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2003-10-10 11:56:00
Consulate Frankfurt
Cable title:  

Berninger/Hesse Greens Move Towards USG, CDU

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E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Berninger/Hesse Greens Move Towards USG, CDU

1. (U) SUMMARY: Matthias Berninger, State Secretary in the
national Agriculture Ministry and new head of the Green
party in Hesse, wants to help repair US-German relations
and could make helpful gestures on Iraq. A rising star and
protege of FM Fischer, Berninger wants to free the party
from its dependence on Social Democrats (SPD) and
strengthen ties to moderate Christian Democrats (CDU). On
agriculture, Berninger sees development aid as key to
reviving stalled WTO talks. Berninger argues against
expanding Frankfurt airport and says expansion may be
delayed until 2008. The Greens are searching for new
policies to address Germany's low birthrate and aging
society without bankrupting the state. END SUMMARY.

Can Greens Make Positive Gesture on Iraq?


2. (SBU) In a discussion with CG, Hesse Greens leader /
federal State Secretary for Agriculture and Consumer
Protection Matthias Berninger said that the Greens could
support German participation in the Iraq mission even
though the party staunchly opposed the war. "Fischer is
preparing the party for things to come" (greater
cooperation on Iraq). Berninger asked what the party and
the German government could do to support US soldiers
deployed from Germany to the Middle East and agreed to
arrange a visit to the U.S. military hospital in Landstuhl
by a leading member of the national Greens. Post offered
to facilitate a U.S. military briefing for Greens party

Conservative-Green Coalitions Become More Fashionable



3. (U) Berninger said he wants to free the Greens from the
"Babylonian captivity" of the SPD who treat the Greens as a
junior partner. Relations with the SPD are tense at best,
and Hesse Greens are forging more local coalitions with the
CDU (most recently in Kassel / northern Hesse).
Northrhine-Westphalia also has important CDU-Green
coalitions, including Cologne.

4. (SBU) The Greens are open to working with the CDU in
state governments, but Berninger ruled out partnering with
Hesse Minister-President Roland Koch (CDU): "Koch does not
represent the enlightened CDU with whom we want to
cooperate," adding that Koch's arrogance and ambition are a
matter of concern within the CDU. He noted that members of
the CDU national presidium contacted Hesse Greens seeking
ammunition against Koch. In his estimation, Koch's
mishandling of the Hesse budget will make it hard for him
to become a credible player on the national scene, with
Standard and Poor downgrading Hesse -- Germany's leading

financial center -- while neighboring states preserve their
AAA rating.

Redirecting Farm Aid from Rich Countries to Poor



5. (SBU) Berninger, also the number two in the federal
MinAg, blamed NGO's for the collapse of WTO talks in
Cancun, a fiasco which will hurt developing nations since
the WTO is the only organization that can solve
agricultural trade problems. Berninger believes wealthy
countries should redirect aid from domestic farmers to
poorer countries and supports British Treasury Secretary
Gordon Brown's proposal to create a development fund for
rural areas in developing countries. Berninger agrees with
the USG position that only democracy and trade can bring
development in the long run.

Reversing Germany's Demographic and Economic Slide



6. (SBU) The Greens are searching for ways to reverse
Germany's demographic and economic decline without
bankrupting the state. An unfavorable labor market, low
birthrate, and aging society are Germany's greatest
challenges at the moment. "Even today Germany does not
have enough doctors or engineers ... with the birthrate
declining even further, Germany runs the danger of losing
out to France and Scandinavia who have a successful
demographic policy." The Greens call for better childcare,
more aid for mothers, and other child-friendly policies.
On Agenda 2010, Berninger said eliminating one holiday for
all Germans would do more to reduce labor cost than many of
the social reforms the Schroeder government is proposing.
Berninger defended the Greens' record on controlling public
expenditures and complained that both SPD and CDU tend to
spend beyond their means.

Frankfurt Airport Expansion May Be Delayed Until 2008



7. (SBU) Berninger complained that local authorities did
not seriously explore alternatives to expanding Frankfurt
Airport, warning that legal obstacles could delay expansion
until at least 2008. The airport cannot expand
indefinitely; building an additional runway will only buy
another decade of growth. Berninger favors a high-speed
rail or Transrapid connection between Frankfurt and Hahn
(located 90 kms from Frankfurt). NOTE: The Hesse Greens
fared well in state elections this year in part by opposing
expansion of Frankfurt Airport. END NOTE.

COMMENT: Building Bridges to Moderate Greens


8. (SBU) State Secretary Berninger met the CG in the same
week that the Greens went into coalition with CDU in Kassel
(second largest city in Hesse). In Hesse elections earlier
this year, Greens expanded their vote share at the expense
of the SPD. Voter disenchantment with SPD in SW Germany
could accelerate this trend of CDU-Green rapprochement.
Berninger (37) represents the party's pragmatic younger
generation that will follow the Fischer generation.
Berninger is a fast riser and wants to steer a more
independent course from the SPD while drawing a line
against Roland Koch. END COMMENT.