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Robert Habeck in Qatar: In the constraints of time

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You would never have thought: a Green Party politician is negotiating a natural gas deal with Qatar. But Robert Habeck has few options. For this he fights valiantly.

Economy Minister Robert Habeck and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani © Amiri Diwan/​AP/​dpa

Everything about this scenario in Qatar is as irritating to German television habits as a mirage. We had to get used to that. Robert HabeckArriving at the office, he abruptly ditched collarless shirts and sports jackets. Last weekend, however, he shook hands with sheikhs and emirs in a truly political way, taking a seat on gilt-framed upholstered furniture and discussing natural gas supplies for Germany with the Arab emirate’s monarchs. And he doesn’t hide the fact that it’s not that easy for him.

It seems to me a tremendous act of political repositioning that is currently being carried out by the Minister of Green Economy. And it should be clear to most citizens of this country that this act stems from the constraints created by the Russian attack on Ukraine: Germany urgently needs gas from sources other than Russia, and needs it as soon as possible.

In essence, what Habeck is doing these days is not a fundamental departure from the energy policy that the red-green-yellow government has planned for the next few years. It is a rearrangement under enormous time pressure. Habeck’s remarkable achievement at this point is that he honestly names the very narrow scope in which he operates and does not shy away from the uncomfortable truths of this political task.

The alternatives are very limited.

One thing is clear: even before the start of the war, the energy transition in Germany was geared to be supported by natural gas for years and decades to come. But this gas just can’t stop Russia Come on, the federal government has to find other providers. After all, the stoplight government also wants to continue to reduce nuclear power and coal power, but at the same time the share of renewables is increasing too slowly. So natural gas is still needed for this transition period, which is at least slightly less climate-damaging than coal. The problem for Habeck, however, is that all previous governments relied too much on Russian gas and the search for alternatives is now very limited.

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