Cablegate: New Hesse Cabinet: Koch Picks Three New Ministers,

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. Summary: (SBU) After winning an absolute majority in
February 2 state elections, Hesse Minister-President Roland
Koch (Christian Democratic Union - CDU) announced three new
ministers for his state cabinet on February 24. Two of
them, Stefan Gruettner (Minister of the State Chancellery)
and Udo Corts (Minister for Culture, Higher Education and
Science), were expected. The new Economics Minister, Alois
Rhiel, currently the Lord Mayor of Fulda, was a surprise.
Jochen Riebel will no longer be chief of the State
Chancellery. Despite taxpayer criticism, Koch increased the
number of ministries from nine to ten in response to
internal party pressure to better balance the cabinet
geographically. Koch was also criticized by the CDU women's
caucus and the media for not naming a third female minister.
End Summary.

Short Bios of New CDU Ministers

2. (SBU) Alois Rhiel, the new Hesse Minister for Economics,
Transport and Development is Lord Mayor of Fulda. Before
that, he was a manager for the Tegut grocery store chain.
His previous position in government was as Commissioner for
the town of Giessen in 1991. Rhiel is a good contact of the
Consulate and has supported various U.S.-German initiatives
in Fulda. The new minister is a moderate CDU politician,
has an economics background, and is open to new ideas in
environmental policy. Rhiel is from eastern Hesse and
claims to represent north Hesse in the cabinet. By
replacing former Economics Minister Posch (a true north
Hessian) with Rhiel, Koch has increased the influence of
eastern Hesse while preserving north Hesse's standing in the
Cabinet, at least on paper. Some in the north Hesse CDU
complain they had hoped for a bigger reward for delivering a
strong CDU election victory in a traditionally Social
Democratic Party (SPD) region.

3. (SBU) Udo Corts, Minister for Culture, Higher Education
and Science, replaces outgoing minister Ruth Wagner (FDP).
By winning his constituency in Frankfurt, Corts guaranteed
himself a place in the Cabinet. However, his nomination as
Minister for Higher Education came as a surprise. While
acknowledged as a talented administrator, Corts has no
background in the area of education policy. Previously
State Secretary in the Interior Ministry, Corts is seen as a
potential successor to Koch as Minister-President of Hesse.
Corts is also Chairman of the Frankfurt CDU and was
Commissioner for Construction in Frankfurt before joining
the Interior Ministry. He is a Consulate International
Visitor candidate this year.

4. (SBU) Stefan Gruettner, Minister of the State
Chancellery, is one of ConGen Frankfurt's best contacts in
the Hesse CDU parliamentary group and a successful state
parliamentary caucus manager. His promotion to the State
Chancellery is no surprise. Gruettner is from the more
conservative side of the party and his relations with the
new parliamentary group chairman Franz Josef Jung are known
to be rocky. Had Gruettner stayed on as parliamentary
caucus manager, Jung would have asked for his resignation.
Gruettner will become Koch's "right hand" in this new
position. Gruettner was the CDU chairman of the CDU
donation scandal investigation committee and did a good job
helping restore respectability to the party. Though
competent in several policy areas, his background is mainly
in social policy. Gruettner is originally from Offenbach,
and was Offenbach Commissioner for Social Affairs from 1991-

New State Secretary

5. (SBU) Oda Scheidelhuber's appointment to State Secretary
in the Interior Ministry, is another concession to the north
Hesse region, where Koch received a great deal of voter
support in recent elections. Koch was criticized, however,
for not promoting a woman to a minister position.
Scheidelhuber is considered by some to be one of two token
women in the cabinet. As Regierungspraesidentin in Kassel,
Scheidelhuber is known for making the north Hesse district
administration more service-oriented.

Other Changes in the Hesse Cabinet

6. (SBU) Jochen Riebel is now Minister for Federal
(Bundesrat) and European Affairs and becomes the state's
representative in Berlin, but has lost the State Chancellery
to Gruettner (see above para 4). (Note: By splitting these
two functions, Koch has created a new ministry. End Note.)
Koch has stated publicly that this change is not an
expression of any lack of confidence in the minister and
that Riebel's portfolio will be strengthened according to
the Bavarian model. Many doubt this. Riebel is seen as
lackluster, overwhelmed by his work and without much of a
political future. His new role will be more representative
than substantive.

7. (U) Successors for Stefan Gruettner and Oda Scheidelhuber
have not been announced yet. The following positions remain
unchanged (all are CDU):

Karin Wolf, Minister for Education and new Deputy Minister

Volker Bouffier, Interior Minister.
Christean Wagner, Justice Minister.

Wilhelm Dietzel, Agriculture and Environment Minister.

Karlheinz Weimar, Finance Minister.

Silke Lautenschlaeger, Social Minister.


8. (SBU) Koch was apparently driven by internal party
pressure to change the geographic balance of the cabinet.
Frankfurt, Fulda and north Hesse felt under-represented in
the previous Koch administration. The overall number of
ministries has been increased to ten, a move criticized by
the League of Taxpayers. The number of female ministers was
reduced by one, despite the Cabinet's expansion and lobbying
by the CDU women's caucus. The new cabinet has more
representatives from cities, Gruettner, Corts, Rhiel and
Scheidelhuber. Koch was also criticized previously for not
having adequate representation of the more liberal wing of
the Hesse CDU, now also corrected with Corts, Rhiel and
Scheidelhuber. Despite winning an absolute majority in
February elections, Koch may have a difficult five years
ahead of him. Fifty-three of the new state parliament
members won their constituencies directly. Koch will thus
have many "little kings" to deal with.

9. (U) This message was coordinated with Embassy Berlin.


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