It can be assumed that Robert Habeck (The Greens) was not very happy when two letters, 13 and 17 pages long, arrived at his ministry on February 14, 2024. Sender: Berlin Administrative Court. Same title: “Judgment in the name of the people.”

The written documents with file numbers VG 2 K 302/22 and VG 2 K 51/23 concerned a long-simmering dispute between the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection (BMWK), headed by Habeck, and “Cicero.” .

A journalist from the magazine had already asked the ministry in 2022 to hand over certain documents. Specifically, these were documents on the possibility discussed at the time of continuing to operate German nuclear power plants for a limited period of time.

The editor referred to the Environmental Information Law. According to this, everyone has the right to free access to environmental information from government agencies.

“Cicero” against Habeck: first build a wall, then argue

What happened was what often happens when independent journalists critically investigate the authorities and ask to inspect the archives: first Habeck's people did not react at all, then they deceived the “Cicero” man with selected fragments of information. They withheld crucial parts of the files.

Its justification is as flimsy as it is blatant: “confidentiality.” Disclosure of the information would have a “detrimental impact” on processes at the ministry, he said, so the “interest in secrecy outweighs it.”

The transparency that the Greens especially like to demand is apparently not a problem in this case. However, Habeck and his employees did not get their way with their wall tactics. In February, in two separate proceedings, the Berlin Administrative Court ordered BMWK to disclose the requested nuclear energy files. The four-week period to file an appeal has already expired.

Court in FOCUS online: The sentence is final

“Both decisions are those of the defendant. (Federal Ministry of Economy, editorial) notified on February 14, 2024, no appeals have been filed. This means that the sentences are legally binding,” court spokesperson Anna Katharina von Oettingen told FOCUS online. The Federal Ministry of Economy also confirmed this Monday that “it had not filed an appeal.”

In simple terms, this means: Habeck's ministry is now “obliged” (quote from the ruling) to provide the journalist with copies of all requested documents, although “without names, titles, academic titles, positions and functions, addresses or numbers of telecommunications”. .

The court stated in its two rulings, which are available on FOCUS online, that the ministry cannot withhold anything other than permitted redactions about individuals. This applies even to documents classified as classified information (“for official use only”).

But how explosive is the information about nuclear energy that Habeck has strictly hidden until now? Were there perhaps different opinions on the antinuclear policy of the House leaders? Was internal criticism ignored or even “directed”?

Why does Habeck fear a public nuclear debate?

The key question, however, is: Why does the Green Vice-Chancellor fear a public debate about what was discussed in his ministry on this important issue? After all, according to court documents, the ministry accused the whistleblowing journalist of being primarily concerned with “politically questioning management-level decisions and introducing the sought-after information into political discourse.”

This attitude is revealing, because critically questioning government actions and introducing information into political discourse is exactly the task of independent journalists. The documents requested by “Cicero” refer to the debate over the danger of energy supplies in Germany, which erupted after Putin's invasion of Ukraine in 2022. The politicians also discussed a possible extension of the operating times of the three latest German nuclear power plants.

In November 2022, the Bundestag finally decided to make the corresponding amendment to the Atomic Energy Act. Consequently, Isar 2, Neckarwestheim 2 and Emsland could continue to operate until April 15, 2023.

The minister must now make these documents public.

The political and technical background behind this notable decision could be revealed in documents that are now due to be published by the Ministry of Economic Affairs.

According to FOCUS online information, these include:

  • Notes on the role of nuclear power plants in the German electricity supply system, including assessments of the amount of electricity to be saved, gas savings, legal requirements and alternatives.
  • Internal emails about strategic-tactical considerations or assessments regarding fuel elements.
  • Emails between BMWK and transmission system operators about a stress test, an overview of the corresponding scenario, options for action in situations of network stress and a protocol for data exchange.
  • Numerous notes on the technical and legal evaluation of the continuity of operation or commissioning of nuclear power plants.
  • Drafts of a document on the possible continued operation of nuclear power plants, which also contain assessments of the proportionality of the overall risks of nuclear energy with respect to the possible benefits.
  • Strategic-tactical communication work on how to proceed with the creation of a nuclear energy reserve.
  • Documents on internal government consultations before talks with nuclear power plant operators and possible options, as well as technical and organizational issues.
  • Votes on the position of the federal government on the possible continuity of the operation of nuclear power plants.

There are also emails from Habeck's then State Secretary Patrick Graichen on how to proceed with the nuclear energy issue, minutes of important telephone conferences and correspondence between BWMK and the Federal Network Agency, other ministries and the Federal Chancellery, as well as members of the German Bundestag. Lots of interesting material.

Court does not allow “For official use only” to apply

The assessment of the Berlin Administrative Court on the documents “V 126” and “V 127” requested by the publisher “Cicero” is absolutely remarkable. Both parts of the file are marked as classified information and bear the note “For official use only.” But this did not impress the court.

A “formal classification” of the information as classified information is irrelevant. “Rather it depends on whether there are still material reasons for such a classification,” the court stated. And that is “not the case” here.

It will be interesting to see what revelations the previously kept secret documents provide. However, the litigation has already shown that the official position of the Greens and the SPD, according to which the issue of nuclear energy in Germany is definitively resolved, is apparently only one side of the coin.

According to court documents, Habeck's lawyers argued during the oral hearing that the controversial 2022 documents were “still current and relevant” and referred to “unfinished processes.”

The issue of nuclear energy in Germany “continues politically and in the media” and “is debated at state, federal, European and international levels.”