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Cablegate: The New German Cabinet - an Overview

DE RUEHRL #1360/01 3020636
R 290636Z OCT 09




E.O. 12958: N/A

Ref: Berlin 1337, Berlin 1340, Berlin 1167

BERLIN 00001360 001.2 OF 004

1. (SBU) Chancellor Merkel's new Cabinet emerged early on October 24
after a month of intense media speculation about its make-up; it
contained several surprises. Perhaps the most unexpected
announcements were that of former Interior Minister Schaeuble as
Finance Minister and former Economics Minister Karl-Theodor zu
Guttenberg as the new Defense Minister. The Christian Democratic
Union (CDU) will run the Chancellery as well as six ministries and
have a minister without portfolio, the Free Democratic Party (FDP)
will hold five as well as the Vice Chancellorship, and the Christian
Social Union (CSU), three. The ministerial competencies and their
names remain unchanged. Following is a short description of
Merkel's new Cabinet, which was formally sworn in on October 28:

Chief of the Chancellery and Minister
Without Portfolio: Ronald Pofalla (CDU)

Pofalla, 50, takes over from Thomas de Maiziere as the Chancellor's
chief of staff. Pofalla is a lawyer and since 2005 served as CDU
Secretary General. He is known as a close confidant of Angela
Merkel. As Secretary General, he had been criticized as lacking a
public profile and not being aggressive enough. From 2004-2005 he
served as deputy caucus leader for economics and labor issues in the
Bundestag. Also within the Chancellery, Merkel's security and
foreign policy advisor Christoph Heusgen remains, as do Maria
Boehmer as Minister of State for Migration, Refugees and Integration
and Bernd Neumann, Minister of State for Culture and Media. Eckart
von Klaeden (CDU and a Merkel confidant) becomes State Minister in
the Chancellery for coordination with the federal states and
parliamentary contacts.

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Foreign Affairs: Guido Westerwelle (FDP)

Westerwelle, 47, becomes Foreign Minister and Vice-Chancellor -- as
expected. Economic Assistance will not be included in the Foreign
office, but the FDP will also control that ministry. Minister of
State within the MFA will be Werner Hoyer, who already served in
that function under Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel from 1994-1998.
He also was Westerwelle's foreign policy adviser in the election
campaign. He will cover all divisions apart from "culture" and
"economics and sustainable development." The other Minister of
State is Cornelia Pieper, deputy FDP chairperson, who has no
experience in this field and will reportedly focus on cultural and
communication issues. Martin Biesel, Westerwelle's Bundestag chief
of staff, will become a State Secretary within the MFA to coordinate
the work of the FDP ministries with the Chancellery. Westerwelle
has described Biesel as his closest advisor.

Defense: Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg (CSU)

The CSU's rising star, zu Guttenberg, 37, seemed certain to remain
in the cabinet. However, there was speculation that his Economics
Ministry seat would be up for grabs. When Economics went to the FDP
and Finance to Schaeuble, zu Guttenberg's best fit was in Defense.
The DefMin job gives zu Guttenberg the opportunity to work on
foreign and security issues again, which was his main area of
interest as a parliamentarian. He is seen as a good and capable
replacement for Jung, who was widely criticized for being overly
cautious and inarticulate in explaining security and defense issues
to the German public. Zu Guttenberg is expected to improve the
Defense Ministry's image, prestige and weight within the cabinet
through his popularity and public relations talents. His
appointment has already boosted morale among working level officials
in the MOD, who believe that zu Guttenberg will make MOD a real
player once again in German security policy debates. He is a
transatlanticist and well known in Washington. He will likely give
the Defense Ministry a higher profile. He will retain the current
Parliamentary State Secretaries Thomas Kossendey (CSU) and Christian
Schmidt (CSU).

Interior: Thomas de Maiziere (CDU)

De Maiziere, 55, a lawyer, is a confidant of Angela Merkel and has
served as her chief of staff in the Chancellery for four years. He
had been mentioned as a potential finance minister, but reportedly,
his personal preference was interior. He brings some experience to
the job, since he served as state interior minister in Saxony
2004-2005 and as state minister of justice 2002-2004. However, some
of the issues he will face as federal interior minister, namely
international terrorism, are topics he has less exposure to. De
Maiziere is known to be a consensus builder who works the
interagency process well and is a good problem solver.

BERLIN 00001360 002.2 OF 004

Finance: Wolfgang Schaeuble (CDU)

Merkel wanted a political heavy weight in this difficult position
during the financial and economic crisis. Schaeuble, 67, is an
experienced, strong and well established politician from Germany's
southwest, who is expected to fill his new role quite well. He has
by far the longest federal government experience in Merkel's
cabinet. Confined to a wheel chair since he was shot during a
campaign rally in 1990, the conservative politician from the German
southwest is not known as a close friend of Chancellor Merkel's. A
member of the Bundestag since 1972, he is pragmatic, copes well with
pressure, and is known for his fierce loyalty. He does not shy away
from confrontation and will be ready to pursue unpopular or
controversial measures. In light of his age and his political
standing, he does not have to fear any consequences for his future
career, which a younger candidate would take into consideration.
While he had to give up the Interior Ministry (which he reportedly
liked very much), he is being compensated by running one of the most
influential ministries in the cabinet. While he cooperated well
during the coalition talks, political observers would have expected
major clashes with FDP Justice Minister Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger
over domestic security issues if he had remained in the Interior

Economics and Technology: Rainer Bruederle (FDP)
--------------------------------------------- --

Bruederle, 64, has been deputy caucus chief and economic spokesman
of the FDP in the Bundestag. He already served as economic minster
in Rhineland Palatinate 1987-1998, where he strongly promoted
wine-growers, trade, and small and midsize business. Since 1983 he
has been state chairman of the FDP in Rhineland Palatinate and
member of the national executive committee and since 1995 deputy
national party chairman. Hans-Joachim Otto and Ernst Burgbacher
(both FDP) will become State Secretaries within that Ministry.

Labor and Social Affairs: Franz-Josef Jung (CDU)
--------------------------------------------- --

Defense Minister Jung, 60, was unexpectedly switched to the Labor
and Social Affairs ministry. Jung had fallen victim to much
criticism during his tenure as Defense Minister and Merkel had been
pressured to replace him. Merkel, however, had to find another
cabinet post for Jung to maintain a proportional regional
representation in the cabinet - Jung's state of Hesse had to be
represented. Another reason for Merkel to keep Jung in the cabinet
in spite of his weaknesses and previous failures is his loyalty as a

Justice: Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger (FDP)
--------------------------------------------- --

Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, 58, is FDP chairperson and caucus chief
in Bavaria. She successfully ran the 2008 FDP election campaign in
that state, where the FDP reentered the state parliament after 14
years of absence. She was the FDP's chief negotiator on Justice in
the coalition talks. She previously served as Justice Minister
under Chancellor Kohl from 1992-1996, but resigned in opposition to
legislation allowing electronic eavesdropping of private residences,
which was planned by her own government. She has a strong focus on
civil rights and data protection, and has been critical of what she
views are overly intrusive wiretapping and other electronic
surveillance measures (see ref C).

Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women
and Youth: Ursula von der Leyen (CDU)

Von der Leyen, 51, a medical doctor and mother of seven, had
indicated a strong interest in moving to the health portfolio and
worked out that respective section of the coalition agreement for
the CDU. Merkel reportedly was not interested, however, in the CDU
controlling the health ministry in light of the necessary but
unpopular reforms and increasing costs of health care for citizens.
Since the health ministry went to the FDP, von der Leyen will remain
in her current position. In the past few years, von der Leyen has
successfully modernized the family policy of the CDU and thus its
image in this sector. She is one of Germany's most popular
politicians according to public opinion polls.

Health: Philipp Roesler (FDP)

Roesler, 36, is the youngest member of the cabinet and his
nomination was a surprise. He is sharp and dynamic and a rising
star of the FDP. He was state secretary general, state party
chairman and eventually economics minister in Lower-Saxony. He was
born in Vietnam and was adopted by a German family. Both Roesler

BERLIN 00001360 003.2 OF 004

and his wife are medical doctors, which gives him some practical
background for his new portfolio. Roesler negotiated the health
section of the coalition agreement for the FDP.

Environment, Nature Conservation and
Nuclear Safety: Norbert Roettgen (CDU)

Roettgen, 44, a close confidant of Chancellor Merkel had also been
named as potential chief of staff at the Chancellery. He has worked
closely with the Chancellor since her days as caucus chairman
2002-2005. Merkel reportedly appreciates his loyalty and analytical
talents. During the financial crisis he became one of her closest
advisors. While he does not have a reputation for expertise in his
new portfolio, Merkel obviously wanted to position many of her
confidants in the new cabinet. Environmental issues, especially
climate change, will figure prominently for Merkel.

Education and Research: Annette Schavan (CDU)

Schavan, 54, will keep her current cabinet position. Even though
she did not have a prominent record, as a confidant of Angela
Merkel, it was assumed that she would stay on as a member of the

Transportation, Building, and Urban
Development: Peter Ramsauer (CSU)

Since November 2005, Ramsauer, 55, has served as head of the CSU
group in the Bundestag and deputy CDU/CSU caucus chief. As minister
for construction, housing and transportation, he will have a huge
budget to work with.

Food, Agriculture, and Consumer Protection:
Ilse Aigner (CSU)

Aigner, 44, only became Minister for Agriculture and Consumer
Protection in October 2008. She came to this job as an expert on
research issues and new to the realities of production agriculture.
In her tenure, some parts of the German agriculture community have
been critical of her performance, particularly her close
relationship to Bavarian Minister President Horst Seehofer. The CSU
was interested in keeping this portfolio since agriculture continues
to play an important and tactical role in Bavaria.

Economic Cooperation and Development: Dirk Niebel (FDP)
--------------------------------------------- -----

Niebel, 46, has been Secretary General of the FDP since May 2005 and
belongs to the inner leadership circle of the FDP. He was named as
a potential minister since he made strong contributions to the
electoral success of the FDP. His actual expertise would have been
labor and social affairs. However, that portfolio went to the CDU.
The FDP sought in the coalition talks to have the Ministry of
Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) merged with the MFA, but
failing that, having control of both ministries goes a long way to
meeting its concern that BMZ development policy be in line with MFA
priorities, especially on key issues like Afghanistan. Media
commentary has focused on Niebel's lack of previous experience in
development assistance, and how he may essentially serve as a
department head under Foreign Minister Westerwelle.


2. (SBU) With five ministries in the new cabinet, the FDP is
arguably one of the most powerful junior coalition partners in
recent German history in terms of both the number and quality of
their cabinet appointments. The Greens had three, mostly junior,
ministries in their coalition with the Social Democrats from
1998-2005. The FDP has one more than it had during its last
coalition with the CDU. This is due in part to the election outcome
in which the FDP had its strongest-ever performance, with 14.6
percent of the vote. CDU officials also describe the appointments
as partial compensation for the policy concessions the FDP made
during coalition negotiations. The CDU/CSU will have the popular
and competent Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg as Defense Minister,
balancing the FDP's control over Foreign Affairs and Development
Assistance. Zu Guttenberg -- a strong transatlanticist -- is
well-connected in Washington and already has a strong background in
foreign and security policy. There has been some criticism that the
new Cabinet does not have any representation from eastern states.
Merkel responded to the criticism reminding that in fact the
Chancellor herself counts as representing the East. End comment.

BERLIN 00001360 004.2 OF 004

3. (U) This cable was coordinated with Consulates Frankfurt,
Leipzig, Munich, Hamburg and Duesseldorf.


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