Horst Seehofer

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Horst Seehofer
Seehofer in 2012
Minister of the Interior, Building and Community
In office
14 March 2018 – 8 December 2021
ChancellorAngela Merkel
Preceded byThomas de Maizière (Interior)
Succeeded byNancy Faeser (Interior and Community)
Klara Geywitz (Housing, Urban Development and Building)
Leader of the Christian Social Union
In office
25 October 2008 – 19 January 2019
General SecretaryKarl-Theodor zu Guttenberg
Alexander Dobrindt
Andreas Scheuer
Markus Blume
Preceded byErwin Huber
Succeeded byMarkus Söder
President of Germany
In office
17 February 2012 – 18 March 2012
ChancellorAngela Merkel
Preceded byChristian Wulff
Succeeded byJoachim Gauck
President of the Bundesrat
In office
1 November 2011 – 31 October 2012
First Vice PresidentHannelore Kraft
Preceded byHannelore Kraft
Succeeded byWinfried Kretschmann
Minister-President of Bavaria
In office
27 October 2008 – 13 March 2018
DeputyMartin Zeil
Ilse Aigner
Preceded byGünther Beckstein
Succeeded byMarkus Söder
Minister of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection
In office
22 November 2005 – 27 October 2008
ChancellorAngela Merkel
Preceded byRenate Künast
Succeeded byIlse Aigner
Minister of Health
In office
6 May 1992 – 26 October 1998
ChancellorHelmut Kohl
Preceded byGerda Hasselfeldt
Succeeded byAndrea Fischer
Member of the Bundestag
for Ingolstadt
In office
4 November 1980 – 27 October 2008
Preceded byKarl Heinz Gierenstein
Succeeded byReinhard Brandl
Member of the
Landtag of Bavaria
for Neuburg-Schrobenhausen
In office
7 October 2013 – 30 April 2018
Preceded byConstituency established
Succeeded byMatthias Enghuber
Personal details
Horst Lorenz Seehofer

(1949-07-04) 4 July 1949 (age 73)
Ingolstadt, Bavaria, West Germany (current-day Germany)
Political partyChristian Social Union
SpouseKarin Starck
WebsiteOfficial website

Horst Lorenz Seehofer (born 4 July 1949) is a German politician who served as Minister of the Interior, Building and Community under Chancellor Angela Merkel from 2018 to 2021. A member of the Christian Social Union (CSU), he served as the 18th Minister-President of Bavaria from 2008 to 2018 and Leader of the Christian Social Union in Bavaria from 2008 to 2019.

First elected to the Bundestag in 1980, he served as Minister for Health and Social Security in the Christian-liberal cabinets of Helmut Kohl from 1992 to 1998, going to the opposition afterwards and returning to the government as Minister of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection in the grand coalition cabinet of Angela Merkel from 2005 to 2008. Following a disastrous result for his party in the 2008 Bavarian state election, he became both Leader of the CSU and Minister-President of Bavaria, an office he had never sought, after forming a coalition government with the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP), the first coalition on state level in five decades. In 2013 he returned his party to an absolute majority on state level. He served as President of the Bundesrat from 2011 to 2012. As such he was acting head of state of Germany from the resignation of President Christian Wulff on 17 February 2012 until the election of Joachim Gauck as Wulff's successor on 18 March 2012.[1]

A staunch opponent of Chancellor Angela Merkel's response to the 2010s migrant crisis,[2] Seehofer threatened to file a formal complaint with the Constitutional Court,[3] with the historic CDU/CSU alliance in danger of splitting and running against each other in the whole of Germany for the first time, but neither happened. He is a proponent of a federal cap on the number of refugees the German government is to take in.[4] After faring historically badly in the 2017 federal election with a campaign that was criticised for mimicking the Alternative for Germany, the party receiving its worst result since 1949, and unsuccessfully trying to run for a third term as Minister President in 2018, he was pressured by his party to resign and instead decided to take the office of Minister of the Interior, Building and Community (originally intended for Joachim Herrmann) in Merkel's fourth government, in order to shape the migrant policy after his views. In July 2018, a week-long dissent between Seehofer and Merkel nearly brought down the government and again seriously threatened a CDU/CSU split, but they ultimately found a compromise.

Early life and education[edit]

After secondary school, Seehofer started working as civil servant in the local administration in Ingolstadt.[5]

Political career[edit]

Federal Minister and Member of the Bundestag (1980–2008)[edit]

Seehofer served as member of the German federal parliament (Bundestag) as a directly elected delegate (Direktkandidat) from his constituency Ingolstadt from 1980 until 2008. At the 2005 federal election he received 65.9 percent of the votes in his district.

Seehofer was Federal Minister for Health and Social Security from 1992 to 1998 in the cabinet of Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

In 1993, Seehofer ordered that Germany's 117-year-old Federal Health Agency be dissolved following a review of how the government in the 1980s handled the cases of thousands of hemophiliacs who were infected through blood contaminated with HIV. The Health Ministry took over the agency's responsibilities.[6] Also, Seehofer announced that Germany would contribute to an emergency fund for victims of the scandal.[7] In the context of the crisis, he came under considerable pressure to resign.[8]

Seehofer with Angela Merkel, 2008

After Helmut Kohl lost his bid for a fifth term in the 1998 federal election, in the opposition Seehofer became deputy chairman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group of the Bundestag in October 1998, which was led at the time by Kohl's successor Wolfgang Schäuble. Ahead of the 2005 elections, Edmund Stoiber included Seehofer in his shadow cabinet for the Christian Democrats’ unsuccessful campaign to unseat Chancellor Gerhard Schröder.[9] He served as Health Minister Ulla Schmidt's counterpart in negotiating the cross-party healthcare bill of 2003. Because of his disagreement with CDU leader Angela Merkel on flat-rate contributions (Gesundheitsprämie) to the federal health insurance[10] he resigned from his leadership post in the parliamentary group on 22 November 2004 but remained deputy chairman of his party and kept his Bundestag seat.

Seehofer was appointed Federal Minister of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection in the cabinet of Angela Merkel and stayed in office from 2005 to 2008.

Minister President of Bavaria (2008–2018)[edit]

After his party lost more than 17% of the popular vote in the Bavarian state elections of 2008, incumbent Minister-President Günther Beckstein and Chairman of the CSU, Erwin Huber, announced their resignations.[11][12] Seehofer was quickly proposed as their successor. At a party convention on 25 October he was affirmed as the new Chairman of the CSU with 90% of the votes, and on 27 October he was elected Minister-President by the Landtag with votes from the Free Democratic Party, forming the first coalition government in Bavaria since 1962.

During the term 2011–2012, Seehofer served as President of the German Bundesrat. As such, he functioned as Acting head of state from Christian Wulff's resignation on 17 February 2012[13][14][15][16][17] until the election of Joachim Gauck on 18 March 2012.

Under Seehofer's leadership, the State of Bavaria took to the Federal Constitutional Court in 2012 in order to dispute the legality of Germany's post-World War II system of financial redistribution among the country's 16 states. Bavaria, a beneficiary of the system until 1988, had paid more in 2011 than it got out in the 40 years it was a net recipient.[18] The State of Hesse, another per-capita contributor, joined the lawsuit.[19]

Also under Seehofer's leadership, the CSU won an absolute majority in the 2013 state elections, heralding strong momentum for the conservative parties in the federal elections the following week.[20] Together with Angela Merkel and Sigmar Gabriel, he later led the negotiations to form a coalition government on the national level. In late 2013, Seehofer won a record 95.3 percent of the party's votes to continue as chairman.[21]

In early 2015, under pressure from younger rivals, Seehofer announced he would retire at the next state elections in 2018.[22] Later that year, when was chosen the fifth time as leader of the CSU, he received 87.2 percent of the vote, some 8 percent down on the result he achieved in 2013.[23]

Horst Seehofer and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, 2017

In August 2016, Seehofer said he may break with party unity and run a separate campaign in the 2017 national elections, a move widely seen as an effort to keep pressure on Merkel to shift to a more restrictive refugee policy in the European migrant crisis.[24] He also announced to stay on as CSU leader beyond 2018.[25] When the CSU's share of the vote in Bavaria fell 10 percentage points compared with 2013, to below 39 per cent, Seehofer faced demands to resign.[26] On 4 December 2017, he announced to step down as Minister President and not run as leading candidate in the 2018 state elections;[27] instead, he said he would hand over the office to Markus Söder in the first quarter of 2018.[28]

Return to federal cabinet (2018–2021)[edit]

On 1 March 2018, Seehofer confirmed that he will be in Merkel's cabinet if the SPD party members vote in favour of the coalition.[29] He took over the role of Interior Minister.[29] A policy Seehofer announced is that he has a "master plan for faster asylum procedures, and more consistent deportations."[30] He wants a "zero tolerance" policy toward criminals.[30] On 15 March 2018, Seehofer stated that he disagreed with the belief that Islam is part of Germany,[31] a topic already often discussed in Germany, since Federal President Christian Wulff had said in a 2010 speech that Islam was part of Germany. He noted that certain public holidays correspond to certain church holidays.[31]

Under Seehofer's master plan Germany would reject migrants who have already been deported or have an entry ban and would instruct police to turn away all migrants who have registered elsewhere in the EU, no matter if these countries agreed to take them back.[32][33] Merkel feared that unilaterally sending migrants back to neighbouring countries without seeking a multilateral European agreement could endanger the stability of the European Union. In June 2018, Seehofer backed down from a threat to bypass her in the disagreement over immigration policy until she would come back on July 1 from attempts to find a solution at European level. During these weeks the media was speculating not only on a government fall down but also on a split of the CDU/CSU alliance, which consists of the CSU in Bavaria and the CDU in the remaining 15 states. It would have meant that the CSU would run for elections all over Germany and the CDU would run in Bavaria, which they have never done before.

On 1 July 2018, Seehofer rejected the agreement Merkel had obtained with EU countries as too little and declared his resignation during a meeting of his party's executive, but they refused to accept it.[34][35][36] During the night of 2 July 2018, Seehofer and Merkel announced they had settled their differences and agreed to instead accept a compromise of tighter border control.[37][38] As a result of the agreement, Seehofer agreed to not resign,[39] and to negotiate bilateral agreements with the specific countries himself. Seehofer was criticised for almost bringing the government down while the monthly number of migrants targeted by that policy was in single figures.

When the 2021 European floods caused Germany's worst natural disaster in more than half a century, with more than 170 dead and thousands missing, Seehofer again faced calls from opposition politicians to resign over the high death toll.[40]

Political positions[edit]

Seehofer, seated in the Landtag of Bavaria in 2013


In 2010, remarks made by Seehofer asserting according that Turkish and Arab migrants were no longer needed in Germany were strongly criticized by the Turkish community and by Chancellor Angela Merkel's government.[41]

In 2011, he added further that those who wanted to stay in Germany should be ready to sign up to German values. He proposed a change to the Bavarian Constitution so that the authorities in the state would be under obligation to help with the integration process but that minorities, too, should be prepared to actively support the integration process.[42]

In late 2015, Seehofer and the CSU sharply criticized Merkel's refugee policy, as the party's home turf of Bavaria was the main entry point for refugees and other migrants arriving in Germany.[2] Under pressure from Seehofer and his allies, Merkel later restricted cash benefits for refugees and added Kosovo, Albania and Montenegro to the list of "safe" countries to which migrants can be returned.[22] He repeatedly called on the federal government to set a cap on the number of refugees Germany should be taking in,[4] saying that the country was able to manage only "200,000 applicants [per year] for asylum … at the most."[43] Seehofer later threatened to file a complaint against the government's refugee policy with Germany's Constitutional Court.[3]

In September 2019, Seehofer said that he was willing to accept 25 per cent of the migrants who reach Italy by sea, only if everything goes as discussed.[44]

Foreign policy[edit]

Seehofer is opposed to Turkey becoming a member of the European Union.[42] In 2009, he stated that Turkey "as a self-proclaimed representative of the Muslim world, clearly doesn't fit in".[45]

In December 2010 and November 2011, Seehofer was the first Minister-President of Bavaria who visited the neighbouring Czech Republic; this was considered an important step in the dispute over the expulsion of the Sudeten Germans after the Second World War. In February 2013, Seehofer received Petr Nečas as the first Czech Prime Minister for an official visit to Bavaria.[citation needed]

In an interview with news magazine Der Spiegel in late 2014, Seehofer warned Germany's foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his fellow Social Democrats (SPD) against pursuing a more friendly approach towards Russia in the Russo-Ukrainian crisis, arguing that "if Mr. Steinmeier is pursuing his own form of diplomacy alongside the chancellor, that would be highly dangerous."[46][47] He added that, even within his own party, there was already too much friendly sentiment towards Russia that had to be kept in check.[48]

However, in 2015, he held that it would be "Realpolitik" to try to involve Russia in tackling global crises.[49]

In early 2016, his joint visit with Edmund Stoiber to Moscow for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin was met by harsh criticism, even from CDU politicians.[3] By early 2017, Seehofer reiterated his calls to lift the EU sanctions against Russia.[50]

In September 2018, a few days after Chemnitz protests against migrants and refugees, Seehofer criticized the debate on migration again saying it is "the mother of all political problems" in Germany.[51]

European integration[edit]

In 2012, Seehofer demanded that the German constitution be changed to permit referendums on decisions to deepen European integration and transfer powers to European institutions. That same year, he criticized International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde's proposal for measures that would result in a mutualization of Eurozone debt, arguing that shared liability for sovereign debt and a banking union would remove pressure from governments to carry out economic policy changes.[52]

In 2013, Seehofer made Peter Gauweiler a deputy leader of the CSU in a bid to court the party's euro critics; however, Gauweiler quit after two years in protest against the extension of Greece's aid program.[53]

Other activities[edit]

Corporate boards[edit]

  • KfW, Ex-Officio Member of the supervisory board (2005–2008)[54]
  • Landwirtschaftliche Rentenbank, Deputy Chairman of the supervisory board (−2008)
  • Donau-Wasserkraft AG (DWK), Member of the supervisory board (1998–2005)


  • German Forum for Crime Prevention (DFK), Ex-Officio Member of the Board of Trustees (since 2018)[55]
  • Deutsches Museum, Member of the Board of Trustees
  • Committee for the preparation of the Reformation anniversary 2017, Member of the Board of Trustees
  • Hanns Seidel Foundation, Member of the Board
  • Sudetendeutsche Stiftung, Member of the Board of Trustees
  • Bayerische Landesstiftung, ex-officio Member of the Board of Trustees (2008–2018)
  • Bavarian Research Foundation, ex-officio Member of the Board of Trustees (2008–2018)
  • German Energy Agency (DENA), Member of the supervisory board (−2008)
  • ZDF, Member of the board of directors (2010–2014)



Honorary doctorates[edit]

Personal life[edit]

Seehofer married to Karin Starck. They live in the Ingolstadt district of Gerolfing. A father of three, Seehofer failed in a 2007 bid for the CSU leadership when it emerged that he had a daughter born out of wedlock, from an extramarital affair with a much younger staffer of the German Bundestag.[5] After a period of indecision, he opted to return to his wife.[21]

In 2002, Seehofer survived a serious myocarditis.[22] His health again became a subject of public debate when he collapsed during a speech at a party event in early 2015.[61]


  1. ^ "Germany's Seehofer, Merkel Ally, Elected Bavarian State Premier". Bloomberg. 27 October 2008. Retrieved 9 July 2011.
  2. ^ a b Andrea Thomas (20 November 2015), Angela Merkel, CSU’s Horst Seehofer Clash Over German Policy for Migrants Wall Street Journal.
  3. ^ a b c Michelle Martin (31 January 2016), Bavarian leader defends planned visit to Putin in Moscow Reuters.
  4. ^ a b Ruth Bender (14 January 2016), Bavarian Town Protests Merkel’s Refugee Policy With Busload of Migrants Wall Street Journal.
  5. ^ a b Toby Vogel (5 February 2014), Horst Seehofer – Alpha male European Voice.
  6. ^ German Agency Says It Erred in H.I.V. Case New York Times, 15 October 1993.
  7. ^ Craig R. Whitney (13 November 1993), Germany to Pay Victims in AIDS Blood Scandal New York Times.
  8. ^ Stephen Kinzer (5 November 1993), Fear of H.I.V.-Infected Blood Spreads Past German Borders New York Times.
  9. ^ Rüdiger Scheidges (June 10, 2002), Das Vorrunden-Team Handelsblatt.
  10. ^ Bertrand Benoit (17 October 2005), Angela Merkel’s cabinet Financial Times.
  11. ^ "Bavaria's CSU leader quits after election blow". Reuters. 30 September 2008. Retrieved 9 July 2011.
  12. ^ "Second CSU leader quits, raising risks for Merkel". Reuters. 1 October 2008. Retrieved 9 July 2011.
  13. ^ "Bundesratspräsident nimmt Befugnisse des Bundespräsidenten wahr". Bundesrat. 17 February 2012. Archived from the original on 11 August 2013. Retrieved 17 February 2012.
  14. ^ "President Wulff resigns". The Local. Retrieved 17 February 2012.
  15. ^ "Staatsoberhaupt Seehofer" (in German). Süddeutsche Zeitung. 18 February 2012. Retrieved 20 March 2012.
  16. ^ "Horst Seehofer ist kommissarisches Staatsoberhaupt". Die Welt (in German). Welt Online. 17 February 2012. Retrieved 20 March 2012.
  17. ^ "Porträt: Seehofer kommissarisches Staatsoberhaupt" (in German). Zeit Online. 17 February 2012. Retrieved 20 March 2012.
  18. ^ Rainer Buergin (17 July 2012), Bavaria to Challenge Germany’s Postwar System of State Finances Bloomberg Business.
  19. ^ Joseph de Weck (5 February 2013), Richest German States Challenge System of Paying for Poor Bloomberg Business.
  20. ^ CSU Triumph: Bavarian Vote Gives Merkel Pre-Election Boost Spiegel Online, 16 September 2013.
  21. ^ a b Paul Carrel (30 October 2015), Horst Seehofer: Merkel ally turned menace-in-chief Reuters.
  22. ^ a b c Stefan Wagstyl (7 October 2015), Bavarian ally proves a thorn in Merkel’s side on refugees Financial Times.
  23. ^ Bavarian premier Seehofer re-elected CSU party leader Deutsche Welle, 21 November 2015.
  24. ^ Rainer Buergin (1 August 2016), Merkel’s Bavarian Ally Hints at Snub of Chancellor in 2017 Vote Bloomberg News.
  25. ^ Joern Poltz and Paul Carrel (24 April 2017), Merkel ally Seehofer staying on for 'difficult' German election Reuters.
  26. ^ Guy Chazan (27 September 2017), Bavarian party chief faces resignation calls over poll result Financial Times.
  27. ^ Guy Chazan (4 December 2017), Bavarian PM Horst Seehofer steps down in CSU power struggle Handelsblatt
  28. ^ Emily Schultheis (4 December 2017), Seehofer to quit as Bavarian premier to end power struggle Politico Europe.
  29. ^ a b "CSU's Horst Seehofer confirms he will join Angela Merkel's cabinet". Deutsche Welle. 1 March 2018. Retrieved 16 March 2018.
  30. ^ a b "Germany's future interior minister Horst Seehofer vows to increase deportations". Deusche Welle. 11 March 2018. Retrieved 16 March 2018.
  31. ^ a b Staudenmaier, Rebecca (16 March 2018). "German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer: 'Islam doesn't belong to Germany'". Deusche Welle. Retrieved 16 March 2018.
  32. ^ "Merkel handed two-week ultimatum in migrant row".
  33. ^ "Interior minister Horst Seehofer wants quick action on migrants, asks Angela Merkel to talk with other EU countries - Telegraph India". Archived from the original on 18 June 2018. Retrieved 18 June 2018.
  34. ^ "German minister threatens to quit over migration".
  35. ^ "Germany migrants: Key Merkel ally Seehofer threatens to quit". BBC News. 2 July 2018.
  36. ^ "Merkel and Seehofer make last-ditch bid for migration compromise". TheGuardian.com. 2 July 2018.
  37. ^ Germany’s Merkel Secures Deal on Migrants, Averts Government Collapse The Wall Street Journal
  38. ^ Nadine Schmidt and Judith Vonberg (2 July 2018). "Germany's Merkel makes deal with interior minister on migration dispute". CNN International Edition. edition.cnn.com. Retrieved 2018-07-03.
  39. ^ "Germany migrants: Merkel averts coalition government split". BBC News. 3 July 2018.
  40. ^ Kirsti Knolle and Riham Alkousaa (July 21, 2021), Germany counts cost of floods as hopes of finding survivors fade Reuters.
  41. ^ Judy Dempsey (11 October 2010), German Politician Makes Anti-Immigrant Remarks, nytimes.com. Accessed 5 October 2022.
  42. ^ a b Judy Dempsey (9 March 2011), Merkel Ally Assails Turkey on Human Rights, nytimes.com. Accessed 5 October 2022.
  43. ^ Janosch Delcker (6 January 2016), Merkel and Seehofer play nice, but alliance is under strain Politico Europe. Accessed 5 October 2022.
  44. ^ "The Latest: Germany ready to take 1/4 of rescued migrants". 660citynews.com. Retrieved 14 September 2019.
  45. ^ Ben Hall and Chris Bryant (9 April 2009), France and Germany play politics with accession Financial Times.
  46. ^ Michael Nienaber (22 November 2014), Merkel ally warns SPD against own diplomacy towards Russia Reuters.
  47. ^ Stefan Wagstyl and Roula Khalaf (26 November 2014), Merkel offers Russia trade talks olive branch Financial Times.
  48. ^ Nikolaus Blome, Peter Müller, Christian Neef, Ralf Neukirch and Christoph Schult (25 November 2014), Relations at Rock Bottom: Cracks Form in Berlin Over Russia Stance Der Spiegel.
  49. ^ Arne Delfs (21 November 2015), Merkel's Bavarian Ally Plans Putin Visit in Bid for Global Stage Bloomberg Business. Accessed 5 October 2022.
  50. ^ Andrea Shalal (28 January 2017), Merkel's Bavarian ally calls for quick end to Russian sanctions Reuters. Accessed 5 October 2022.
  51. ^ "Migration 'mother of all political problems,' says German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer". DW.COM. Deutsche Welle. Retrieved 6 September 2018.
  52. ^ Rainer Buergin (29 June 2012), Lagarde Wrong to Urge Mutualized Debt, Germany’s Seehofer Says Bloomberg Business.
  53. ^ Rainer Buergin and Patrick Donahue (31 March 2015), German Euro Critic Quits Merkel Caucus in Greece Protest Bloomberg Business.
  54. ^ 2005 Annual Report[permanent dead link] KfW.
  55. ^ Board of Trustees German Forum for Crime Prevention (DFK).
  56. ^ Weil erhält Orden "Stern von Italien" Die Welt, 12 January 2015.
  57. ^ Ministerpräsident Weil erhält hohen Orden der Italienischen Republik State Chancellery of Lower Saxony, press release of 12 January 2015.
  58. ^ Marc Hujer (20 February 2014), Family Affair: The Klitschko Brothers' Most Important Fight Der Spiegel.
  59. ^ Seehofer wird Ehrendoktor in Siebenbürgen Münchner Merkur.
  60. ^ Seehofer ist jetzt ein chinesischer Professor Abendzeitung, 29 April 2010.
  61. ^ Joseph Nasr (19 January 2016), Leader of Merkel's Bavarian allies collapses at party event Reuters. Accessed 5 October 2022.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by Minister of Health
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister President of Bavaria
Succeeded by
Preceded by President of the German Bundesrat
Succeeded by
Preceded by President of Germany

Succeeded by
Preceded byas Minister of the Interior Minister of the Interior, Building and Community
Succeeded byas Minister of Interior and Community
Preceded byas Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation,
Building and Nuclear Safety
Succeeded byas Minister of Housing, Urban Development and Construction
Party political offices
Preceded by Leader of the Christian Social Union
Succeeded by