Nuclear: desirable German pragmatism

Nuclear: desirable German pragmatism

VSExpected to close at the end of the year, the last three nuclear power plants still in operation in Germany could see their lifespan extended due to energy tensions linked to the war in Ukraine. Even if nuclear power represents only 6% of electricity production across the Rhine (compared to around 25% across the European Union and 70% in France), operating these plants beyond December 31 “may be relevant”, said Chancellor Olaf Scholz on August 3specifying that the government would decide in the coming weeks based on the results of an ongoing expertise.

This extension would obviously be preferable to an even greater use of coal to replace Russian gas. Politically, the gesture would be very strong, coming from a coalition led by a social democrat (SPD) and whose vice-chancellor, Robert Habeck, in charge of the economy and energy, is a member of the Greens. In 2000, it was a government bringing together these two parties which, under the leadership of Gerhard Schröder, decided to bring Germany out of civilian nuclear power. A decision that the conservative Angela Merkel (CDU) began by questioning, in 2010, before changing her mind, less than a year later, the day after the disaster in Fukushima, Japan.

“A false sense of security”

“Politics begins with the contemplation of reality. Especially when we don’t like it”wrote Mr. Scholz in a forum at the World (July 22), before acknowledging: “The state of our Bundeswehr and civilian defense structures but also our over-reliance on Russian energy indicate that we have been fooled by a false sense of security. »

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On February 27, three days after Russia invaded Ukraine, Mr. Scholz proposed the creation of a “special fund” 100 billion euros to modernize its army. With the exception of the extremes, on the right and on the left, all the German parties voted in favor, whether it was the social democrats and the ecologists, despite their pacifist culture, or the conservatives, although in opposition .

With regard to nuclear power plants, the decision to extend them, if adopted, risks provoking heated debate, particularly among the Greens. But several of their leaders have already hinted that they would not oppose it on principle. As on the 100 billion euros for the Bundeswehr, the government could also count, once again, on the support of the conservative right.

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Whether on energy or defence, Germany is paying dearly for its past mistakes, starkly highlighted by the war in Ukraine. The pragmatism of its leaders as well as a solid culture of compromise have, however, enabled it, since the start of the crisis, to take painful decisions by avoiding demagogic one-upmanship and clashes of postures which, ultimately, discredit public action. and play into the hands of the populists.

The next few months will certainly be difficult for a Germany whose economy is on the verge of recession and which could once again become the “sick man of Europe”, as at the turn of the 1990s and 2000s. But, if a certain German model is now called into question, from an economic or geostrategic point of view, its political model could in many respects remain exemplary. Other European democracies, starting with France, seem much less armed in this area in the face of the storms that are looming.

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