April 21, 2024

Reaction to Tesla vote in Germany: 'It would be a disaster'

Tesla wants to turn the factory in Grünheide into the largest car factory in Europe.Image: imago

Citizens of the Gruenheide community near Berlin voted against expanding the Tesla factory site. The citizens' initiative warns community representatives to abide by the outcome. Tesla reacts too.

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The vote of residents of Grünheide, Brandenburg, was clear: with 3,312 votes (62.1 percent) compared to 2018 (37.9), they spoke out against the expansion plans of electric car manufacturer Tesla in a citizens' poll. US billionaire Elon Musk's company wants to clear another 100 hectares of forest in addition to the 300-hectare “Gigafactory”, which will include building a shipping yard, warehouses and a kindergarten for the company.

Residents' rejection of these plans sparked mixed reactions in Gruenheide and beyond. Watson asked TV Online's media partner around.

The citizens' initiative sees a clear result

The local citizens' initiative, which has already fought against the original Tesla settlement, sees the survey as an order for the local council to reject the corresponding development plan. “I cannot imagine that representatives of society would turn against the citizens who elected them. If that were the case, it would be a disaster,” said the organization’s president, Manuela Heuer. She was “happy” with the result and the “clarity” that she had not expected.

In any case, a voter turnout of about 75 percent would give Hoyer a boost. In Grünheide, the local council decides the development plan. It is not yet known when it plans to do so, but Hoyer expects a vote at the May meeting. The activist doubts the municipality's ability to involve citizens, environmental activists and their initiatives in the process again by then. She said that the poll shows that the development plan in its current form cannot be put to a vote.

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Tesla is committed to expansion

Tesla itself has stated that it will basically stick with its plans. “We remain convinced that the logistical improvement of the station represents a significant benefit to the community.” The car manufacturer announced that it wants to coordinate “with all concerned” and that it sees the “concerns” of citizens. It is now up to the municipality to decide on the development plan procedures. The goal is still to shift a significant portion of truck traffic to rail and expand the infrastructure around the plant.

Before the poll, Mayor Arne Cristiani told rbb that he believed “the majority of the municipal council would support the vote.” However, he now told the radio he could not say whether the community would commit to voting. The development plan has not yet been part of the consultation in the local council. As mayor of the city, Cristiani chairs the municipal council.

February 20, 2024, Brandenburg, Greenheide: Greenheide municipal employees have begun counting postal votes from a citizen survey on the Tesla expansion.  The results of the citizens' opinion poll...

Grünheide municipal employees count postal votes. Photo: EPA

Cristiani told rbb he was disappointed with the result. “I am upset that it was not possible to show people that very important infrastructure projects like the new state road L 386 or the station forecourt are part of this development plan.”

Rolf Peter Hauge, a member of the local state parliament (AfD), told T Online that he would like to “reach a compromise” because there is an “understandable need to expand the plant.” It is important “not to make any decisions that bypass citizens.” He welcomed the fact that citizens participated in the survey, even if Hogg said: “I am less critical of the plant than some colleagues.”

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Mayor blames reports

Cristiani doesn't see the survey results as a sign of a general anti-Tesla attitude in society. There is no negative sentiment towards the American electric car manufacturer. But for him, the outcome depends on local reports. “Reports regarding the Tesla project have generally been somewhat negative over the past year,” he said.

Now it's Tesla and the community's turn

Frank Steffen, director of the Oder Spree district, where Grünheide is located, entrusted the car manufacturer and the community with the task. “Citizens have expressed themselves clearly through a purely democratic process,” the Social Democratic Party politician told t-online. It is now up to Tesla and Gruenheide to “reconsider and then revise the plans.” The survey results show that “we need to think more about the infrastructure of the construction project in the surrounding area.”

“Find the conversation more intensely.”

The Director General of Berlin-Brandenburg Business Associations, Alexander Scherb, had a sober reaction to the survey results. It was announced on Tuesday evening that Tesla's investment was a stroke of luck for Gruenheide and for the entire city of Brandenburg. “We believe that the focus should not be on risks, but on investment opportunities, while also taking into account the environment,” he added.

American electric car manufacturer Tesla has ensured “unprecedented economic dynamism in the metropolitan area” since the start of production, with thousands of additional jobs and hundreds of training positions created. “We view the citizens' vote in Grünheide as a clear mandate to seek more intensive dialogue and provide information about the expansion of the plant,” says Scherb.

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Tesla already owns 300 hectares in Gruenheide. Conservationists, among others, are resisting the planned expansion because they fear problems with the region's water supply. On the other hand, Tesla sees advantages for the area if the development plan is eventually implemented. The planned plant terminal could ease freight traffic, according to the automaker. In addition, delivery security must be increased through additional storage space.

With materials from news agencies DPA and AFP

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