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Cablegate: A Single Young Female for Germany's New Minister Of

VZCZCXRO9018
OO RUEHAG RUEHDF RUEHLZ
DE RUEHFT #3222/01 3511151
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 171151Z DEC 09
FM AMCONSUL FRANKFURT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2784
INFO RUCNFRG/FRG COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 FRANKFURT 003222

SENSITIVE

STATE FOR EUR/CE (HODGES, SCHROEDER)
LABOR FOR ILAB (BRUMFIELD)

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PINR PREL ELAB GM
SUBJECT: A Single Young Female for Germany's New Minister of
Families, Women, and Youth

1. SUMMARY: (SBU) Germany's new Minister for Family Affairs, Senior
Citizens, Women and Youth is Kristina Koehler, a 32-year old
unmarried, childless Christian Democratic Union (CDU) representative
of the German parliament from Hesse. Koehler was a surprise pick
for the post, which became vacant when the previous Family Minister,
Ursula von der Leyen, moved to the Labor Ministry following the
sudden resignation of Labor Minister Franz Josef Jung. Koehler's
qualifications for her new post are not immediately evident. Unlike
von der Leyen, who managed to combine the responsibilities of a
large family (seven children) with a successful career as a doctor
and politician, Koehler was apparently chosen because of her appeal
to youth and her Hessen origins. What she will do in the position
is unclear. She made a name in politics due to her performance in
the investigation committee on the German Federal Intelligence
Service in 2006 and for her ability to use both Facebook and
Twitter. END SUMMARY


-----------------------
New German Family Minister: Kristina Who?
-----------------------
2. (SBU) Chosen as Family Minister in the wake of a reshuffle,
Kristina Koehler is a fresh face in the German cabinet. At age 32,
she is the youngest cabinet minister alongside fellow CSU Defense
Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg (38), and FDP Health Minister
Philipp Roesler (36). Koehler hails from Wiesbaden, the capital of
Hesse, and her origins in that state, as well as her youth, appear
to be the most obvious reasons for which she was named the new
Family Minister. Former Labor Minister Jung came from Hesse, too,
and Chancellor Merkel needs to maintain the federal state proportion
in the cabinet. The Hessen CDU is also one of the most powerful CDU
state organizations in Germany. However, while Jung was close to MP
Koch, Koehler's base lies primarily with the party's youth
organization, which provided her a political springboard. A close
advisor to MP Koch told Consulate representatives that Koch did not
play a role in the appointment and that Koehler's independent
standing within the Hesse CDU makes her an ideal candidate for
Merkel, who may be better able to control Koehler in the future.

3. (SBU) Koehler has spent most of her life in politics, aside from
recently finishing her PhD in Sociology. Koehler joined the CDU's
youth wing at age 14, citing her admiration for former Chancellor
Kohl. At 25, she became a member of the German parliament, first
from the CDU list (in 2002) and in the last Bundestag elections,
winning a direct mandate from her opponent, former Development
Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul (SPD). Koehler is known for
being an active user of Facebook and Twitter in a German political
world that remains wary of the internet. With this selection,
Chancellor Merkel no doubt also aims to improve the CDU's profile
among younger voters.


-------------------------
A LIBERAL CONSERVATIVE
-------------------------
4. (SBU) Koehler became nationally known when she served as a member
of the investigative committee of the German Intelligence Service in
2006 (which looked into the role that German Intelligence played in
assisting the US in Iraq.) She gained some fame for the determined
way in which she questioned former Minister for Internal Affairs,
Otto Schily and former Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
Her work as a rapporteur for the CDU caucus on extremism, gained her
a reputation as a conservative hardliner. She insists that the
observation of the Left Party through the Federal Office for the
Protection of the Constitution is justified. She also enforced the
prohibition of the two right-wing extremist organizations, Collegium
Humanum and Heimattreue Jugend. Despite being anti-extremist,
Koehler has takes pains to publicly state that she supports a
multicultural society and that she encourages the integration of
immigrants.

5. (SBU) For Thorsten Schafer-Guembel, chair of the Social
Democratic Party (SPD) in Hesse, both Koehler's conservatism and
determination should not be underestimated. Schafer-Guembel posited
that some may erroneously do so based upon Koehler's petite stature,
soft voice and immaculate physical appearance. Professor Juergen
Falter of the University of Mainz, Koehler's former advisor, has
labeled her a "liberal conservative." He describes her as an
intellectual with an analytical mind, a strong sense of discipline,
and a preference for serious conversations over small talk.


------------------------
FAMILY MINISTER WITHOUT A FAMILY (OR...?)
------------------------
6. (SBU) The Ministry of Family Issues is important in Germany,

FRANKFURT 00003222 002 OF 002


given the country's low birth rate and aging population. Former
Minister Ursula von der Leyen was frequently in the media voicing
support for increased child incentive money and as well as subsidies
for part-time work after a baby's birth. Koehler has not yet said
much about her agenda, with the exception that she would like to
promote the role of fathers in the family and raise the amount of
money families with children receive (which is currently part of the
new federal government's platform.) While some critics have noted
that Koehler's unmarried and childless family status is ironic given
her new position, as per a December 2 announcement, Koehler will
marry her boyfriend, Ole Schroeder, a 38-year-old parliamentary
representative and State Secretary in the Interior Ministry, in
January. The media is already abuzz with speculation as to whether
Koehler may also try to have a child sometime while in office.

7. COMMENT: (SBU) Koehler has big shoes to fill. Ursula von der
Leyen was popular and successful at liberalizing family policy even
against the resistance of her own party members. Once gaining
strength in her new office, however, Koehler may be able to further
von der Leyen's work and represent a younger generation of German
women who has never questioned the right to have both a career and a
family at the same time, and who demands access to childcare. She
also offers hope to the CDU, who is in need of a new generation of
politicians and members. END COMMENT.

8. (U) This cable was coordinated with Embassy Berlin.

ALFORD

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