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Coal excavator in the Garzweiler open-cast mine

Coal excavator in the Garzweiler open-cast mine
Source: dpa

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Clash over Garzweiler

bulletRed-green dressed in black? After just one year of the coalition government, the alliance between the SPD and the Greens threatens to collapse over a row about the future of Garzweiler II, an open-cast coalmine.

Actually, the two partners came together promising to deal with the conflict pragmatically, without ideological infighting.

Planning permission was agreed for Garzweiler II back in March 1995, but that was before the elections to the present state assembly, the Landtag, which includes the Greens.

The conflict referred to here concerns an open-caste lignite pit operated by the mining company Rheinbraun. The plan is to move 7,600 people to new housing to make way for giant diggers that eat their way through the landscape in the Garzweiler II area.

On the positive side, a total of 11,300 secure bulletjobs can be created by the project. Coal production is to continue there until the middle of this century.

The Social Democrats say that only full exploitation of these reserves will ensure viable employment opportunities. The bulletGreens counter that Garzweiler II will put unacceptable strains on the wider ecology, causing environmental destruction and groundwater problems. It's their duty, they say, to combat this destructive exploitation of nature.

The SPD, under the leadership of bulletWolfgang Clement, a man with a reputation for getting things done, argues its case from a position of strength. After all, having established itself as effective job creators for NRW, the SPD has a considerable reserve of support.

The Green parliamentary group in the Landtag finds itself squeezed between the expectations of rank-and-file environmentalists and their tough Social Democratic partners in government. Nature conservation versus jobs.

Dirk Bitzer

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