Associations: nepotism? State Secretary von Habeck under pressure

Secretary of State for Economic Affairs Patrick Graichen has come under pressure because of personal ties in filling a top position.

Associations: nepotism? State Secretary von Habeck under pressure

Secretary of State for Economic Affairs Patrick Graichen has come under pressure because of personal ties in filling a top position. According to the ministry, Graichen had informed Federal Minister of Economics Robert Habeck (Greens) at the beginning of the week that the new managing director of the federal German Energy Agency (dena), Michael Schäfer, was his best man - but Graichen was a member of a selection committee that Schäfer had proposed for the post .

The Ministry of Economics drew consequences. The procedure for filling the dena post is to be reviewed and, if necessary, relaunched, as the ministry announced.

Graichen explained: "Unfortunately, I wasn't really paying attention in the process of the selection committee. I should have withdrawn from the process from the moment Michael Schäfer became a candidate, so that no false impression is created in the further process. That was a mistake, and I I am very sorry for this mistake."

There were calls from the opposition for Graichen's dismissal. The coalition partner FDP asked Habeck for clarification. There had already been some sharp criticism of family ties among important employees of Habeck. Again, Graichen is the center of attention.

A spokeswoman for Habeck spoke on Friday of a "regrettable mistake" with a view to filling the dena post, but it was "curable". There is no pure violation of the law. However, the appearance of a possible bias on the part of Graichen could have arisen. Habeck asked for an internal review at the beginning of the week. Secretary of State for Economic Affairs Stefan Wenzel, as chairman of dena's supervisory board, asked the supervisory board on Thursday to review the procedure and, if necessary, set it up again.

Agency "pioneer" of the energy transition

According to its own description, the federal German Energy Agency sees itself as a "pioneer" of the energy transition. At the beginning of April, dena announced that the shareholders and the Supervisory Board had appointed Schäfer as the new CEO with effect from June 15, 2023. The administrative scientist will run the business together with Kristina Haverkamp, ​​whose contract has been extended.

Schäfer was previously a member of the management of the German Nature Conservation Union and sat for the Greens in the Berlin House of Representatives. After a selection interview, the supervisory board unanimously decided in favor of Schäfer due to the "outstanding qualifications", according to the ministry. The shareholders' meeting approved. A selection committee had previously proposed Schäfer from a number of candidates - Graichen was also a member of the committee.

Family ties between important employees of Habeck had already caused irritation among the opposition. The CDU MP Tilman Kuban had spoken in the Bundestag on Wednesday of "mafia tendencies", Stephan Brandner from the AfD, at whose instigation the Bundestag in Berlin discussed the topic in a current hour, spoke of "green clan structures". Representatives of the traffic light groups emphasized that no rules had been violated.

family ties

Two high-ranking employees of Habeck have family ties to the Öko-Institut, an ecologically oriented research institution. The sister of the state secretary responsible for energy issues, Verena Graichen, works for the nature conservation organization BUND and, like another brother, at the Öko-Institut, as summarized by SPD MP Markus Hümpfer, among others. Verena Graichen, in turn, is married to the parliamentary Secretary of State for Economic Affairs, Michael Kellner (Greens).

The Ministry of Economic Affairs stated that precautions had been taken to prevent conflicts of interest.

The FDP energy politician Michael Kruse said that a recommendation from one's best man for a management position was a "crossing of borders" that lacked any tact. "If it's true that Patrick Graichen recommended his best man in a pre-selection, then that's over the limit. State secretaries must be above any suspicion of accepting an advantage. Robert Habeck has to clarify this matter quickly and explain how he wants to regain lost trust. " The FDP economic politician Reinhard Houben told the "Handelsblatt" that the question arises as to whether Graichen is still acceptable in his office.

Habeck: Graichen prevented a "severe economic crisis".

Habeck defended Graichen. "Without Patrick Graichen's consistent approach, Germany would be in a severe economic crisis today," the minister told the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung". "In no time at all, he pushed through the law for filling gas storage facilities and ensured the timely storage of gas, advanced the construction of LNG terminals for a secure gas supply, stabilized the gas supplier Uniper and brought old coal-fired power plants back to the grid."

The anti-corruption organization Transparency International Germany criticized that the ministry had to handle the selection process for the dena chair differently from the start. Managing director Anna-Maija Mertens told the newspapers of the "Funke Mediengruppe": "If a candidate is the state secretary's best man, then it's part of the basics that the state secretary discloses this and is not involved in the selection."

The CSU demanded the dismissal of Patrick Graichen. CSU regional group leader Alexander Dobrindt told the "Bild" newspaper that Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) had to put his foot down: "Green clan structures are preying on a federal ministry. It's time for the Chancellor to intervene."