Cabinet under review: Who rules Germany?


171 days after the Bundestag elections, Germany has a new government: after Angela Merkel as Chancellor, her ministers were sworn in on Wednesday. Her new cabinet consists of six women and nine men.

CDU, CSU and SPD are sending some younger politicians to Berlin. Franziska Giffey of the SPD, previously district mayor of Berlin-Neukölln, is the new federal family minister. Overall, the cabinet is younger than the previous one, with an average age of 50 years. Six of the 15 ministerial posts are filled by women.

In addition to the Chancellor, the CDU has six ministers. The new ministers are Anja Karliczek, Jens Spahn, Julia Klöckner and Helge Braun. Ursula von der Leyen and Peter Altmaier, two more experienced CDU politicians, will also be in the cabinet. The CSU sends three ministers and one state minister to Berlin: party leader Horst Seehofer takes over the ministry of the interior, Gerd Müller remains minister for foreign aid and development, and the former secretary general Andreas Scheuer gets the ministry of transport.

With Olaf Scholz, the SPD provides the Minister of Finance and Vice Chancellor, while the former Minister of Justice, Heiko Maas, takes over the Foreign Office. All ministers at a glance:

Heiko Maas:* 19 September 1966, Saarland

– Federal Foreign Office
– Political experience: Federal and State Minister

Heiko Maas could be sure to belong to the new cabinet. As Minister of Justice, he was able to make his mark and make a name for himself in federal politics through the Network Enforcement Act and by enforcing a legal brake on rent increases.

He was criticized for his role in the investigation of treason against His move to the Federal Foreign Office now means a new area of expertise for Maas, who started his career in his home country, Saarland. First he was Secretary of State, then Head of Department in the Ministry of the Environment, Minister of Economic Affairs and Deputy Head of Government.

Julia Klöckner:* 16 December 1972, Rhineland-Palatinate

– Agriculture
– Political experience: Head of state parliamentary group, vice party leader

Julia Klöckner leaves Rhineland-Palatinate and moves back to Berlin, to the Ministry of Agriculture. There she was already Parliamentary State Secretary and is well versed in detailed questions. With her proposal to allow pesticides in organic farming, she has shown her ambitions to the public. On the conservative side, she played a key role in negotiating agricultural policy for the new edition of the grand coalition.

Klöckner is on good terms with Merkel, she is popular with many in the party, as her election results as deputy party leader show. In recent years she has repeatedly tried to fill conservative positions. Two further points spoke for her from the party’s point of view: She is female and relatively young. As the Federal Minister of Agriculture, she could remain state chairman of her party and make a new attempt to become prime minister in the state elections in Rhineland-Palatinate in 2021.

Franziska Giffey:*3 May 1978, Brandenburg

– Family
– Political experience: Mayor of Berlin-Neukölln

The East German SPD associations demanded a strong representation in the new cabinet – and have found a candidate in Franziska Giffey who will now take over the family portfolio.

Giffey has been district mayor of Berlin-Neukölln for the past three years, responsible for 300,000 Berliners. Her nomination for ministerial office is certainly the biggest surprise on the SPD side in the new cabinet. Giffey comes from Frankfurt (Oder) and originally wanted to become a teacher. Instead, she embarked on a career in politics.

Jens Spahn:* 16 May 1980, North Rhine-Westphalia

– Health
– Political experience: Parliamentary State Secretary, member of the Party Executive Committee

One of the most exciting personnel questions of a new grand coalition was what will become of Jens Spahn. The CDU steering committee member has staged himself as a conservative counterpart to Angela Merkel. Now it is certain: The Münsterländer will become Minister of Health.

The Chancellor makes Spahn a minister in order to integrate him into the cabinet discipline. With this step, she is meeting her conservative critics and the Junge Union (youth organisation) within her party.

Spahn is very familiar with the topics of health and care: Before his time as parliamentary state secretary in the Ministry of Finance he was the spokesman for healthcare policy of his parliamentary group.

Hubertus Heil:* 3 November 1972

– Labour and Social Affairs
– Political experience: Secretary General

Hubertus Heil is vice-chairman of the SPD parliamentary group and has been a member of the Bundestag since 1998. He comes from Lower Saxony and took over the office of Secretary General at short notice in 2017 and led Martin Schulz’s election campaign with his team. He held this office from 2005 to 2009. At the time, he was jointly responsible for the SPD election campaign for the 2009 Bundestag elections. He was one of his party’s negotiators during exploratory talks with the CDU/CSU. In the Bundestag faction he belongs to the group of reform-oriented networkers.

Katarina Barley:* 19 November 1968, Rhineland-Palatinate

– Justice and consumer protection
– Political experience: Federal Minister, Secretary General

Former SPD Secretary General Katarina Barley joined the Federal Cabinet in 2017 as Family Minister when her predecessor Manuela Schwesig became Prime minister in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. When Andrea Nahles moved to the top of the parliamentary group, she took over the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. Barley, who describes herself as a “universal weapon” of her party, could also have imagined heading the foreign ministry. Now the trained lawyer will head the Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection. The former judge could become the liberal adversary of Horst Seehofer, Minister of the Interior and Home Affairs.

Olaf Scholz:* 14 June 1958, Hamburg

– Treasury
– Political experience: Federal Minister, Head of State Government, Party Leader

Olaf Scholz has been part of the SPD leadership for years, for example as Secretary General of Gerhard Schröder and Deputy SPD Chairman. Scholz was Federal Minister for Labour and Social Affairs in the Merkel I cabinet from 2007 to 2009. Now the lawyer is Finance Minister and Vice Chancellor. Like his predecessor Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU), Scholz does not want to incur new debts in the federal budget. Together with the designated party leader Andrea Nahles, he will form the social-democratic power axis.

Svenja Schulze:* 29 September 1968

– Environment
– Political experience: Secretary-General of the SPD in North Rhine-Westphalia, former Science Minister

The previous Secretary General of the SPD in North Rhine-Westphalia was Science Minister in NRW from 2010 to 2017. In December 2017, Svenja Schulze was elected as an associate member of the party executive committee and the SPD executive committee. Now she is taking over the environmental department, even though she has not had too much experience in this area so far.

As Environment Minister, she will have a significant influence on the coal phase-out, which affects North Rhine-Westphalia in particular. Before she went into politics, Schulze was a management consultant.

Peter Altmaier:* 18 June 1958, Saarland

– Commerce
– Political experience: Federal Minister, Head of Chancellery

Finance, Chancellery, environment: Peter Altmaier goes where the Chancellor needs him. He is regarded as extremely loyal, as head of the Chancellery he was one of Merkel’s most important confidants. In this capacity, he was responsible for managing the refugee crisis.

That is why it was considered certain early on that Peter Altmaier would belong to a possible new cabinet. At first he was in conversation as finance minister. After Schäuble’s election as President of the Bundestag, he temporarily headed the department and is now moving to the Ministry of Commerce.

Helge Braun:* 18 October 1972, Hesse

– Chancellery
– Political experience: Minister of State at the Chancellery

Helge Braun already worked directly for Angela Merkel as Minister of State for the Federal Chancellor. In addition to topics such as reducing bureaucracy, he was also responsible for implementing the refugee policy. This predestined him to succeed Peter Altmaier as head of the Chancellery, especially as Merkel is very satisfied with him.

He is a member of the Bundestag, and in 2017 he was the CDU’s top candidate on the Hessian state list. The state association of Hesse, which is important for the CDU, insisted on appointing a minister in the new cabinet. Together with Minister of State Dorothee Bär (CSU), he will take care of all matter relating to Digital.

Anja Karliczek:* 29 April 1971, North Rhine-Westphalia

– Education and Research
– Political experience: Parliamentary managing director of the Union faction in the Bundestag

So far she has been more concerned with financial issues: Reform of life insurance, occupational pension provision, federal-state financial equalisation. Anja Karliczek was one of the five parliamentary directors of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group in the Bundestag. The 46-year-old Christian Democrat has been a directly elected member of parliament in the Steinfurt III constituency of Münsterland since 2013.

Ursula von der Leyen:* 8 October 1958, Lower Saxony

– Defense
– Political experience: Federal Minister, Member of the Party Executive Committee

There was a time when Ursula von der Leyen was regarded as the safe successor of Angela Merkel. Then she took over the Ministry of Defence and lost support due to scandals and equipment problems in the troops. In the CDU, her status has always been difficult, also because of her socio-politically liberal views.

Von der Leyen is still regarded as Merkel’s ally. In terms of content, she has always supported the Chancellor’s centrist course. It was relatively certain that she would once again take over the defence portfolio, not least because no one else would offer themselves for this difficult task.

Gerd Müller:* 25 August 1955, Bavaria

– Foreign aid and development
– Political experience: Federal Minister

Gerd Müller began his career as mayor, then went into state politics and finally became development minister. In this position he attracted attention when he boycotted the Football World Cup in Brazil. He also criticised what he considered to be an uncoordinated EU refugee policy and called for a Marshall Plan for Africa. Müller will retain his position in the new grand coalition.

Andreas Scheuer:* 26 September 1974, Bavaria

– Traffic
– Political experience: Secretary General, Parliamentary State Secretary

So far Andreas Scheuer has acted as a rioter for the CSU: Because of statements and harsh attacks against his political opponents (“top agent of an ex-Stasi-Connection” about the left-wing politician Bodo Ramelow) he came time and again into criticism.

Now, however, he has managed to make the leap into federal politics: party leader Seehofer rewards him for his loyalty and sends him to Berlin as Transport Minister.

Horst Seehofer:* 4 July 1949, Bavaria

– Home Secretary
– Political experience: Prime Minister of Bavaria, Party leader, Federal Minister

Horst Seehofer’s position in a new coalition had long been anticipated: the CSU leader will take over the new Federal Ministry of the Interior, which has been extended by “Homeland and Construction”. In Bavaria, he will make way for Markus Söder as prime minister. Seehofer does not want to resign as party leader despite the move to the Merkel cabinet: In a parliament with seven parties, it is important for the CSU leader to sit in Berlin in order to give the Christian-Social Union maximum reach, Seehofer said.

Before his time as prime minister, Seehofer had already been federal minister twice, once under Merkel.




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