A week after saying it might abstain on the inclusion of nuclear power among the transition technologies of the EU, the Scholz government backtracked. “Germany’s vote in Brussels will contain a clear No to the inclusion of nuclear energy in the European taxonomy,” said Steffi Lemke, the Environment Minister from the Greens, on the public television ARD.
This change, she claimed, was added “unanimously” by all the ministers of the “traffic light” coalition, although Berlin realizes that blocking the pro-nuclear proposal continues to have little chance of success.
On Monday, Germany chose to explicitly oppose the line put forward by the president of the EU Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, primarily with the support of the Macron government, ready to cash in on billions of euros in EU funding for the 56 atomic power plants operating in France.
“Our country’s clear opposition is good news. It will be made official in the coming days and then transmitted to Brussels for the final decision on the taxonomy,” says the minister from the Greens. She is well aware, however, that the “Nein” from Berlin is likely to be reduced to a purely performative position, given the political isolation of Germany in Europe.
In essence, “the vote on nuclear power at the EU Council will only be possible if a sufficient number of member states raise objections to the text put forward by the Commission. However, I must admit that today this possibility is not very high at all,” confessed Lemke.
Stopping the approval for funding nuclear power would require the assent of at least 20 of the 27 EU countries, representing 65% of the European population, or alternatively an absolute majority of the European Parliament. In Germany, neither scenario is considered feasible.
It is no coincidence that on Monday, the Scholz government began, for the first time, to no longer mince words while denouncing that the climate objectives have been “ruined by the plans of the EU Commission,” while Lemke predicted the devastating effect of the victory of the pro-nuclear camp: “The main threat to the ecological transition is that public and private money will be channeled into problematic technologies and not towards renewable energy and the new hydrogen economy, as would be urgent”—this is the logical consequence projected by her ministry.
But Germany has no choice but to stand by and watch, even while in Berlin they continue to hope for a last-minute breakthrough in the debate on nuclear power outside the national borders. Starting from the government in Rome, which is split in two on the issue, and the Italian MEPs, among whom—Minister Cingolani’s remarks notwithstanding—there are more and more endorsements of the German position.
“We share the No from Germany, confirmed yesterday by the spokeswoman of the delegation in Brussels, Susanne Körber. The decision of the Scholz government, which until a few days ago seemed to lean towards abstention in the Council, puts the issue again into play, as demonstrated by the decision of the EU Commission to postpone the date of presentation of the document on taxonomy. Now the Italian government should follow the German example by communicating to the EU its opinion based on a truly sustainable taxonomy. It is the only way to go if we want to ensure sustainable energy bills and energy independence,” read the note issued yesterday by Tiziana Beghin, leader of the Five Star Movement in the European Parliament.
However, in addition to nuclear power, a game of fundamental importance is being played out in Brussels on the issue of gas, no less complex than the nuclear dispute. The government composed of SPD, the Greens and the Liberals has not agreed on banning this fossil fuel source in the coalition agreement, and, despite the threats towards Moscow on account of the Ukrainian crisis, the Russian-German Nordstream 2 gas pipeline remains blocked “only for technical reasons,” as reiterated by the president of the SPD, Kevin Kühnert. On Monday, Minister Lemke pointed out that even if Germany will use gas as a bridge technology towards transition, “it is not necessary to apply the European green label to this type of energy.”
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