The sun burns mercilessly on the stately courtyard entrance of Banz Monastery in Upper Franconia. But putting up an umbrella in front of the backdrop? That would destroy the images that the TV cameras are supposed to capture here. And so CSU boss Markus Söder and Alexander Dobrindt, head of the CSU state group in the Bundestag, have to sweat for their attack on the traffic lights.
The two put pressure on: The traffic light must extend the lifespan of the remaining nuclear power plants, Söder accuses the government of “ideological obstinacy”, all previous reasons for not extending it were pretended. He also warns that the south – i.e. Bavaria – could be left behind in the event of a gas shortage. Regional shutdowns – that shouldn’t exist!
The Union, as can be seen at the meeting of the CSU state group on Wednesday and Thursday, is trying to drive the traffic lights in front of it in the energy crisis. During his visit to the monastery, CDU leader Friedrich Merz also explained that it was possible to obtain fuel rods for the continued operation of nuclear power plants on the world market – it just had to be politically desirable.
But where the CDU boss is state-supporting, the CSU is going to work more rowdy in its attacks on the traffic lights these days. And whoever spends the two days in the old walls of the monastery also understands the strategy behind it.
The times when the Christian Socialists gave themselves an offensive green coat of paint are over. That Markus Söder hugged trees, that was once. The CSU now wants to make it clear again: The Greens are their political opponents. If, out of calculation, one gets too close to the Greens or forms a coalition with them, there are fears that the eco-party will only be made electable for conservatives.
That is why the CSU focuses its criticism of the energy policy of the traffic light particularly on the Greens and accuses them of acting, for example, on nuclear power driven by morality and ideology and not by reason.
However, the strategy of the CSU cannot be understood without looking at the state elections in Bavaria next year. Markus Söder, who was still trying to get the Union’s chancellor candidacy last year, now wants to leave no doubt that his place is in Bavaria.
At the moment he almost never misses an opportunity to mingle with the people. Whenever a beer keg needs to be tapped somewhere, the Bavarian Prime Minister is there. His workload is already enormous. Söder relies on the Bavarian attitude to life, on tradition, and wants to mobilize the core voters of the CSU again. For him, the motto applies more than ever: Bavaria first.
Against this background, one must also consider the advances in energy policy by the CSU and their commitment to nuclear energy. Söder was one of the first to bring the AKW runtime extension into play. His Ministry of the Environment even commissioned a report from TÜV Süd to examine the feasibility of extending the service life of the Isar 2 nuclear power plant and came to a positive conclusion.
In fact, there are reasons that speak in favor of extending the term. One reason for the nuclear enthusiasm of the CSU is that Bavaria is still dependent on nuclear power – in 2020 a quarter of the electricity was generated here. One of the reasons for this is that the expansion of renewable energies in Bavaria has progressed much more slowly than elsewhere in Germany. Wind power in particular was a thorn in the side of many CSU politicians.
The party campaigned for the so-called 10H rule, according to which a wind turbine had to be ten times as far away from the nearest residential building as the wind turbine is high. The braking could now take revenge – an extension of the nuclear power plant runtimes would be just right. In addition – at least that’s the feeling in the CSU – that nuclear power is going down incredibly well in the beer tent.
The CSU in Bavaria also wants to score with its traffic light attacks in general. The Christian Socialists accuse the government alliance in Berlin of being a North German construct, and Söder recently even complained about “Bavaria bashing”. In this way, the Prime Minister can present himself as the guardian of Bavarian interests. The warning that Bavaria could be disadvantaged when it comes to gas deliveries also goes in this direction.
In addition, the CSU makes every effort to present the traffic light as a left-wing project that wants to re-educate and rebuild society – and all with the help of the liberal FDP. These claims are intended to lure Greens and FDP away middle-class voters who are expected to return to the fold of the CSU in the Bavarian state election.
Söder’s loud tones have brought him sharp allegations of populism in recent days. In the monastery he now emphasized that the CSU was constructive. He even issued the motto “Profile with style”. But in the coming months, a few more headlines are likely to come from Bavaria – they can hardly do without this kind of attention at the CSU.