Sigmar Gabriel

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Sigmar Gabriel
Sigmar Gabriel (2013).jpg
17th Vice Chancellor of Germany
Incumbent
Assumed office
17 December 2013
Chancellor Angela Merkel
Preceded by Philipp Rösler
Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy
Incumbent
Assumed office
17 December 2013
Chancellor Angela Merkel
Preceded by Philipp Rösler (Economics and Technology)
Leader of the Social Democratic Party
Incumbent
Assumed office
13 November 2009
Preceded by Franz Müntefering
Minister of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety
In office
22 November 2005 – 27 October 2009
Chancellor Angela Merkel
Preceded by Jürgen Trittin
Succeeded by Norbert Röttgen
Prime Minister of Lower Saxony
In office
15 December 1999 – 4 March 2003
Preceded by Gerhard Glogowski
Succeeded by Christian Wulff
Member of the Bundestag
for Salzgitter-Wolfenbüttel
Incumbent
Assumed office
September 18, 2005
Preceded by Wilhelm Schmidt
Personal details
Born (1959-09-12) 12 September 1959 (age 55)
Goslar, West Germany
(now Germany)
Political party Social Democratic Party
Alma mater University of Göttingen

Sigmar Gabriel (born 12 September 1959) is a German politician who has served as Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy and Vice Chancellor of Germany since 2013. Since 2009 he has been chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). He was Minister of the Environment from 2005 to 2009.

Early life and education[edit]

The son of divorced parents (a public worker and a nurse), Gabriel was a high school teacher by profession before he went into politics.

Political career[edit]

Minister-President of Lower Saxony, 1999-2003[edit]

On 15 December 1999, after the resignation of Gerhard Glogowski, who had succeeded Gerhard Schröder in office, Gabriel became Minister-President of Lower Saxony and served until 4 March 2003. During these years, he was widely presented as a protégé of Schröder, and even as a possible successor.[1]

After being voted out of office in 2003, Gabriel became the SPD's "Representative for Pop Culture and Pop Discourse" from 2003 to 2005, for which he was bestowed the nickname Siggi Pop.[2]

Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, 2005-2009[edit]

From 2005 to 2009 he was the Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety in the first cabinet of Angela Merkel (CDU). During that time, he promoted the International Renewable Energy Agency. In 2007, he led the negotiations between European Union environment ministers on an ambitious effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 20 percent below 1990 levels.[3]

Opposition leader, 2009-2013[edit]

Following the SPD's defeat in the federal election of 2009, Franz Müntefering resigned from the position of party chairman of the Social Democratic Party. Gabriel was nominated as his successor and was elected on 13 November 2009.[4] He was re-elected as party chairman for a further two years at the SPD party conference in Berlin on 5 December 2011, receiving 91.6 percent of the vote.[5]

During his early years as chairman, Gabriel pushed through internal party reforms. He abolished the party steering committee in favor of an expanded executive committee and led the regular party conventions, the most important meetings for the party.[6] He also played a critical role in founding the Progressive Alliance in 2013[7][8] by cancelling the SPD payment of its £100,000 yearly membership fee to the Socialist International in January 2012. Gabriel had been critical of the Socialist International's admittance and continuing inclusion of undemocratic "despotic" political movements into the organization.[9][10]

For the 2013 federal election, Gabriel was considered a possible candidate to challenge incumbent Chancellor Angela Merkel but deemed too “unpopular and undisciplined” at the time.[11] As a consequence, he and the other members of the party’s leadership agreed to nominate Peer Steinbrück after Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the party’s parliamentary leader, withdrew from the contest.[12]

During the election campaign, Gabriel became the first SPD leader to address a party convention of Alliance '90/The Greens; in his speech, he called for a red–green alliance to defeat Merkel in the elections.[13]

Vice-Chancellor and Federal Minister of Economic Affairs and Energy, 2013-[edit]

Sigmar Gabriel with Angela Merkel und Frank-Walter Steinmeier; in the background are Christian Schmidt und Ursula von der Leyen, 2014.

In 2013, Gabriel turned the Social Democrats’ third successive defeat to Angela Merkel in the federal election into a share of government, after successfully navigating the three-month process of coalition negotiations and a ballot of about 475,000 party members, who endorsed the accord.[14] At the time, he was widely considered to have negotiated skillfully, particularly considering the relative weakness of his party, which had received just over 25 percent of the vote in the elections, against more than 41 percent for Merkel’s conservative bloc.[15]

At a SPD convention shortly after the elections, however, Gabriel and the other members of the party’s leadership were punished by delegates who re-elected them to their posts with reduced majorities; he received 83.6 percent of members’ ballots after 91.6 percent at the last vote in 2011.[16]

Gabriel, who serves as vice-chancellor in the third Merkel cabinet, took on responsibility for Germany’s energy overhaul as part of a newly configured Economy Ministry.[14]

Political positions[edit]

Foreign policy[edit]

Gabriel has been staunchly against German soldiers remaining in Afghanistan. In 2010, he called for an independent assessment that would determine whether the U.S. counter-insurgency strategy would succeed.[17] However, he voted in favor of extending German participation in the NATO-led security mission ISAF in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.

On the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel, Gabriel participated in the first joint cabinet meeting of the governments of Germany and Israel in Jerusalem in March 2008.[18] In 2012, he called Israel an "Apartheid Regime".[19]

In one of the strongest comments by Germany to push for a federal solution for Ukraine, Gabriel told German weekly Welt am Sonntag in August 2014 that a federal structure was the only option to resolve pro-Russian unrest in the country. He added that Germany’s priority was to prevent direct conflict between Russia and its southern neighbour.[20]

Economic policy[edit]

On the occasion of the G20 summit in 2011, Gabriel joined Ed Miliband, the leader of the U.K.’s Labour Party, and Håkan Juholt, the chairman of the Swedish Social Democratic Party, in suggesting a “new deal” for economic growth. They also said G20 leaders should commit to the introduction of a financial transaction tax for all major financial centers and an agreement to separate consumer and investment banking.[21]

In a letter to the European Commissioner for Trade, Karel De Gucht, Gabriel stated in March 2014 that “special investment-protection provisions are not required in an agreement between the E.U. and the U.S.”[22] In September 2014, he rejected the inclusion of an Investor-State Dispute Settlement clause in the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the European Union, raising the prospect of a renegotiation that could delay the entry into force of the agreement or scupper it.[23]

In a 2014 meeting with French economist Thomas Piketty, whose best-selling work Capital in the Twenty-First Century calls for a wealth tax, Gabriel rejected such a progressive levy on capital as “crazy” for business. He also argued that a wealth tax would generate no more than 8 billion euros ($9.9 billion) a year.[24]

Energy policy[edit]

Following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011, Gabriel harshly criticized the International Atomic Energy Agency, saying it had promoted “the construction of nuclear plants in all parts of the world, even in war and crisis regions. That needs to stop.”[25]

Arms exports[edit]

Early in his tenure as Federal Minister of Economic Affairs and Energy, Gabriel vowed a much more cautious approach to licensing arms exports, unnerving the sizeable defense industry and signaling a change in policy from the previous coalition government under which sales rose.[26] In August 2014, he withdrew permission for Rheinmetall to build a military training center east of Moscow.[27]

Gabriel is bound by pledges to his SPD to reduce arms sales to states that abuse human rights and the rule of law or where such sales may contribute to political instability. He has stated that controls over the final destination of small arms sold to such nations are still insufficient.[28] However, he also indicated that the government would not universally block deals with countries outside of Germany's traditional alliances. Deals with such countries could be approved because of "special foreign-policy or security interests."[29] He suggested that in future the Federal Foreign Office may be a more appropriate body for deciding whether to allow exports, and called for common European arms exports.[30]

Digital policy[edit]

In May 2014, Gabriel and France’s economy and digital minister Arnaud Montebourg sent the European Commissioner for Competition, Joaquín Almunia, a letter criticizing the settlement of a three-year antitrust probe into Google.[31] In September 2014, Gabriel called Google, Amazon.com and Apple Inc. “anti-social” for skirting appropriate taxation.[32]

Controversy[edit]

In 2010, Gabriel called the speeches of Thilo Sarrazin, his party colleague who wrote critically about immigration by accusing Muslims of refusing to integrate and of “dumbing down” German society,[33] "verbal violence". He stated that although Sarrazin had described many things that were accurate, in the end he came to conclusions that did not fit into the “ideals” of Social Democracy anymore.[33]

Other activities[edit]

Personal life[edit]

Gabriel was married to Munise Demirel, with whom he has a daughter, but the couple divorced. He has been in a relationship with dentist Anke Stadler since 2008. They married in a private ceremony in mid-August 2012, four months after their daughter Marie was born. Gabriel took parental leave, during the first months of the child's infancy.[34]

In October 2010, Gabriel attended the funeral of Loki Schmidt.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Richard Bernstein (January 31, 2003), Elections in 2 German States May Be Setback to Schröder New York Times.
  2. ^ Wir sind nicht aus Versehen Opposition?, Die Zeit, 02/07/2010; >2003 wurde Gabriel SPD-Beauftragter für "Popkultur und Popdiskurs" – was ihm den Spitznamen "Siggi Pop" eintrug<
  3. ^ EU may aim for 20% cut in greenhouse gases Los Angeles Times, February 21, 2007.
  4. ^ Spiegel Online 11/13/2009.
  5. ^ "Wind unter den Flügeln der Sozialdemokratie". Retrieved 2011-12-06. 
  6. ^ Bettina Marx (December 14, 2013), Sigmar Gabriel: Losing his way to the top Deutsche Welle.
  7. ^ "Basic document | Progressive Alliance". Progressive-alliance.info. Retrieved 2013-05-23. 
  8. ^ (German) http://www.spd.de/scalableImageBlob/84620/data/20121217_progressive_alliance_abschlussstatement-data.pdf
  9. ^ "SPD will Sozialistischer Internationale den Geldhahn zudrehen und den Mitgliedsbeitrag nicht zahlen - SPIEGEL ONLINE". Spiegel.de. 2012-01-22. Retrieved 2013-05-23. 
  10. ^ Sigmar Gabriel (2011-02-03). "Gastbeitrag: Keine Kumpanei mit Despoten | Meinung - Frankfurter Rundschau" (in German). Fr-online.de. Retrieved 2013-05-23. 
  11. ^ Noah Barkin (September 3, 2012), Merkel's Opponents Struggle to Find Relevant Issues New York Times.
  12. ^ Melissa Eddy (September 28, 2012), Merkel’s Ex-Finance Minister to Oppose Her New York Times.
  13. ^ Erik Kirschbaum (April 27, 2013), German SPD leader woos Greens for anti-Merkel alliance Reuters.
  14. ^ a b Patrick Donahue (December 15, 2013), Merkel’s Third-Term Cabinet: Social Democratic Party Ministers Bloomberg L.P..
  15. ^ Alison Smale (December 14, 2013), Social Democrats Secure a Third Term for Merkel New York Times.
  16. ^ Brian Parkin and Birgit Jennen (November 15, 2013), German SPD Chief Set to Sell Party on Merkel Coalition Bloomberg News.
  17. ^ Judy Dempsey (April 22, 2010), Merkel Tries to Beat Back Opposition to Afghanistan International Herald Tribune.
  18. ^ Bilateral agreements reached at first Israeli-German intergovernmental consultations Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, press release of March 17, 2008.
  19. ^ Jerusalem Post 15/03/2012.
  20. ^ Roman Olearchyk and Jeevan Vasagar (August 23, 2014), Germany urges Ukraine to accept federal solution with separatists Financial Times.
  21. ^ Angela Cullen (November 3, 2011), German, U.K., Swedish Left Calls for G20 Deal, Handelsblatt Says Bloomberg L.P..
  22. ^ James Kanter (March 27, 2014), E.U. Tries to Assuage Fears Over U.S. Trade Deal New York Times.
  23. ^ Jonathan Stearns (September 29, 2014), Malmstroem Warns Germany Against Altering EU-Canada Pact Bloomberg Businessweek.
  24. ^ Patrick Donahue (November 7, 2014), Merkel Deputy Tells Piketty Wealth Tax Is Dead in Germany Bloomberg Businessweek.
  25. ^ Judy Dempsey (March 13, 2011), Japan's Nuclear Crisis Stokes Fear in Europe International Herald Tribune.
  26. ^ Alexandra Hudson and Thorsten Severin (May 18, 2014), German economy minister pledges to restrict arms exports Reuters.
  27. ^ Rainer Buergin and Richard Weiss (August 4, 2014), Germany Blocks Rheinmetall Sale of Russian Combat Center Bloomberg L.P..
  28. ^ Brian Parkin (October 15, 2014), German Arms-Exports Permit Crackdown Hits Airbus, Heckler & Koch Bloomberg Businessweek.
  29. ^ Anton Troianovski (June 11, 2014), German Arms Exports to Non-Allies Soar Wall Street Journal.
  30. ^ Sabine Siebold (October 8, 2014), Ministers at odds over which defence sectors vital to Germany The Daily Mail.
  31. ^ Aoife White (May 23, 2014), Google Settlement Is Defended by EU’s Almunia After Criticism Bloomberg L.P..
  32. ^ Cornelius Rahn, Brian Parkin and Stephanie Bodoni (October 14, 2014), Google’s Schmidt to Soothe Rattled Germans in Berlin Talks Bloomberg Businessweek.
  33. ^ a b Michal Slackman (September 9, 2010), German Banker Resigns Amid Outcry New York Times.
  34. ^ "SPD-Chef wird Vater mit 52". Retrieved 2012-08-17. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Gerhard Glogowski
Prime Minister of Lower Saxony
1999–2003
Succeeded by
Christian Wulff
Preceded by
Jürgen Trittin
Minister of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety
2005–2009
Succeeded by
Norbert Röttgen
Preceded by
Philipp Rösler
Vice Chancellor of Germany
2013–present
Incumbent
Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy
2013–present
Party political offices
Preceded by
Franz Müntefering
Leader of the Social Democratic Party
2009–present
Incumbent