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Cablegate: Germany/Bavaria: Horst Seehofer, Mostly Focused On

VZCZCXRO4185
OO RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHMZ #0029/01 0470858
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 160858Z FEB 10
FM AMCONSUL MUNICH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5042
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNFRG/FRG COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MUNICH 000029

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/12/2020
TAGS: PREL PGOV INRB GM
SUBJECT: GERMANY/BAVARIA: HORST SEEHOFER, MOSTLY FOCUSED ON
DOMESTIC POLITICS

Classified By: Consul General Conrad Tribble for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d
)

SUMMARY
-------

1. (C) Horst Seehofer, an unpredictable politician
struggling to regain his party's hegemony in Bavaria,
revealed only shallow foreign policy expertise when he met
Ambassador Murphy on the sidelines of the Munich Security
Conference on February 6. Seehofer, Minister President and
leader of the Christian Social Union (CSU), did not
contradict the Ambassador when he reviewed the new NATO
Afghanistan policy, which implied Seehofer was now on board
with the German governing coalition in this respect. Closer
to home, he expected the trend away from the major political
parties to continue in Germany, creating opportunities for
numerous smaller parties to enter German statehouses.
Observers of Seehofer and his leadership of the CSU may wish
to take his public pronouncements with a grain of salt,
especially when he contradicts or criticize American foreign
policy goals as he did recently on Afghanistan. End Summary.

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2. (SBU) Ambassador Murphy met with Bavarian Minister
President and CSU Party Chairman Horst Seehofer on the
margins of the Munich Security Conference on February 6.
Referring to his recent visit to Afghanistan, the Ambassador
told Seehofer how impressed he was with the German operation
in the North, stressing the importance of the new Afghanistan
strategy. He praised the nomination of Volker Wieker to new
Inspector General of the German Army, since Wieker had been
General McChrystal's right hand and really knew what was
going on. The Ambassador further emphasized the point that
2,500 U.S. soldiers would be sent to the North, but that
Germans would be in control. Maximum effort was necessary,"
he said, noting "if we don't try, we fail." Turning to Iran,
Seehofer asked about the Ambassador's assessment of Iranian
Foreign Minister Mottaki's appearance in Munich, and Murphy
answered that Mottaki's were rather vain and
counter-productive efforts that could not be taken seriously.


3. (C) In general, Seehofer had little to say regarding
foreign policy and seemed uninformed about basic things. For
example, he expressed surprise when State Chancery Minister
Siegfried Schneider, also present, emphasized that 20,000 out
of the 40,000 U.S. soldiers in Germany were stationed in
Bavaria. The Ambassador emphasized the excellent
Bavarian-American relations, stressing his visits to the
Bavarian Representation in Berlin and the many business
contacts. Seehofer pointed to the economic/financial crisis
and was not sure whether the EU would bail out Greece. He
called for better regulation of financial markets, adding
that the CDU/CSU's coalition partner, the FDP, was still
dreaming about "total liberty," yet the citizens were more
realistic. The Bavarian economy remained strong, he said,
but despite relative low unemployment overall, Bavaria
struggled with serious regional economic differences around
the state. "You no longer buy our cars," he joked. The main
problem for the Bavarian budget was the unresolved situation
of BayernLB, he admitted. Federal Health Minister from 1992
to 1998, Seehofer expressed interest in the chances of
success of the U.S. health reform, expressing his concern
about 47 million Americans who had no health insurance.

4. (C) The Ambassador and Seehofer agreed that the
political landscape in Germany had changed radically over the
past few years. Seehofer did not dare predict an outcome of
the May election in North Rhine Westphalia. Everything was
possible, he said. German citizens no longer shrank from
voting for the Left Party and in the long run, the SPD and
Left Party would likely come together again. Five to six
parties now had a realistic chance of entering state
parliaments, even in Bavaria.

COMMENT
-------

5. (C) As chairman of one of the three parties that make up
the governing coalition in Berlin, Seehofer frequently and
quite publicly addresses sensitive political issues,
including foreign policy. Back in December, he gave an
interview flatly rejecting an increase of German soldiers in
Afghanistan, which startled many political observers,
including CSU insiders. We note that Seehofer has never
professed to be a foreign policy expert. His strengths are
rather more in domestic politics. The drop of public support
for the CSU in recent elections has further encouraged
Seehofer's natural instincts to utter populist pronouncements

MUNICH 00000029 002 OF 002


rather than substantive statements.
TRIBBLE

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