Cablegate: Lame Duck German Governor Kicked Upstairs As New

DE RUEHRL #1635 3651406
R 311406Z DEC 09





E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Lame Duck German Governor Kicked Upstairs as New
Energy Commissioner in Brussels

REF: Frankfurt 002808
Sensitive but unclassified; not for Internet Distribution.
1. (SBU) Chancellor Angela Merkel nominated Baden-
Wuerttemberg (BW) Minister President Guenther Oettinger as EU
Energy Commissioner primarily to remove an unloved lame duck
from an important CDU bastion. The move was not the promotion
of a valued colleague as Merkel's allies sought to portray it.
Rather, Oettinger's increasing loss of party support in BW
compelled Merkel to push Oettinger out to protect her support
base there. Oettinger is noted for a lackluster public
speaking style, and some commentators have asserted that
Merkel, who has often stood out at EU meetings, wanted to
appoint a German Commissioner who would not outshine her.

2. (SBU) Germany has a time-honored tradition of sending
unwanted politicians to the EU Commission, although departing
SPD EU Industry Commissioner Guenter Verheugen proved his
worth during his tenure. Oettinger has criticized Merkel for
her policy stances (on federal support to Opel and on generous
subsidies to the former eastern states, for instance) and her
purported lack of leadership while antagonizing other
influential CDU leaders. In addition to being a poor public
speaker, he has a tendency to put his foot in his mouth. The
best-known example was his ill-advised 2007 defense of a CDU
predecessor as an opponent of the National Socialist regime,
despite his documented pro-Nazi war record. Nonetheless,
Oettinger is said by industry sources in Baden-Wuerttemberg to
be an efficient behind-the-scenes negotiator.
3. (U) Merkel was criticized for choosing the energy
portfolio, which many derided as too insignificant for
Germany. Werner Langen, CDU/CSU caucus spokesman in the EU
Parliament, said the portfolio has "lost significance."
Prominent Green Member of the European Parliament, Reinhard
Buetikofer characterized it as "not particularly influential,"
and Der Spiegel called it a "makeshift job." The EU Energy
Commissioner is responsible for issues such as supply
security, energy R&D and efficiency, competition in the gas
and electricity markets, infrastructure and low carbon
technologies. However, key issues such as energy security and
climate change are not in the portfolio; nor will Oettinger
take over the role of EU Commission Vice President from
4. (U) Oettinger has an academic background in law and
economics and professional experience as a tax consultant and
accountant. His political expertise is in media policy. His
background in energy appears limited to public support for
nuclear power and the extension of power plant operating
licenses. His pro-nuclear stance is in stark contrast to many
other German politicians, who support the phase out of nuclear
power. This endears him to the EU, which is focused on
diversification of energy sources and does not exclude nuclear
energy. Nuclear power plants supply most of BW's energy while
renewable energy and fossil fuels do not play a significant
role. Oettinger has not expressed interest to date in energy
issues other than nuclear. His priorities in his list
submitted to the EU Parliament in the run up to the January
hearings of the candidate Commission are reportedly vague.

5. (SBU) Parliamentarians, skeptical of several members of
the new Commission, are likely to display particular interest
in Oettinger's views on binding energy efficiency targets and
encouraging more competition in internal energy markets.
Although Germany has embraced a controversial domestic goal of
increasing energy efficiency by 20% by 2020, it has yet to
translate the EU energy efficiency directive into national
law. Germany has also steadfastly opposed liberalization of
its power sector oligopoly (what Brussels calls "unbundling")
although individual German companies are slowly moving in that
direction. Oettinger's stance on the internal energy market
will also be of particular interest to European
parliamentarians, who see France, and particularly French
power giant EdF, as a major barrier to opening up the market.
EdF is a major share-holder in BW regional energy supplier
ENBW, which operates the state's nuclear power plants -- and
with which Oettinger is known to have warm relations.


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