Hard in the analysis, one-dimensional in the discussion: Corona and climate protection policy were debated at a congress of the “R21 think tank”. Where are the parallels? Good question.
Boris Palmer sums up the real problem as follows: “I’m hurt, that’s why you keep your mouth shut.”
The mayor of Tübingen and former Green Party politician, who left the political stage for a month and then left his party after another verbal outburst, is concerned about the culture of debate in Germany. The best argument no longer counts, other views are hardly accepted anymore, instead cheap points are chased on talk shows. Alone: What happened to him back then, Palmer remembers, when he said: “We might be saving people who would be dead in six months anyway”?
Back then: That was in April 2020, and more than 100,000 people infected with corona were counted in Germany for the first time. To this day, Palmer seems somewhat taken aback by the level of outrage over his drastic choice of words (for which he apologized at the time). Didn’t he just have a different opinion than the majority? Was it called for more sense of proportion and personal responsibility and less “security fanaticism” and “dog leash numbers”, as Palmer retrospectively tags his criticism of the Corona requirements?
In any case, Palmer believes he is in the majority on Monday. The “R21 think tank” – a think tank for “new bourgeois politics” – invited people to a discussion at the Saxon state representation in Berlin. Almost 20 panel participants discussed Corona management in several panels, which, in view of lockdowns and contact bans, was perceived by many of the discussants as an attack on fundamental freedoms.
The “Fundamental Rights Team” agrees
Was the restrictive government action a breach of the dam, a blueprint for the next crisis? That’s what the host “think tank R21”, which was founded by, among others, the historian and chairman of the CDU Basic Values Commission Andreas Rödder and the former CDU Federal Family Minister Katrin Schröder, puts it in the room. “Germany between Covid and climate – fundamental rights under reservation?” is the question asked at the event. The think tank had previously discussed “Woke Germany” and “Germany after the Merkel era” – in order to spark debates, as they say.
This time it’s about coming to terms with the “by far the greatest restrictions on fundamental rights since the founding of the Federal Republic” that shouldn’t simply be shelved, demands former Family Minister Schröder in her opening speech. Their slogan: Today neither the “Team Caution” nor the “Team Awareness”, the supposed opponents in the fight against the coronavirus, are gathering, but rather the “Team Fundamental Rights”. With this, Schröder anticipates what will hamper the discussion: the invited guests agree – sometimes more, sometimes less. During the pandemic, you stood out as critics of the policy measures, such as the virologist Klaus Stöhr or the journalist Thea Dorn. “We were chosen somewhat based on the fact that we share the criticism,” says writer Juli Zeh during a panel about the consequences for the rule of law. What was probably intended as a joke receives no objection.
The discussions were correspondingly one-dimensional, with participants outdoing each other with unanimous criticism of an allegedly overreaching state. Representatives of the decried “Team Caution” were sought in vain – even though the so-called think tank formulated its own claim to want to promote an “open debate culture”.
Saxony’s Prime Minister Michael Kretschmer (CDU) was not part of “Team Caution”, but he provided a facet to the discussion. He is the only participant who – apart from Palmer – also had political responsibility at the height of the corona pandemic. It was a “terrible situation” to have to make decisions at the time, says Kretschmer. He also advocates for a review of government actions and also admits errors in Corona policy. But: “Politicians have not hidden, politicians have taken responsibility,” is how the CDU politician defends himself against any accusations.
Michael Kretschmer: “Not everything that lags is a comparison”
The Prime Minister does not unconditionally share the criticism often expressed that many Corona measures lack reliable evidence. “For me, the evidence in the hospitals was always the decisive factor,” says Kretschmer. At the beginning of the pandemic he did not expect a major problem. But suddenly there were no more free intensive care beds in the Saxon Erzgebirgs district. A moment of awakening. However, the Prime Minister does not understand what the coronavirus has to do with climate protection, as the topic of discussion suggests. “Not everything that lags is a comparison,” says Kretschmer. One was a big unknown (Corona), the other (climate change) had been a school topic for decades.
Kretschmer should not get a reliable answer. The very theoretical discussions did not go beyond equally theoretical requirements (such as CO2 quotas for every citizen) and passionate Green bashing, according to which the party increasingly wanted to influence the everyday lives of citizens. Premise of the thought games and general criticism of the Greens: Extreme measures or bans would divide society and not serve the actual goal – the corona pandemic has already shown that.
Kretschmer agrees that climate protection is not above all else. Everything else has to be sorted out by the rest of the think tank. Kretschmer has to leave early. He has an appointment with Climate Protection Minister Robert Habeck from the Greens.
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.