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Cablegate: New German Agriculture Minister Likely to Follow

VZCZCXRO1912
RR RUEHAG RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHLZ RUEHROV
DE RUEHRL #1496/01 3081537
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 031537Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY BERLIN
TO RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHINGTON DC
RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2546
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
RUCNFRG/FRG COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BERLIN 001496

USDA FOR OFSO DYOUNG, OCRA Salmon, Baysinger, OSTA EJones

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR ECON PGOV INRB GM

SUBJECT: New German Agriculture Minister Likely to Follow
Seehofer's Positions on Trade and Agriculture

1. (U) Summary. Ilse Aigner has been appointed as the German
Minister for Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection, replacing
Horst Seehofer who has returned to Bavaria as Minister President.
It is unclear how this change will affect Germany's agricultural and
trade policy decisions in the coming year. In Bavaria, Helmut
Brunner, the new state agriculture minister will likely continue to
push anti-biotech policies. Seehofer leaves a mixed result from his
3-year tenure as German Agricultural Minister. ConGen Munich is
reporting septel on Seehofer and his new Bavarian Government. End
Summary.

A New Agriculture Minister is Named

2. (U)On October 31, Ilse Aigner assumed responsibilities as the
new Federal Minister for Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection
(BMELV) in Germany. Aigner is a member of the Bavarian Christian
Social Union and takes over the post from Horst Seehofer, the new
Bavarian Minister President. CSU was allocated this position in the
Federal Cabinet under the agreement that established the German
Grand Coalition Government in late 2005.

3. (SBU)Ilse Aigner is single, 43 years old and represents Starnberg
and the surrounding countryside, a rural area near Munich that is
one of Germany's most affluent. She has been a Bundestag member
since 1998. Aigner is an electrician by training and in the past
has worked with helicopter development. As a member of the
Bundestag, Aigner has most recently been the deputy chairperson of
the ethics committee. In this role, she has been involved in German
debate on stem cell research. In those debates, she demanded more
liberal conditions for the German stem cell researchers. She has
been a member of the budget committee and the research and education
committee in the Bundestag. In the budget committee Aigner, was the
rapporteur for agriculture. German federal officials say that in
this role she gained a thorough understanding of the administration
and programs of BMELV. She was described as tough and is regarded
by at least some in the German Government as a good choice to lead
BMELV at least until the 2009 elections. Her biography can be found
at diplopedia.state.gov/index.php?title=Ilse_Aig ner.

4. (U)Aigner is considered to be a promising young CSU politician.
While congratulating Aigner on her new duties, the German Farmers
Association was not effusive in welcoming her. Aigner is unlikely
to change German policies regarding the Common Agricultural Policy
Health Check or commitment to a successful conclusion of the Doha
negotiations. Aigner already stated that she will not break away
from Seehofer's relatively negative stance on agricultural
biotechnology application but stressed the importance of research in
this field. Some suspect that Seehofer will continue to exert
strong influence on agricultural policy decision making in Berlin
when it touches Bavarian interests, especially since he handpicked
Aigner as his replacement. One such area will be EU changes to the
milk quota and how the dairy industry in Bavaria might be
compensated.

In Bavaria, Environment Trumps Agriculture

5. (SBU) For the Bavarian cabinet, Seehofer nominated Markus Soeder
as the next Minister for Health and Environment (Bavarian Cabinet
choices report in detail Septel). Soeder and Seehofer have been the
leading opponents to cultivation of biotech crops throughout Germany
in the past two years. For Soeder, this position could provide him
a platform to promote an anti-biotech agenda. Insiders expect that
41-year-old Soeder will try to position himself as counterweight to
Sigmar Gabriel, the current Federal Minister of the Environment.
For Bavaria's Agriculture Minister, Seehofer selected Helmut
Brunner, a 54-year-old farmer who has been a member of the Bavarian
parliament for 14 years. He was also the chairperson of the
agricultural committee in the Bavarian parliament. However,
according to insiders, he kept a low profile in this position.
Brunner was chosen, in part, because of his Lower Bavarian roots
helped to provide regional balance, an important consideration in
CSU politics.

Seehofer as Agricultural Minister

6. (SBU) During his tenure as Federal Agricultural Minister, Horst
Seehofer often went against recommendations of his Ministry and
party on contentious issues. For example, despite publicly
supporting the use of green biotechnology during the very early part
of his term, Seehofer's enthusiasm waned as the Green Party and
non-governmental organizations intensified their anti-biotech
campaigns. By the end of his term, Seehofer had determined the
political costs of support for agricultural biotechnology were too
great given his longer term political aspirations.

7. (SBU) As Agricultural Minister, Seehofer opposed the

BERLIN 00001496 002 OF 002


Transatlantic Economic Council's (TEC) initiative to resolve the
U.S./EU poultry dispute. Seizing on strong opposition from
agricultural groups and consumers, Seehofer postioned himself as the
consumers' advocate and fought against lifting the ban on U.S.
poultry. Seehofer supported the WTO negotiations for further trade
liberalization, but he also understood that Germany's agricultural
sector is apprehensive about the impact on subsidies. Seehofer
often stated that he believed it was important to ensure that
farmers were not hurt socially and economically by any trade
agreement.

8. (U) Seehofer's advocacy for social issues played well with his
agricultural constituents and often kept him in the media spotlight.
One such issue involved the German dairy strike of summer 2008,
which was centered in Bavaria. While Seehofer did not publicly
support the strike, he supported the farmers' demands for a quote
fair unquote milk price and was reported to have promised to work
against a further quota increase in Brussels. He also convened
German milk summit and called for the creation of an EU milk fund to
support dairy farms in disadvantaged areas. His action not only
strengthened his ties to the large groups of predominantly small
Bavarian farmers, the CSU, and the German Farmers Union, but more
importantly allowed him to maintain his popularity in Bavaria.

9. (U)Embassy Berlin coordinated this cable with Consulate General
Munich.

TIMKEN JR

UNCLASSIFIED 2

UNCLASSIFIED

UNCLASSIFIED

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