SPIEGEL: How do you rate the disappointing performance of the Greens in the state elections?
Hofreiter: Wait a minute, those were the best results we have ever achieved in East Germany. We are the only democratic party that has won relevant votes. We have won a total of four direct mandates. That never happened in Brandenburg and Saxony. I consider that a very good result.
SPIEGEL: Can you really be satisfied with the great success of the AfD?
Hofreiter: The results of the AfD are of course disturbing. That a quarter of the voters have given their voice to an ever-open right-wing extremist party must awaken us all. But it has not become strongest in Brandenburg or Saxony. This is important. Both states are highly polarized, as shown by these elections. For example in Saxony: With a second vote result of 8.6 percent, we have taken three direct mandates. This shows how different people have already chosen within the countries.
SPIEGEL: Nevertheless, unlike the AfD, you have rather made modest gains. Why is that?
Hofreiter: What should this bad talk? In 2014, the Greens had won 60,000 votes, on Sunday more than 130,000. I do not call that modest. It is true that surveys before the election saw us there even more. In recent days, a head-to-head race of the respective governing party was distinguished with the AfD. The people did not want the right-wing radicals to become the strongest force. Many did not vote for us for tactical reasons, but for the SPD in Brandenburg and the CDU in Saxony. That was wise. Despite this dynamic and the initial situation in the East, we have become double digits in Brandenburg and have won three direct mandates in Saxony. The Greens can be proud of that.
SPIEGEL: How do you explain the result of the AfD?
Hofreiter: One reason is the weakness of the grand coalition in Berlin. Second, there are many structural issues on the ground. Third, the right-wing radicals in the countries were not combated in time. Think of statements by the former Saxon Prime Minister Kurt Biedenkopf, who said that the Saxons are immune to right-wing radicals. Thus, right-wing extremism was able to grow into society.
SPIEGEL: Above all, does the CDU have the task of reintegrating the right-wing border?
Hofreiter: All politically active people have the task of fighting right-wing extremism decisively. The policy as a whole must support civil society. Some of them instead equated the Antifa with legal terrorism. That's wrong, I hold it there with the CDU politician Ruprecht Polenz: Every democrat should be anti-fascist. Security agencies must seriously combat right-wing extremist activities, even under the threshold of right-wing terrorism. And finally, the structural change must succeed, regions that are detached, must be re-connected.
SPIEGEL: The Greens and the AfD have nothing in common. Can your party ever appeal to AFD voters?
Hofreiter: I see it as our task to change the attitude in society. We succeeded in the Bavarian state election campaign. At first it seemed as if the AfD was on the upswing, the CSU has made terrible speeches. With a mix of optimism, a spirit of optimism and the opposite, in cooperation with civil society we succeeded in turning the mood in Bavaria.
SPIEGEL: Why did not this work in Saxony and Brandenburg?
Hofreiter: It worked in part. In parts of society, a positive mood has been generated. Especially in the larger cities. In the East, we are far from being as widespread as in Bavaria, where green people have been around for a long time. It takes time for a party like the Greens to become anchored. And of course the mood in Brandenburg and Saxony was more polarized than in Bavaria.
SPIEGEL: Climate policy has played a subordinate role, except for the topic of coal austerity. Do the election results show that your party can only score with this one topic?
Hofreiter: If so, we would not have done so well. On the question of which party gives the best answers to the questions of the future, we were named first in Brandenburg, in Saxony as the second behind the CDU. During the election campaign, I was very well aware that people are interested in how to bring about an ecological change in traffic, how to ensure a different kind of agriculture, and how successful structural change is in Lusatia.
SPIEGEL: In Lusatia you have remained below 5 percent in many constituencies.
Hofreiter: That's right. It still interested people.
SPIEGEL: How self-confident are the Greens going to the soundings in Saxony?
Hofreiter: Our party friends will go there very confidently, because they have significantly increased. They are also aware that the Greens have a great democratic responsibility. But it is clear: a new state government must initiate a policy change.
SPIEGEL: Should the Greens make the accusation of lack of principles when they are in coalition with parties like the Saxon CDU?
Hofreiter: Who makes democratic sense of responsibility so contemptible even before negotiations, pours water on the mills of Hetzer. If and how things go together in Saxony, the talks will result. It is clear: There will be no further-Sun with Greens. It needs a new political departure for Saxony.
SPIEGEL: The CDU's stance on coalition withdrawal is one reason why you have been below your goal in many parts of the world. Nonetheless, are you sticking to your demand to get out of coal altogether by 2030?
Hofreiter: The drama of the climate crisis does not allow a delay. In the Amazon the forest is burning, in Greenland the ice melts. It has to be done now.
SPIEGEL: What do you expect from the Climate Cabinet?
Hofreiter: I would like to see Chancellor Angela Merkel's sentence: 'Stop Pill Punch'. So far, however, the Chancellor does not live up to her own standards. Something has to happen in all areas, from transport to industry and agriculture. Some examples: In agriculture, the numbers of animals must be limited, there must finally be a functioning CO2 price, the charging station network must be expanded.
SPIEGEL: How do you imagine a functioning CO2 price?
Hofreiter: We want the ton of CO2 initially taxed at 40 euros. The price increase is to be worked out by a scientific commission. The Union's plan to introduce national emissions trading is not effective. Until such an instrument works, years can go into the country. We do not have that much time left.
SPIEGEL: You are particularly impressed by the commuters in structurally weak regions.
Hofreiter: Our concept is to repay all the money that we use to the citizens. About an energy money and the abolition of the electricity tax. In addition, there should be a bonus-malus system, so that the emission-free car is worthwhile. You will not get the climate crisis under control if we all continue as before. In addition, we need huge investments, for the railways, the public transport, the charging station network.
SPIEGEL: But you can not get the climate crisis under control if you do not have the political majorities.
Hofreiter: Political majorities follow from social. And in society, the pressure on the federal government is enormous. Of course, there are always arguments for just not doing anything. But then I would like to send all those who do not tackle things to the seashore, and they can negotiate with the rising sea level. I am looking forward to the results.