Will the traffic light coalition still get together in the heating dispute? Robert Habeck tries to save his law with a charm offensive. The first signals from the FDP make the Greens optimistic.
They’re talking to each other again. And no longer just on top of each other. That’s the good news in the never-ending controversy over the heating bill. Because although the federal government had approved the draft in the cabinet almost six weeks ago, nothing was progressing recently.
After undiminished heated debates, the FDP last week prevented the so-called Building Energy Act from being introduced to the Bundestag at all. There it should be decided as usual, but above all it should be changed first. The FDP in particular had pushed for it.
The Greens responded with thunder. Group leader Britta Haßelmann said on Tuesday that the behavior of the FDP bordered on “refusal to work” and that the federal government’s ability to act was “damaged”. Robert Habeck simply spoke of “breach of word”.
Charm offensive after the thunderstorm
The charm offensive of the Green Vice Chancellor and Climate Minister followed the thunderstorm. On Friday, Habeck was almost remorseful, speaking in a video of four areas in which there was “obviously” a need for improvement.
So Habeck suggested not allowing the obligations of the law for existing buildings to take effect from January 1, 2024, also allowing biomass heating in new buildings, defining further exceptions for cases of hardship and better coordinating the law with the expansion of district heating.
In fact, these are all points that Habeck and the Greens have been suggesting as possible compromises for weeks. But now there seems to be a willingness on all sides to actually negotiate about it.
This Tuesday, Matthias Miersch (SPD), Lukas Köhler (FDP) and Julia Verlinden (Greens) will not only be meeting the deputy parliamentary group leaders of the traffic light for another conversation. On the initiative of Habeck, the consultations between the ministries and the members of the coalition are also continuing at the working level.
Two rapporteurs per party
A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Economic Affairs told t-online: “Minister Habeck has invited the reporters from the three traffic light groups tonight to answer the 77 questions asked by the FDP reporters and any other questions.”
In addition to Habeck and his employees, Klara Geywitz’s (SPD) Ministry of Construction will also be there, according to government circles. Both houses drafted the law together. According to t-online information, two so-called reporters plus employees will take part from the traffic light groups: for the SPD, these are the specialist politicians Timon Gremmels and Martin Diedenhofen, for the FDP Daniel Föst and Konrad Stockmeier and for the Greens Bernhard Herrmann and Kassem Taher Saleh.
At the meeting on Tuesday evening, most of the participants want to join in virtually, as they say. Nobody expects a concrete agreement. It should only go to the questionnaire of the FDP. The Liberals had recently justified their blockade with the many unanswered questions they still had. Meanwhile, the ministry emphasized that it had already answered 102 questions from the traffic light reporters.
The Ministry of Economics now seems to be hoping to be able to clarify technical questions, including possible queries, more simply and definitively in direct discussions. In order to then really negotiate the law instead of having to work through another catalog of questions.
Further discussions with associations
Habeck does not only want to talk to the traffic light groups. There will also be further talks with the associations in the next few days. Municipal stakeholders in particular had recently reported various concerns.
The hope of the Greens is that they can stick to the plan that the coalition has actually decided on several times: namely to pass the heating law before the parliamentary summer recess. The preliminary talks should be completed this week and next, if possible, so that the actual parliamentary consultation process can then begin.
The next session week starts on June 12th. If it doesn’t work out there, there are only two more weeks of meetings until July 8th. So everything is still possible. But only if progress is actually made now.