Cem Özdemir

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Cem Özdemir
Hart aber fair - 2020-02-10-4295.jpg
Özdemir in 2020 at the talk show Hart aber fair
Leader of Alliance 90/The Greens
In office
15 November 2008 – 27 January 2018
Serving with Claudia Roth and Simone Peter
Preceded byReinhard Bütikofer
Succeeded byRobert Habeck
Member of the Bundestag for Baden-Württemberg
Assumed office
22 October 2013
ConstituencyAlliance 90/The Greens List
In office
16 October 1994 – 22 September 2002
ConstituencyAlliance 90/The Greens List
Member of the European Parliament for Germany
In office
13 June 2004 – 7 June 2009
ConstituencyAlliance 90/The Greens List
Personal details
Born (1965-12-21) 21 December 1965 (age 55)
Bad Urach, Baden-Württemberg, West Germany
Political partyAlliance 90/The Greens

Cem Özdemir (German: [ˌdʒɛm ˈʔœzdɛmiːɐ̯], Turkish: [dʒæm ˈœzdemiɾ]; born 21 December 1965) is a German politician of the German political party Alliance 90/The Greens.

Between 2008 and 2018, Özdemir served as co-chair of the Green Party, together with Claudia Roth and later Simone Peter. He has been 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] He was standing as one of the top two Greens candidates for the 2017 German federal election.[2] Since 2018, he has been serving as Chairman of the Committee on Transport.

Life and work[edit]

Born in Bad Urach,[1] a small town in the hills between Stuttgart and Ulm, Cem Özdemir is the son of Gastarbeiter ("guest worker") parents from Turkey. Özdemir's mother is of Turkish origin and comes from a middle-class family in Istanbul; her father was an officer in the Turkish War of Independence.[3] Özdemir's father is of Circassian origin and is originally from Tokat.[3] In 1983 Özdemir and his immigrant parents 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 Reutlingen [de]) in Reutlingen, Germany. After completing his studies in 1987, he worked as an educator and a freelance journalist.[4]

Özdemir describes himself as a "secular Muslim"[5] and is married to the Argentine journalist Pía María Castro. They have two children: a son and a daughter.[6] On 18 March 2020, Özdemir tested positive for the novel coronavirus.[7]

Political career[edit]


Özdemir has been a member of the Green Party since 1981, originally in the district chapter of Ludwigsburg. 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.[8][9] From 1998 until 2002, he was a member of the Committee on Home Affairs and served as his parliamentary group's spokesperson on this issue. In this capacity, he advocated for reforms to Germany's citizenship laws.[10] In addition, he was the chairman of the German-Turkish Parliamentary Friendship Group.

In 1999, nine months after the Greens for the first time 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.[11]

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.[12] 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.[13][14]

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.[10]

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

Özdemir in 2009

From 2004 until 2009, Özdemir was a Member of the European Parliament in the parliamentary group The Greens/European Free Alliance (Greens/EFA). During that time he served as 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 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).[8]

Co-chair of the Green Party, 2009–2013[edit]

On 2 June 2008, Özdemir announced his candidacy as co-chair 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 co-chair 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 co-chairs of Alliance 90/The Greens.[citation needed] He received 79.2 percent of the delegate votes.[citation needed]

Anti-nuclear protest near nuclear waste disposal centre at Gorleben in northern Germany on 8 November 2008

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] Since 2018, he has been chairing the Committee on Transport.

Following the announcement of Fritz Kuhn to not seek re-election as Mayor of Stuttgart, Özdemir was widely considered a potential successor. Shortly after, he decided not to run for the position.[15]

In the negotiations to form a coalition government under the leadership of Minister-President of Baden-Württemberg Winfried Kretschmann following the 2021 state elections, Özdemir was a member of the working group on economic affairs, labor and innovation.[16][17]

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.[18]

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.[19]

Relations with Belarus[edit]

On December 16, 2020, he undertook patronage over Katsiaryna Barysevich, Belarusian journalist and political prisoner.[20]

Relations with Russia[edit]

In 2011, Özdemir stepped down from the Quadriga Award's board of trustees to protest the nonprofit group's decision to honor Prime Minister Vladimir Putin of Russia. The groups decision sparked a public outcry and the annual prize ceremony was later canceled.[21][22] 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."[23]

Relations with Turkey[edit]

Özdemir in Turkey during the Şırnak clashes, 15 September 2015

Özdemir opposes the accession of Turkey to the European Union under President Erdogan.[24][25][26] 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.[27] 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.[28]

Özdemir was a driving force behind the Bundestag's recognition of the Armenian Genocide in June 2016, which angered Turkey.[29] He has also been critical of Turkey's mass arrests and crackdown on dissent following a failed coup attempt in July 2016.[30] Özdemir condemned the Turkish invasion of northern Syria aimed at ousting U.S.-backed Syrian Kurds from the enclave of Afrin. He met with Turkish officials during the 2018 Munich Security Conference, during which he was reportedly called a "terrorist" and received various other threats from the Turkish delegation. As a result, Özdemir received special police protection.[31][32][33]

Relations with Saudi Arabia[edit]

Özdemir called for the German government to stop giving contracts to the American consultancy firm McKinsey & Company, which was accused of gathering information for the Saudi Arabia's regime about its critics.[34]

Armenian genocide[edit]

On 12 March 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.[35][36][37] 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."[38]

In 2016 Özdemir initiated a resolution in the Bundestag that would formally classify the 1915 massacres as genocide.[39] The resolution passed on 2 June 2016[40] with what Speaker Norbert Lammert called a "remarkable majority".[41] At the time, Özdemir emphasized that the resolution was not designed to point fingers at others but rather to acknowledge Germany's partial responsibility for the genocide. In 1915, the German Empire was an ally of the Ottoman Empire and failed to condemn the violence.[42][43] After the Bundestag's approval of the resolution, Turkish media "waged a war" against him[44] and he received multiple death threats.[45][46]

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.[47] In a subsequent interview with Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, Özdemir stated 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."[48]

The United Nations[edit]

Özdemir is a supporter of the Campaign for the Establishment of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly, an organisation which campaigns for democratic reformation of the United Nations. He believes it is necessary "to give voice to every citizen, woman and man, all over the world; to create legitimacy by true representation, and to enhance political responsibility of the states' leaders."[49]

Speed limit[edit]

Özdemir is for a general speed limit on German Autobahns. According to him, "Die Einführung einer Höchstgeschwindigkeit auf Autobahnen in Deutschland hätte nur Vorteile: weniger Verkehrstote, sofortiger Klimaschutz und praktisch keine Kosten" ("The introduction of a maximum speed on motorways in Germany would have only advantages: fewer traffic fatalities, immediate climate protection and practically no costs").[50] Furthermore, he states: „Ein Tempolimit wäre ein Gebot der Vernunft für eine aufgeklärte Gesellschaft im 21. Jahrhundert“ ("A speed limit would be a requirement of common sense for an enlightened society in the 21st century").[51] He compared the problem of speed limits in Germany with that of the gun law in the United States.[52]

Other activities[edit]

  • Berlin office of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), Member of the Advisory Board
  • Das Progressive Zentrum, Member of the Circle of Friends[53]
  • 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[54]
  • Amadeu Antonio Foundation, Founding Member
  • Berlin Center for Torture Victims, Member of the Advisory Board (1998–2002)
  • ZDF, Member of the Television Board (2009–2013)


  • 2018 – Ramer Award for Courage in the Defense of Democracy[55]
  • 2011 – Foreign Policy List of Top Global Thinkers[56]
  • 2009 – Honorary doctorate of the Tunceli University
  • 1996 – Theodor Heuss Medal


  • Currywurst und Döner – Integration in Deutschland ISBN 3785709463
  • Ich bin Inländer (autobiography) ISBN 3423361506
  • Die Türkei: Politik, Religion, Kultur ISBN 3407753438


  1. ^ a b c "Biography". Oezdemir.de. 13 October 2011. Retrieved 20 October 2011.
  2. ^ "Grüne Urwahl: Die Mitglieder entscheiden" [Green Primary: The Members Decide]. Alliance 90/The Greens (in German). Berlin, Germany. Archived from the original on 4 August 2017. Retrieved 16 October 2016.
  3. ^ a b "CEM ÖZDEMIR: „Die ersten Kopftücher sah ich in Schwaben"". Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. 2011. Retrieved 14 April 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ Dempsey, Judy (16 November 2008). "Greens in Germany pick son of Turks as leader". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 October 2011.
  5. ^ Spiegel online, 15 October 2008: A Turk at the Top.
  6. ^ "Nachwuchs: Cem Özdemir zum zweiten Mal Vater". Spiegel Online (in German). 5 December 2009.
  7. ^ Welt.de: Coronavirus: Cem Özdemir mit Virus infiziert (german), 19 March 2020
  8. ^ a b Arena Profile: Cem Özdemir Politico.
  9. ^ Tony Czuczka (30 September 2010), Turks in Germany Bridge Two Worlds as Anti-Immigrant Voices Spark Debate Bloomberg News.
  10. ^ a b Cem Özdemir Heinrich Böll Stiftung North America, press release of 25 January 2013.
  11. ^ Edmund L. Andrews (7 July 1999), Old Greens In Germany Challenged By Upstarts The New York Times.
  12. ^ Desmond Butler (2 August 2002), Scandal Over Frequent-Flier Miles Shakes Up German Politics The New York Times.
  13. ^ "Bundestag: Bonusmeilen werden noch weiteren Abgeordneten um die Ohren fliegen - SPIEGEL ONLINE - Nachrichten - Politik". Spiegel.de. 30 July 2002. Retrieved 20 October 2011.
  14. ^ "Hunzinger-Affäre: Özdemir erhielt Darlehen und PR-Honorar - SPIEGEL ONLINE". Spiegel.de. 21 July 2002. Retrieved 25 January 2015.
  15. ^ Fritz Kuhn tritt nicht mehr an: Cem Özdemir will nicht für Stuttgarter OB-Amt kandidieren Stuttgarter Zeitung, 7 January 2020.
  16. ^ Koalitionsverhandlungen: Arbeitsgruppen Bündnis 90/Die Grünen Baden-Württemberg, press release of April 13, 2021.
  17. ^ Koalitionsverhandlungen: Arbeitsgruppen CDU Baden-Württemberg, press release of April 13, 2021.
  18. ^ Stephen Brown (25 September 2011), German opposition wants citizen vote on EU issues Reuters.
  19. ^ Stephen Brown (20 March 2013), German Greens see risks in Cyprus seeking Russian aid Reuters.
  20. ^ "100 Paten für politische Gefangene in Belarus: Cem Özdemir wird Pate der Journalistin Katsiaryna Barysevich" (in German). Libereco – Partnership for Human Rights. 16 December 2020. Archived from the original on 2 February 2021. Retrieved 2 February 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  21. ^ Nicholas Kulish (16 July 2011), German Group That Cited Putin as ‘Role Model’ Cancels Prize After Outcry The New York Times.
  22. ^ dpa (12 July 2011), Özdemir verlässt Quadriga-Kuratorium Die Zeit.
  23. ^ Cem Özdemir [@cem_oezdemir] (14 March 2015). "After 2 days in #Armenia: The closer Yerevan moves twds #Putin's #Russia, the less freedom f media, NGOs, #LGBT. People want open society" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  24. ^ Özdemir schließt EU-Beitritt der Türkei mit Erdogan aus F.A.Z. 12 June 2016
  25. ^ "Keine EU-Mitgliedschaft mit dieser Türkei" Die Zeit 13 June 2016
  26. ^ Cem Özdemir: 'Erdogan wants to establish Turkey in Germany' Deutsche Welle 19 July 2017
  27. ^ Selcuk Gultasli (13 June 2014), Erdogan’s new Turkey full of 'spies' and 'traitors' EUobserver.
  28. ^ Emre Peker and Harriet Torry (18 August 2014), Turkey Summons German Ambassador Over Spying Claims The Wall Street Journal.
  29. ^ Smale, Alison; Eddy, Melissa (2 June 2016). "German Parliament Recognizes Armenian Genocide, Angering Turkey". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 October 2020.
  30. ^ "Ankara mayor accuses German politician Cem Ozdemir of being an “Armenian servant” and traitor". Horizon Weekly. 20 August 2017.
  31. ^ "Polizei muss Grünen-Politiker Özdemir in München vor türkischen Delegierten schützen" (in German). HuffPost. 17 February 2018. Archived from the original on 17 January 2019. Retrieved 18 December 2018.
  32. ^ "Cem Özdemir steht nach Begegnung mit Türkei-Delegation unter Polizeischutz" (in German). Augsburger Allgemeine. 17 February 2018.
  33. ^ "German politician Özdemir given police protection at MSC". Deutsche Welle. 18 February 2018.
  34. ^ "Merkel puts Saudi arms sales on hold". deutschland.de. 23 October 2018.
  35. ^ "Özdemir'den 'soykırımı tanıma' çağrısı" (in Turkish). Deutsche Welle. 12 March 2015. Archived from the original on 15 March 2015.
  36. ^ "Cem Özdemir'den 'soykırımı tanıma' çağrısı". Hürriyet (in Turkish). 12 March 2015.
  37. ^ "Cem Özdemir öyle bir çağrı yaptı ki…AKP çılgına dönecek !". Taraf (in Turkish). 12 March 2015. Archived from the original on 15 March 2015.
  38. ^ "Turkish-German Lawmaker Calls on Turkey to 'Face History'". Asbarez. 13 March 2015.
  39. ^ "Cem Özdemir speaks to DW about Armenia vote". Deutsche Welle. 2 June 2016. Archived from the original on 3 June 2016. Retrieved 3 June 2016.
  40. ^ Smale, Alison; Eddy, Melissa (2 June 2016). "German Parliament Recognizes Armenian Genocide, Angering Turkey". The New York Times.
  41. ^ "Bundestag passes Armenia 'genocide' resolution unanimously, Turkey recalls ambassador". Deutsche Welle. 2 June 2016.
  42. ^ Rick Noack (2 June 2016), Turkey protests Germany’s recognition of Armenian ‘genocide’ The Washington Post.
  43. ^ "Germany and the Armenian genocide: Name and shame". The Economist. 2 June 2016.
  44. ^ Galip, Özlem Belçim (2020). New Social Movements and the Armenian Question in Turkey: Civil Society vs. the State. Springer International Publishing. p. 87. ISBN 978-3-030-59400-8. The AKP government, a considerable number of Turkish groups, the opposition party in the Turkish parliament, institutions and both pro-government and anti-government Turkish media waged a war against [Cem] Özdemir and the German parliament expressing Islamic superiority, denial, hatred of Armenians and excusing the Armenian massacres by accusing Armenians of collaborating with Russia during the First World War. The reaction of the main opposition party, CHP (Republican People's Party), was no different from that of the ruling party.
  45. ^ Porter, Tom (6 June 2016). "German MP under police guard after Armenian genocide resolution". International Business Times.
  46. ^ "Personal police guard given to Turkish-origin German MP after 'Armenian genocide' bill". Hürriyet Daily News. 6 June 2016.
  47. ^ Opposition Leader Faces Cannabis Plant Investigation[dead link] The New York Times, 18 January 2015.
  48. ^ Bethan John (28 August 2014), German Green's ice bucket challenge lights up dope debate Reuters.
  49. ^ "Statements". Campaign for a UN Parliamentary Assembly. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  50. ^ "ZEIT ONLINE | Lesen Sie zeit.de mit Werbung oder im PUR-Abo. Sie haben die Wahl". www.zeit.de. Retrieved 1 March 2021.
  51. ^ "Grüne wollen Bundestag über Tempolimit abstimmen lassen - Polizei-Gewerkschaft findet es gut". www.merkur.de (in German). 5 October 2019. Retrieved 1 March 2021.
  52. ^ Herholz, Andreas. "Özdemir: "Tempolimit-Diskussion erinnert an Waffenrecht in den USA"". Politik - Nachrichten - Zeitung (in German). Retrieved 1 March 2021.
  53. ^ Circle of Friends Archived 13 February 2015 at the Wayback Machine Das Progressive Zentrum.
  54. ^ Board of Trustees Theodor Heuss Foundation, Stuttgart.
  55. ^ Elisabeth Binder (12 October 2018), American Jewish Committee in Berlin: Kritische Fragen zum Geburtstag Der Tagesspiegel.
  56. ^ "The FP Top 100 Global Thinkers". Foreign Policy. Archived from the original on 1 December 2011. Retrieved 4 December 2011.

External links[edit]