We never talk about our negotiations, we stay in the background and the public usually is unaware of our support. However, my negotiation in Lützerath with the two activists in the tunnel has become known and with permission from my client I was also allowed to give some interviews.
Right from the start: I did not conduct the negotiation alone, it was a professional cooperation with a great team.
A police negotiating team had been negotiating with the two activists for the last few days. The police’s mandate to negotiate, however, only lasted until Sunday evening, as the end of the eviction of the village Lützerath also meant that the police’s mandate was over. Legally, it was then no longer an eviction, but a rescue. The responsibility for the two activists in the tunnel thus passed on to RWE. On Sunday, the crisis team of RWE asked me to take over the negotiation.
After arriving in Lützerath, I received a detailed briefing from the police negotiating team. As a former police officer and member of the negotiating team, I was immediately accepted and there was no competitive thinking whatsoever.
Together with the police, we had defined a clear transition phase. Until 7 p.m., the police negotiated, and after 7 p.m., the responsibility for the negotiation passed on to me.
In our wording, I became the “Commander,” the head of the crisis team was the “Decision Maker,” and – a really great stroke of luck – the “Negotiator” was already well staffed. Christian, a technical expert in mine construction, together with his colleague, had been in contact with the two activists for the last few days. Technical points such as the supply of oxygen and safety in the tunnel were discussed. Through his expertise and objective approach, they had developed a very trusting relationship over the days.
Christian remained our “Negotiator”, a swap would have caused irritation and we would have given up this great advantage.
As “Commander” I had two important tasks: The support and coaching of the “Negotiator” and the internal negotiations with the police and RWE. After we had received a list of demands with 6 clear demands from the activists on Sunday around 8 p.m., it was my job to negotiate the demands internally and attain possible concessions.
I don’t want to give details, but within 30 minutes we were able to clarify the demands internally and offer concessions to the two activists. The concessions were tied to a clear timeline, after which the concessions would no longer be possible. In addition, RWE had decided to start digging a tunnel on Monday to be able to rescue the activists if conditions worsened. However, this construction work could have posed an additional risk to the existing tunnel.
We had agreed on a clear strategy for the negotiation: There would be no attempts to convince the activists. Calls like “that’s enough, come out now” were not allowed. The decision on how to proceed was always left to the activists, of course within the agreed corridors, like the time limits.
At 9 p.m. we had reached an agreement with the activists that the tunnel would be vacated by 12 a.m. on Monday.
The activists, the police and RWE kept to their agreements and so the two activists could leave the tunnel.
It was also a new situation for me, because normally people in danger ask for help. The two activists were in danger and did not want help. They presented their defensive measures in a video as “Pinky and Brain” and threatened to chain themselves in place in case of an eviction attempt.
Important negotiation elements:
1. There needs to be a clear division of responsibilities, the roles of “negotiator”, “commander” and “decision maker” must be clearly separated.
2. A time schedule is elementary and must not be changed, deadlines must be clearly communicated.
3. Consequences must be addressed, but not as a threat.
4. It is about people, not ideologies. Rescue is the priority, not whether someone is right or wrong.
5. Teamwork is key in the negotiation process. For the sake of the cause, there must be no competitiveness, information must be put on the table. There must be internal disputes and there must be room for ideas and concerns. After the dispute, the strategy comes into play, which is then implemented step by step.
The teamwork was perfect in Lützerath. Many thanks to the police, RWE, experts, fire department, the parliamentary observers, the activists, and everyone who helped.
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