Cem Özdemir

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Cem Özdemir
Cem Özdemir (2012).jpg
Personal details
Born (1965-12-21) 21 December 1965 (age 50)
Bad Urach, West Germany
Political party Alliance '90/The Greens

Cem Özdemir (born 21 December 1965) is a German politician. Since 2008 he is co-chairman of the German political party Alliance '90/The Greens, together with Simone Peter. He is a Member of the German Bundestag since 2013 and he was a Member of the German Bundestag between 1994 and 2002 and of the European Parliament between 2004 and 2009. [1]

Life and work[edit]

Cem Özdemir is the son of a Turkish-Circassian gastarbeiter from Tokat, Turkey; in 1983 he acquired German citizenship. After graduating from a German Hauptschule and a Realschule Özdemir completed an apprenticeship, becoming an early childhood educator. After qualifying for advanced technical college entrance he studied social pedagogy at the Evangelical Technical College (Evangelische Fachhochschule für Sozialwesen) in Reutlingen, Germany. After completing his studies in 1987, Cem Özdemir worked as an educator and a freelance journalist.[2]

Özdemir describes himself as a "secular Muslim"[3] and is married to the Argentine journalist Pía María Castro. They have two children: a son and a daughter.[4]

Political career[edit]


Özdemir has been a member of the Green Party since 1981, originally in the district chapter of Luwdigsburg. Between 1989 and 1994 he was a member in the State Executive (Landesvorstand) of the Green Party in Baden-Württemberg. During that time he was one of the founding members of Immi-Grün – Bündnis der neuen InländerInnen, an alliance of InländerInnen (locals), as opposed to the German word Ausländer (foreigners).[citation needed]

Member of the German Bundestag, 1994–2002[edit]

From 1994 until 2002, Özdemir was a member of the German Bundestag; along with Leyla Onur of the Social Democrats, he was the first person of Turkish descent ever elected to the country’s federal parliament.[5][6] From 1998 until 2002, he was the Green Party's Parliamentary Spokesman on Domestic Affairs and advocated for reforms to Germany’s citizenship laws.[7]

In 1999, nine months after the Greens for the first joined a German federal government under Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, Özdemir was among 40 younger party members of the self-described “youth of the second generation“ who declared in a controversial manifesto “[that] we cannot and will not idly watch the moralizing know-it-alls in our party from the founding generation” around Jürgen Trittin.[8]

In 2002, Özdemir was accused of violating parliamentary regulations for retaining "Miles & More" frequent-flier miles accrued during official travel as a member of the Bundestag for personal use.[9] He was also criticised for having taken out a credit with Moritz Hunzinger, a German PR consultant and lobbyist, in order to overcome personal financial issues. This affair was also associated with Rudolf Scharping, former German Minister of Defence (1998 – 2002). Subsequently, Özdemir resigned as spokesman for domestic affairs and as a member of the Bundestag.[10][11]

In 2003, Özdemir joined the German Marshall Fund of the United States in Washington, D.C. and Brussels as a Transatlantic Fellow. During his fellowship he gave various speeches and brown bag lectures at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, on the issue of Turkey and Europe.[citation needed] He also researched on the ways that minority groups in the United States and Europe organize themselves politically.[12]

Member of the European Parliament, 2004–2009[edit]

From 2004 until 2009, Özdemir was a Member of the European Parliament in the parliamentary group The Greens/European Free Alliance (Greens/EFA). During the time he was the group’s spokesperson on foreign policy and a member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET). In addition, he served as the European Parliament’s rapporteur on Central Asia.[1] and as second vice chair of the Permanent Ad Hoc Delegation for Relations with Iraq.

Between 2006 and 2007, Özdemir also served as vice president of the "CIA Committee" (Temporary Committee on the alleged use of European countries by the CIA for the transport and illegal detention of prisoners).[13]

Co-chairman of the Green Party, 2009–present[edit]

On June 2, 2008, Özdemir announced his candidacy for the chairmanship of his party. Özdemir's rival candidate was Volker Ratzmann, leader of the Green parliamentary group in the Berlin House of Representatives, who eventually withdrew his candidacy on 4 September 2008 for personal reasons.[citation needed]

In the run-up to the party chairmanship elections, Özdemir also ran for a promising party list position for the 2009 German elections at the federal state party conference of Baden-Württemberg. In two separate runs he lost to his respective direct opponents. Nevertheless, Özdemir adhered to his candidacy for the party chairmanship.[citation needed]

Since 15 November 2008, Özdemir has been one of two chairmen of Alliance '90/The Greens.[citation needed] He received 79.2 percent of the delegate votes.[citation needed]

In the 2009 elections, Özdemir was not elected to the Bundestag. As a candidate in the constituency of Stuttgart I, which covers south Stuttgart he polled 29.9%, but lost to Stefan Kaufmann, the candidate of the CDU.[citation needed]

Member of the German Bundestag, 2013–present[edit]

Özdemir re-entered the Bundestag as a result of the 2013 elections.[citation needed] He serves as deputy chairman of the German-Chinese Parliamentary Friendship Group.[citation needed]

Political positions[edit]

European integration[edit]

In 2011, Özdemir called for European Union citizens to get more direct influence in European affairs via plebiscites on key policy issues.[14]

Amid the 2013 Cypriot financial crisis, Özdemir proposed making an EU bailout for Cyprus conditional on reviving talks about reunification of the island divided since 1974.[15]

Relations with Russia[edit]

In 2011, Özdemir stepped down from the Quadriga Award’s board of trustees after the nonprofit group’s decision to honor Prime Minister Vladimir Putin of Russia sparked a public outcry; the group later canceled its annual prize ceremony.[16] After a two-day visit to Armenia, Özdemir tweeted in reference to Armenia's recent accession into the Eurasian Economic Union that "The closer Yerevan moves towards Putin’s Russia, the less freedom for media, NGOs, LGBT. People want open society."[17]

Relations with Turkey[edit]

Along with the main center-left Social Democrats (SPD), Özdemir and his Green Party support the accession of Turkey to the European Union.[18] When Özdemir criticised Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey in a speech he delivered in Cologne in May 2014, Erdoğan personally targeted Özdemir during one of his party’s group meetings in the parliament declaring him "a so-called Turk" and described his criticisms as "very ugly." Upon Erdoğan’s attacks, the Turkish ambassador in Berlin, Hüseyin Avni Karslıoğlu, was summoned to the German Foreign Office and was informed about Germany’s unease on the prime minister’s remarks.[19]

Soon after, Özdemir told Spiegel Online it would be "irresponsible" for German intelligence services not to target Turkey given its location as a transit country for Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant militants from Europe.[20]

Armenian Genocide[edit]

On March 12, 2015 Özdemir visited the Armenian Genocide memorial in Yerevan, Armenia and declared his formal recognition of the Armenian Genocide and called on Turkey to recognize it as well.[21][22][23] In an interview he stated: "I think that Germany should obviously refer to the Armenian Genocide issue. As a friend of two countries, we should help to open the Armenian-Turkish border. As a friend of both countries, we should exert effort, so that the Armenian-Turkish relations become like the French-German or Polish-German relations."[24]

Legalization of cannabis[edit]

Özdemir advocates legalizing cannabis. In December 2014, his parliamentary immunity from prosecution was lifted when Berlin prosecutors opened an investigation into suspected growing of drugs after an Ice Bucket Challenge video showed him with a cannabis plant in the background.[25] In a subsequent interview with Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, Özdemir statet that "in a free society it should be up to each individual person to decide whether they want to consume cannabis and take the associated risks."[26]

Other activities[edit]

  • Berlin office of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), Member of the Advisory Board
  • Think-Tank Das Progressive Zentrum, Member of the Circle of Friends[27]
  • Deutsche Telekom, Yes, I can! Initiative for Children and Young People, Member of the Board of Trustees
  • European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), Founding Member
  • German Association for Small and Medium-Sized Businesses (BVMW), Member of the Political Advisory Board
  • German-Turkish Forum of Stuttgart, Member of the Board of Trustees
  • Stiftung neue verantwortung, Member of the Presidium
  • Theodor Heuss Foundation, Member of the Board of Trustees[28]
  • Amadeu Antonio Foundation, Founding Member
  • Berlin Center for Torture Victims, Member of the Advisory Board (1998–2002)
  • ZDF, Member of the Television Board (2013)



  • Currywurst und Döner – Integration in Deutschland
  • Ich bin Inländer (autobiography)
  • Die Türkei: Politik, Religion, Kultur


  1. ^ a b "Biography". Oezdemir.de. 2011-10-13. Retrieved 2011-10-20. 
  2. ^ Dempsey, Judy (2008-11-16). "Greens in Germany pick son of Turks as leader". New York Times. Retrieved 2011-10-20. 
  3. ^ Spiegel online, 15. October 2008: A Turk at the Top.
  4. ^ "Nachwuchs: Cem Özdemir zum zweiten Mal Vater". Spiegel Online (in German). 5 December 2009. 
  5. ^ Arena Profile: Cem Özdemir Politico.
  6. ^ Tony Czuczka (September 30, 2010), Turks in Germany Bridge Two Worlds as Anti-Immigrant Voices Spark Debate Bloomberg News.
  7. ^ Cem Özdemir Heinrich Böll Stiftung North America, press release of January 25, 2013.
  8. ^ Edmund L. Andrews (July 7, 1999), Old Greens In Germany Challenged By Upstarts New York Times.
  9. ^ Desmond Butler (August 2, 2002), Scandal Over Frequent-Flier Miles Shakes Up German Politics New York Times.
  10. ^ "Bundestag: Bonusmeilen werden noch weiteren Abgeordneten um die Ohren fliegen - SPIEGEL ONLINE - Nachrichten - Politik". Spiegel.de. 2002-07-30. Retrieved 2011-10-20. 
  11. ^ "Hunzinger-Affäre: Özdemir erhielt Darlehen und PR-Honorar - SPIEGEL ONLINE". Spiegel.de. 2002-07-21. Retrieved 2015-01-25. 
  12. ^ Cem Özdemir Heinrich Böll Stiftung North America, press release of January 25, 2013.
  13. ^ Arena Profile: Cem Özdemir Politico.
  14. ^ Stephen Brown (September 25, 2011), German opposition wants citizen vote on EU issues Reuters.
  15. ^ Stephen Brown (March 20, 2013), German Greens see risks in Cyprus seeking Russian aid Reuters.
  16. ^ Nicholas Kulish (July 16, 2011), German Group That Cited Putin as ‘Role Model’ Cancels Prize After Outcry New York Times.
  17. ^ https://twitter.com/cem_oezdemir/status/576678708108492800
  18. ^ Stephen Brown (March 20, 2013), German Greens see risks in Cyprus seeking Russian aid Reuters.
  19. ^ Selcuk Gultasli (June 13, 2014), Erdogan’s new Turkey full of 'spies' and 'traitors' EUobserver.
  20. ^ Emre Peker and Harriet Torry (August 18, 2014), Turkey Summons German Ambassador Over Spying Claims Wall Street Journal.
  21. ^ "Özdemir'den 'soykırımı tanıma' çağrısı" (in Turkish). Deutsche Welle. 12 March 2015. 
  22. ^ "Cem Özdemir'den 'soykırımı tanıma' çağrısı". Hürriyet (in Turkish). 12 March 2015. 
  23. ^ "Cem Özdemir öyle bir çağrı yaptı ki…AKP çılgına dönecek !". Taraf (in Turkish). 12 March 2015. 
  24. ^ "Turkish-German Lawmaker Calls on Turkey to ‘Face History’". Asbarez. 13 March 2015. 
  25. ^ German Opposition Leader Faces Cannabis Plant Investigation New York Times, January 18, 2015.
  26. ^ Bethan John (August 28, 2014), German Green's ice bucket challenge lights up dope debate Reuters.
  27. ^ Circle of Friends Das Progressive Zentrum.
  28. ^ Board of Trustees Theodor Heuss Foundation, Stuttgart.
  29. ^ "The FP Top 100 Global Thinkers". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 2011-12-04. 

External links[edit]