At the CDU/CSU retreat, Friedrich Merz and Alexander Dobrindt make it clear: the Union wants to govern again. But with whom? A look at the countries suggests that closer cooperation with the Greens would be obvious. There are influential supporters of this in the Union. But not everyone sees it that way.

There was a great deal of excitement on the Zugspitze on Thursday afternoon. Police and press and onlookers gathered in front of two microphones. In the background the summit cross could be seen behind clouds.

The CDU party chairman Friedrich Merz and the CSU state group leader Alexander Dobrindt stepped in front of the cameras. At the closed conference, you want to work out positions on a number of topics such as the energy crisis or relief together with the parliamentary group executive committee of the Union. After the start of the summit, a corresponding paper is to be drawn up in Murnau am Staffelsee.

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The reason for the extraordinary mountain scenery? The Union wants to show that they want to get to the top. Merz and Dobrindt have long since seen their sister parties at the political pinnacle of Germany. It is clear to them that they will be back in government in three years at the latest. But with whom? In any case, the CDU is increasingly forming coalitions with the Greens in the federal states.

There was a time when the alliances were clear: the Union preferred to govern with the FDP, the SPD preferred with the Greens – and vice versa. “Natural allies”, as they say in politics.

But today there can be no more talk of that. In North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), the CDU governs with the Greens. In Schleswig-Holstein too – Prime Minister Daniel Günther even preferred a coalition with the Greens to the FDP. And in Baden-Württemberg, the green-black coalition is already in its second legislature.

“There is no longer any natural ally for the Union,” says a member of the party’s national executive committee. The CDU must clearly define its content and then see with which partner it can best enforce it. “In the federal states it shows that we can also govern successfully with the Greens.”

There are some advocates in the Union for cooperation with the Greens. They see future potential in the alliance, especially after the Greens in the traffic light and the state governments showed how much they were willing to make compromises – for example on the issue of internal security in North Rhine-Westphalia, a core issue of the CDU.

Nevertheless, another part of the party leadership, which also includes Merz and Dobrindt, tends to distance itself from the Greens. Both regularly criticize Economics Minister Robert Habeck sharply. When asked about medium-term cooperation, their camps waved them off: Everything is still too far away. But the negative attitude of the two parliamentary group leaders in public has another decisive reason.

While the Greens may be a potential partner for the CDU and CSU, they are also their main competition. For the Union, this threatens to become a crucial test between closeness and distance. Because the climate party with Annalena Baerbock and Robert Habeck is moving into the middle, there are ever larger overlaps in the electorate.

Habeck’s personality values ​​do not make things any better for Friedrich Merz. While the Vice-Chancellor has been the most popular politician in the polls for months, the opposition leader has had to make do with significantly less approval. According to the RTL trend barometer, even after the botched gas levy, 27 percent of Germans would still choose Habeck as Chancellor. Merz only has 16 percent.

So before a rapprochement can be considered, the CDU leader plans to change the balance of power in his favor. He wants to clearly differentiate his party from the Greens. To do this, however, the Union and especially the CDU must programmatically gain in profile. So far, Merz has been more of a faction leader than a party leader. He comments on the gas levy or botched appearances by the Chancellor. So far, however, little has been heard of new principles or political lines. The party conference of the CDU is in a week. If Merz wants to gain a profile, he has to add programmatically there.