Annalena Baerbock ready to keep Merkel’s promise
BERLIN, GERMANY – MARCH 15: Annalena Baerbock, co-leader of the German Green party.
Sean Gallup | Getty Images News | Getty Images
BERLIN – Two things are already certain about the next federal elections in Germany in September.
The first is that the Greens, out of power since 2005, are the only political party in Germany guaranteed to be part of the next government.
Second, it is already clear who will be Merkel’s successor as a leading German politician.
Annalena Baerbock, co-leader of the Greens, aged 40, has just been chosen as candidate for chancellor of her party. Assuming his party will most likely rule as a junior partner in tandem with the CDU-CSU, Baerbock has the inner track to be at least Germany’s next vice-chancellor.
In a curious twist of history, Baerbock keeps a promise to execute what turned out to be Angela Merkel’s very misleading self-advertisement. By filing her complaint with the Federal Chancellery in 2005, she presented herself as a pragmatic, results-oriented scientist and decision maker, focused on the heavy lifting of modernizing Germany.
Alas, Merkel did not.
A key part of Germany’s current conundrum is that the Merkel years, despite the Chancellor’s strong international reputation, were years of coasting trade.
She never really engaged in the central task of pushing the industrial and political modernization of Germany. Yes, she was good at slogans and proclaiming ambitions – but very poor at execution.
Worse yet, whenever it came to politically sensitive economic reform issues, Merkel was content to kick things off, if she didn’t openly choose to serve the powers of the status quo. Witness of the German automobile industry.
Luckily, snuggling up to the industry is not Baerbock’s business. At major industrial policy conferences, she easily engages CEOs and association leaders from a wide range of industries on the strategic choices needed in their respective sectors, be it automotive, chemicals or energy. .
Given the origins of the Greens, the fact that Baerbock is clearly committed to maintaining the competitiveness of the basic materials industries and to operating in Germany shows courage and strategic depth. She is also correct in her assessment that pushing industry rigorously towards a green energy future is the only way for Germany to remain a global technology leader.
Having a solid strategic understanding of the profound challenges facing German industry at this stage is an important political asset for any top executive.
With Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank, the old German banking giants, mere shadows of their old selves, with ThyssenKrupp on the ropes and an auto industry possibly facing the greatest competitive challenges of its entire existence, one thing is certain: Germany has really need high level politicians who have a clear idea of the strategic choices that need to be made immediately after the September elections.
Everything indicates that the Potsdam woman seems to have everything it takes to be a very competent economic strategist. No wonder, then, that anyone like me who is a “non-green” sometimes finds himself wishing that Baerbock had appeared 15 years earlier on the German political scene.
Of course, Baerbock was never even a government minister. Like the top elite graduates of the French National School of Administration, she easily masters a wide range of highly complex guidance notes. Unlike many “ENA-rques”, she is down to earth and not at all distant.
This gives Baerbock a level of political maturity far beyond his actual age. In addition, his quick wit and dexterity will be a real asset in the electoral campaign, especially since his opponent is Armin Laschet, the president of the CDU, rather pedestrian and often confused.
A look beyond the borders of Germany shows that, from Scandinavia to New Zealand, high-level young female politicians are doing highly competent work in their country’s highest political office. The contrast they present with the time-worn model – for most men who patiently climb the political ladder and do a lot of backscratching with each other – is hardly an appropriate qualification indicating true leadership.
So what government post for Baerbock? Of course, there is always a dream. As before in 1969, when Willy Brandt won, she could become Chancellor, especially if the CDU-CSU continues to grope with the blunder-prone Lasche.
The post of the next German vice-chancellor should be a shoo-in. To give the Greens a strong role in the new government and make the most of Baerbock’s talents, she should be appointed to serve as a sort of “super minister” coordinating economic, energy, environmental and transport policy.
In fact, such a position, better located in the Federal Chancellery itself, is very similar to the positions Margrethe Vestager and Frans Timmermans hold at the European Commission in Brussels.
– Stephan Richter is the publisher and editor-in-chief of The Globalist, the daily online magazine about global economics, politics and culture.