In Berlin, the signs are black and red: the SPD state executive decided on Wednesday to start coalition negotiations with the CDU, and the CDU state executive voted unanimously on Thursday for such talks. If both parties come together, Governing Mayor Franziska Giffey would have to leave the Rotes Rathaus, which she only moved into in December 2021. However, she is available for a post as a senator in the new state government. In an interview with the German Press Agency, the SPD state chairman explains how things will continue.

Question: Don’t you see the danger that the SPD, as a junior partner, will continue to lose approval?

You always have to weigh up the alternatives. The likelihood that we’ll be even worse off in the next election because people say they’re just going to carry on – that’s a big risk. The other side is that the Greens negotiated with the CDU and that was also a real option for them. If we had gone in the red-green-red direction, I’m pretty sure we would have gotten black-green. The CDU was very flexible towards us, but also towards the Greens. And that, in my view, would be the worst position for the SPD if we were to watch the black-green government in the opposition.

Question: Does it hurt to have to leave the Red Town Hall?

Of course it’s not easy for me. I’ve absolutely arrived at the Rotes Rathaus, that’s my dream job. For me, that is the task that I can fulfill with my personality, with my experience, with my competence. I also received a lot of support, the colleagues in the town hall are super committed. I have great respect for their achievement and am grateful for it. And that makes it difficult to give up the office of governing mayor.

When you say that to the employees and people have tears in their eyes, it’s not easy. This is a very difficult decision for me. I would like to make a difference for the city. That’s why I said that if the party wants it, I’m willing to make my contribution to such a coalition. I find the assumption that you only do something because you stick to posts underground.

One wonders whether the people who say such things can imagine that someone who is involved in politics is interested in more than just themselves. That’s the reason why I went into politics: because I wanted to change something for the benefit of our city. It has always been my aspiration to do something that has a positive impact and that makes sense.

Question: Why should there be a member decision on the coalition agreement?

We had a very honest debate in the state executive on Wednesday, and two-thirds voted to start coalition negotiations with the CDU. I would also estimate the mood in the entire party about the same. We have members who are now very strongly opposed to such an alliance and are also very vocal. But there is also very, very much feedback from the party saying that this is a correct and also a courageous step. That’s why we decided that there should be a member vote in order to include as many members as possible. You need to plan some time for this. But I also think that’s the right thing to do when it comes to such a serious decision.

Question: Would black and red be a step backwards for Berlin?

Our task will be to prove that this alliance is a progressive coalition. And that we manage to focus in particular on the topics of social justice, climate protection, economic development and a diverse city. This alliance will also have the task of doing everything possible to ensure that Berlin continues to be a pioneer when it comes to climate neutrality, just as it does when it comes to housing construction. This alliance must stand for innovation, drive, pragmatism and solution orientation and, above all, for closeness to the people.

Question: Can the CDU and SPD protect the climate at all?

Naturally. The issue of climate protection is not just one of the Greens. Climate protection must be a priority for every state government and the federal government. Precisely because it is now being claimed that all this is allegedly no longer being pursued, we have to prove that we stand up for effective climate protection and implement more. This will be an important issue for us, and we agree with the CDU on that. But you also have to be realistic. Climate neutrality by 2030, which the Greens are now demanding, will not be feasible. In everything we do, we have to set ambitious but also realistic goals. And develop a pragmatic policy from this, with which we can really make progress in terms of climate protection. I can very well imagine that in this constellation.