Baden-Wuerttemberg is a region in southwest Germany where 125 years ago the almighty motor car was born.
The area remains central to the automotive industry, here they produce one million Daimlers, Audis and Porsches and the motor trade employs 340,000 people — one in four of the working population. It is a powerhouse of the German economy and has been governed by the Green Party since 2011.
Euronews reporter Sigrid Ulrich visited the area where the Greens and industry have a special relationship as she explained: “It may seem strange that in early 2013, Stuttgart, the home of fast cars, elected a Green to the post of mayor on a manifesto which states ‘‘We want to move away from oil and focus on sustainable motoring and electric vehicles with the power supplied from renewable sources’‘.
Jürgen Trittin is a Green candidate: “Well in the engineering hub of Daimler and Porsche the engineers come to work by bike and voted green, nobody becomes mayor of Stuttgart without the support of the automotive industry.”
In German opinion polls the Greens are running at between 11 to 15 percent and may well have an influence on who becomes the next chancellor.
For two years Baden-Wuerttemberg has been the only German region to have a Green at the helm of the regional government. The Süddeutsche Zeitung, a leading daily newspaper, called it “Germany’s new laboratory.” Berlin keeps a close eye on its experiments. Green leader Winfried Kretschmann has his positives. The economy is looking good in southwestern Germany and voters perceive him as a politician of the people.
Regional industrialists slammed his tax hike plans, but refrained from telling voters not to back him. But not everything in the garden is sunny.
The expensive Stuttgart 21 rail project, which he opposed, is going ahead after a popular vote. Despite a healthy economy the region spends more than it earns, at the end of June the region was one billion in debt:
This hurts the traditionally frugal and hard working character of the southwest, a frugality Angela Merkel has adopted as a template for the whole of Europe. At the G-20 summit in 2011 she hailed it and parts of Bavaria as a “beautiful’ regions of Germany, where people “tend not to spend more money than you have”.
On the other hand when it comes to inventing and developing the successor to car, these descendants of Carl Benz are not afraid of risk.
Local resident Moriz Vohrer explained the character of the place: “They say the Swabes and also the Badeners, although they enjoy their wine, and Wuerttembergers enjoy saving money , they have a strong work ethic, we like to work hard, that’s somehow part of the culture. You nurture things and are dedicated. I come from a village in the Black Forest, where if a farm burns down, people are not left alone. “Baden- Wuerttemberg is home to the so-called “hidden champions”, unknown, unrivaled market leaders sprinkled around the German map, but especially in the Southwest.
Michael Grömling, a senior economist at the Institute of the German Economy, said: “It’s not like in other countries where economic activity is highly concentrated in the capitals or big cities. In contrast to other countries our structure is largely medium sized. German companies are engaged in division of production. There is active cooperation between many medium sized companies. Together they produce these highly sophisticated products. “
The Greens of today say they are happy with this, once upon a time industry was a green target, stricter rules and regulations are now attacked in the Green Party. Even the car is no longer the evil it once was, now fuel efficient with less emissions. The constructors themselves are also playing ball, with the Mercedes S 500 plug in hybrid and the Porsche Spyder.
Industry and the Greens is a marriage made in Baden-Wuerttemberg.
Katrin Göring -Eckardt is a Green candidate: “Clearly there are small companies who specialise in one thing, which makes them world leaders. These are people who others would perhaps think are crazy, but here they have the opportunity to develop and be creative, you can be declared insane here if you are part of the mainstream. That is how we develop.”
Even, financially, the company McKinsey & Co says it will bring in up to 80 billion euros annually by 2020 by developing sustainable products and processes – almost as much as the car industry. In the German lab the experiments produce wealth.