thus the constitutional order be undermined? Legal expert Wihl advises to differentiate. The idea of citizens’ councils as a supplement to parliamentary work has been around for a long time, and in countries like Ireland they have contributed to consensus decisions, for example on same-sex marriage. However, such a body cannot make binding specifications. “For such a replacement parliament, you would first have to change the constitution,” said Wihl.
I have been working in the news industry for over 6 years, first as a reporter and now as an editor. I have covered politics extensively, and my work has appeared in major newspapers and online news outlets around the world. In addition to my writing, I also contribute regularly to 24 Hours World.