Bodo Hombach (born 19 August 1952), German politician, Member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) and now Publishing House Director, was also Head of the Federal Chancellery and Federal Minister for Special Tasks in Schröder's first Cabinet from 1998 to 1999. Hombach then changed jobs and became EU Special Coordinator of the Stability Pact for South-East Europe in Brussels. In 2002, Bodo Hombach joined the Management Board of the WAZ Media Group, an internationally active German publishing company.
Education and early political career
Bodo Hombach was born in Mülheim on the Ruhr, North Rhine Westphalia. After training to become a telecommunications craftsman (apprenticeship from 1967 to 1970 with the Telephone Exchange in Duisburg), Bodo Hombach studied Social Work at the Düsseldorf Polytechnic from 1973 to 1978. He worked as State Secretary of the Trade Union for Education and Science before he became a Member of the North Rhine Westphalian State Parliament for the Social Democratic Party (SPD) from 1990 to 1998. He was its State Party Chairman from 1979 to 1991 and Economic Spokesman of the SPD State Parliamentary Group and Chairman of the Enquiry Board from 1990 to 1998.
Apart from his political activity, Hombach was Managing Director of the private limited companies, Preussag Handel GmbH (Salzgitter) and Preussag (Salzgitter) International GmbH in Düsseldorf from 1991 to 1998.
In 1998, he joined Clement's Cabinet as State Minister for Economy and SME, Technology and Transport in North Rhine Westphalia.
Hombach co-ordinated several election campaigns of the North Rhine Westphalian Social Democratic Party and the Federal Social Democratic Party. He was regarded as a brilliant election campaign strategist and creator of the slogan 'We in North Rhine Westphalia'. Nelson Mandela chose him to be his personal adviser for his first election campaign.
In October 1998, Gerhard Schröder appointed him to his Cabinet as Federal Minister for Special Tasks and Head of the Federal Chancellery. Hombach ranked among the most powerful and influential politicians not just because of his charisma and high profile, and he was a firm opponent of Oskar Lafontaine's policy.
He showed his party the way to new groups of voters and was an advocate of the 'new centre ground', a reform-oriented policy to safeguard the country's future viability.
Indicative of this policy was the 'Schröder-Blair Paper' published under the title 'The way ahead for Europe's Social Democrats' and written by Bodo Hombach and his British colleague, today's EU Trade Commissioner, Peter Mandelson. 'Bodo Hombach, Germany's trouble-shooter' was The Economist's headline about the 'boy wonder from the Ruhr'. "The magazine was surprised that despite his wealth of power, Hombach continued to be a 'lone fighter', an 'outsider', who was just as fiercely persecuted by the 'old school of the left wing' as by the 'apparatchiks at the party headquarters of the Social Democratic Party in Bonn', commented the German daily paper Die Welt at the time.
In 1999, Hombach moved to Brussels, where he took over the position of EU Special Coordinator for the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe.
"Who thinks for Schröder?", wrote today's Chairman of the Board of Directors of Axel Springer AG, Mathias Döpfner, in the 'Welt' newspaper in 1999 and stated: "However important Hombach's new job may be – it is as if a builder-owner swaps the architect just after the formwork for the foundation has been laid. Schröder left the thinking to others – namely Hombach. And the latter thought right most of the times. Inconvenient for Social Democrats but competent. Quickly mutated from a youth movement representative to a market-orientated deregulator, he became the most hated enemy of the reactionary left wing of the party."
Despite the over-bureaucratised Brussels environment, which the doer Hombach characterised with 'My Balkan is Brussels', he collected about €4.6 billion for the Balkan countries in his capacity as Special Coordinator of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe during the first donor conference in the year 2000.
In July 2002, he was given the 'European Bull' award by the European Taxpayers' Association because as a Special Coordinator he set a very positive example in the sparing use of budgets. "The stability pact administration has been so well developed that it could take on the management of other EU Special Commissioners as well", is how the Welt newspaper cited the Christian Social Union of Bavaria MP and Vice President of the European Parliament, Ingo Friedrich.
Since February 2002, Hombach has been Managing Director of the WAZ Media Group. Since then he is - among other things - consequently compaigning for freedom of press and emphasizes primarily its importance for democracy. In this capacity, he is responsible for the reorientation of the publishing company to a multimedia company through the establishment of future-viable structures in the WAZ Media Group based in Essen, Germany. He very strongly supported the creation of professional journalistic standards for the newspapers and magazines of the WAZ Media Group on the Balkan. In 2003, the WAZ Media Group and the Norwegian publishing company Orkla, were the only western publishing houses that had signed the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe guidelines on press freedom in South-East Europe. Hombach believes that freedom, political and economic independence and journalistic quality of the newspapers are the absolute prerequisites for the establishment of democratic structures in the former transformation countries of South-East Europe. Groundbreaking was the agreement on the promotion of freedom of the press, quality journalism and fair working conditions at the WAZ Media Group locations producing newspapers and magazines in South-East Europe signed by Bodo Hombach, Managing Director of the WAZ, and Aidan White, Secretary General of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) in Essen, Germany, in July 2007.
The essence of press freedom is found in the quality of media and our commitment to quality is very strong", stated IFJ Secretary General Aidan White on the worldwide first agreement between an internationally active publishing house and the EFJ/IFJ. "We now have a structure for cooperation. We look forward to talking to other employers and having new agreements."
Although he is no longer active in the operative political business, the full-blooded politician and successful publishing house director Hombach is still an internationally popular conversation partner for media-political and social issues in Germany and Europe.
In April 2008, Bodo Hombach was appointed Deputy Chairman to the Commission for the Future of the State Government of North Rhine Westphalia along with 22 other important persons from politics and society by Prime Minister Juergen Ruettgers. The post of Chairman of the independent Commission was taken over by the German-British sociologist and member of the House of Lords, Prof. Dr. Lord Ralf Dahrendorf.
- Die Welt vom 18.4.2007: Brillanter Stratege und kluger Taktiker
- The Economist, 18 February 1999: Bodo Hombach, Germany's trouble-shooter
- Die Welt vom 11.6.1999: Startschuss für den Modernisierungsprozeß
- Die Welt vom 25.6.1999: Wer denkt für Schröder?
- Die Welt vom 9.7.2002: Bodo Hombachs späte Ehre als "europäischer Stier"
- Welt am Sonntag vom 27.04.2008: Dahrendorf denkt für Rüttgers