Merkel forced to make ‘painful decisions’ on minister wishlist


German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) will hold a special party convention on Monday (26 Febraury), during which the CDU base will vote on the coalition agreement. In advance, Merkel has announced her picks for ministerial posts. EURACTIV Germany reports.

Merkel has managed to come up with a list of six potential CDU ministers following the completion of the coalition talks with the SPD for a possible new grand coalition.

The new team was announced on Sunday (February 25) evening after a meeting of party presidium and federal executive, showing widespread personnel changes in Merkel’s new cabinet.

Young, critical, conservative

According to them, Merkel-critic Jens Spahn (37) will be appointed as the new health minister. With Spahn, who was former finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble’s right-hand man, Merkel brings one of her youngest contenders and harshest critics into the cabinet.

While the fraction leader of the Greens, Anton Hofreiter, sees it as a “strategic distribution of small posts”, AfD chairman Jörg Meuthen suspects Spahn’s nomination as an attempt by Merkel “to put her party critic in a backwater”.

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The leader of the Left, Bernd Riexinger, that Spahn’s post will provide the pharmaceutical lobby and private health insurers with “a willing advocate in the cabinet of the grand coalition”, according to Die Welt.

Another fresh face in the cabinet would be Merkel’s pick for education minister, Anja Karliczek. The 46-year-old CDU deputy from North Rhine-Westphalia fits into the self-imposed “makeover” course of the CDU.

But Karliczek, who comes from the hotel industry and has previously dealt more with financial issues, is a newcomer to what would be her new portfolio.

Julia Klöckner (45) will take over at agriculture. The former teacher and journalist is an outspoken advocate of gender equality and negotiated the chapters on agriculture in the coalition talks. Klöckner is already known at her potential new ministry from her time as Secretary of State.

Merkel’s Head of Chancellery is also a relative unknown quantity. Helge Braun (45) was previously Minister of State but will now be expected to, among other duties, coordinate a Cabinet Committee dealing with digitization.

“Painful decisions”

Peter Altmaier (59), who is to become the next Minister of Economic Affairs, and Ursula von der Leyen, who will stay on at defence, will be the only members of Merkel’s wishlist to survive into the new coalition.

Former health minister and one of Merkel’s closest confidants, Hermann Gröhe (57), and Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière (64) are the big losers in the negotiations and the CSU is expected to reap the rewards.

It has been a “painful decision,” Merkel commented on the departure of the two ministers.

In total, three of the six ministerial posts go to women. If the GroKo survives the SPD party base vote on 4 March, Merkel (63) will actually be the oldest member of her cabinet and – the only one to hail from what was East Germany.

She described the ministers on her list as an “energetic” and “future-oriented” team that is a “good mix of experience and new faces”.

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