There could soon be even more black and green spots on the political map of Germany. Alliances between the CDU and the Greens are emerging in Schleswig-Holstein and North Rhine-Westphalia. Can that also be a blueprint for the federal government?
Formerly an enemy, now a partner: black-green alliances are on the rise in Germany. In North Rhine-Westphalia, the CDU and the Greens are speeding up the expected first black-green alliance in the most populous federal state. Schleswig-Holstein is also heading towards such a two-party alliance.
In Hesse and Baden-Württemberg, coalitions between the CDU and the Greens have been working for years. Black and green is a new glimmer of hope for the union in the federal government.
In view of the traffic light coalition forged by the SPD, Greens and FDP after the federal election, some had already raved about an upcoming social democratic decade. But for the new CDU leader Friedrich Merz and the Union, the unexpectedly clear successes of the Christian Democrats in the elections in North Rhine-Westphalia and Schleswig-Holstein have now improved the starting position.
Also because of the cooled relationship with the FDP, CDU strategists see the possible black-green coalitions in Düsseldorf and Kiel as an important signal for the federal government and the next regular federal election in 2025.
“Coalition of the Future”
For CDU board member Serap Güler, black-green is already the “coalition of the future”. “In the current situation, a black-green coalition in the federal government would definitely be better for the state than the traffic light,” said the former NRW integration state secretary of the “Rheinische Post”.
The political scientist Karl-Rudolf Korte also sees the “time ripe” for black-green as a “new bourgeoisie in the middle”. But he limits: “Whether that’s a model for the upcoming federal elections, that would be far too far-reaching.” In terms of coalition politics, NRW was sometimes a pioneer for the federal government. But there has never been a “cross-camp” coalition in NRW. “That would be the very first.”
CDU federal leader Merz is said to have a good relationship with the popular Green Federal Ministers Robert Habeck and Annalena Baerbock. But in the CDU leadership they also know that many members in the federal states are skeptical about a rapprochement course towards the Greens. They are still considered a classic left-wing party there. This is also why a black-green alliance in North Rhine-Westphalia is so important: there you can demonstrate that there could also be smoother cooperation with the Greens.
On Sunday, the CDU and the Greens want to decide whether to start coalition negotiations in Germany’s largest industrial country – and the signs are good. Two pragmatic top politicians of almost the same age are leading the parties: Prime Minister Hendrik Wüst (46) proved to be flexible early on when it came to the green core concern of an early phase-out of coal by 2030 and also committed to the ambitious date. Green Party leader Mona Neubaur (44) has no parliamentary or government experience, but she has been building bridges to business and industry for years, is considered to be balancing – and as a strong communicator.
Nevertheless, the Greens are also keeping open a possible traffic light with the election losers SPD and FDP. You don’t want to enter into a political marriage with the CDU at any price. Neubaur also says: “We are aware that the talks that are now to follow will not be easy and that some of the parties involved will have to go a long way.” Trenches are still opening up, especially when it comes to internal security. The CDU wants to continue the law-and-order policy of the popular and probably future Interior Minister Herbert Reul.
But the CDU and the Greens have also changed in recent years. The cliché of the particularly left-wing Greens state association can no more be maintained than that of the particularly conservative CDU. “Both have arrived in realpolitik,” says political scientist Korte. The Greens have gone from being a “ban party” to a “maker party”. And the CDU, despite its older electorate, is capable of pursuing a sustainable and “grandchildable” policy. According to Kortes, “a learning coalition in times of multiple crises” could be created in NRW.
CDU and Greens in the north know each other from five years of the Jamaica coalition together with the FDP. When CDU Prime Minister Daniel Günther tackled the project in 2017, there was great skepticism on both sides. Today, all managers at the Union and the Greens speak of good and trusting cooperation. This should now be taken to a new level with pure black and green. Both sides have emerged stronger from Jamaica. At a state party conference of the Greens, however, the leadership team made it clear that, given the fact that the CDU only lacked an absolute majority seat, the trees are not growing in the sky.
For Günther (48), the black-green project is an affair of the heart. It corresponds to his view of a modern CDU. Schleswig-Holstein should be and remain a pioneer of the energy transition in Germany. In the exploratory paper with the Greens, it has already been agreed that the northern federal state should become the “first climate-neutral industrial state”. The Greens in NRW, with its almost 18 million inhabitants, aim even higher: They want to make NRW the first climate-neutral industrial region in Europe.
In 2014, Hesse was the first German state with a black-green coalition government. The outgoing Prime Minister of the CDU, Volker Bouffier, played a large part in the fact that this was successful. As a good listener and skilful negotiator, he managed to forge a stable and at least outwardly largely conflict-free alliance, which is now working together in its second edition.
From May 31, it will become clear whether the government coalition will continue to work well together without its inventor Bouffier. Then the incumbent president of the state parliament, Boris Rhein, is to be elected as Bouffier’s successor. The Green Group has already pledged its full support. This is also necessary, because Black-Green only governs with a majority mandate.
Eleven years ago, Winfried Kretschmann broke through the decades-long dominance of the CDU in the south-west and became the first green prime minister in Germany. First he governed with the SPD and since 2016 with the CDU as a junior partner. The now 74-year-old is both a blessing and a curse for the Union. The value-conservative father of the country is stealing voters away from the CDU in the rich auto country, but governing with him is at least bearable for the Christian Democrats.
After the Union crashed in the 2021 state election, Kretschmann could have switched to the traffic light. But the green Oberrealo likes the tried and tested and stayed with green and black. Kretschmann wants to retire by 2026 at the latest. Cem Özdemir (56), the Green Federal Minister of Agriculture, is being traded as his successor.