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Interview with NRW Environment Minister: “Armin Laschet can lead a country”

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Interview with NRW Environment Minister
“Armin Laschet can lead a country”

The North Rhine-Westphalian Environment Minister Ursula Heinen-Esser speaks out in favor of Armin Laschet as the new CDU boss. However, she also has praise for Norbert Röttgen, her former boss. About Friedrich Merz she expresses herself in a rather monosyllabic way.

ntv.de: Ms. Heinen-Esser, what qualities and what experiences does the new CDU chairman need?

The CDU politician Ursula Heinen-Esser is Minister for the Environment, Agriculture, Nature and Consumer Protection in North Rhine-Westphalia.

(Photo: picture alliance / dpa / dpa-Pool)

Ursula Heinen-Esser: We are in the middle of a pandemic with severe cuts for the economy and society. At the moment, health issues are in the foreground, but then – hopefully from September – it will be about the economic management of the pandemic. And about making the economy and society sustainable and future-proof. So I believe the candidate has to be someone who has government experience and knows how to tie different ends together.

I can guess what you’re getting at. But let’s take a quick look back: Why did Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer fail?

I think Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer is great and I deeply regret her resignation. The cause were undoubtedly unresolved content-related conflicts in the Union, which had reached their climax in the Thuringian events.

You know the three men well who want to be elected CDU chairman next weekend. You were parliamentary state secretary in the Federal Environment Ministry when Norbert Röttgen headed the department; in 2012 you belonged to his shadow cabinet for the state elections. Would he be a good CDU chairman and if so, why?

Norbert Röttgen is an incredibly intelligent, visionary person who manages to think outside the box. He is what you would call an intellectual politician.

When Friedrich Merz held his last prominent political office to this day, you were also there: you were a member of the Bundestag when he became parliamentary group leader.

I was the spokesperson for the Young Group when he was group leader.

After the federal election in 2002, he could not become parliamentary group leader again because Angela Merkel claimed the office for herself. How did you feel about his behavior back then?

That was the election in which Edmund Stoiber was the Union’s candidate for chancellor – Friedrich Merz supported him at the time. It was clear that Angela Merkel, as party leader, would claim the faction chairmanship after the lost election. I would have liked that he would still have been involved. He made a different decision.

In 2007, Michael Spreng, Stoiber’s former campaign leader, said Merz’s story was the “exemplary story of a talented but arrogant and vain man who underestimated a cunning, determined and indecent woman”. Can someone take on leadership responsibility who is struggling to fit into a team?

Friedrich Merz has a clear claim to leadership and wants to enforce his point of view.

You have been Minister in Armin Laschet’s cabinet since 2018. His polls are not exactly good, what qualifies him as CDU boss?

I wouldn’t look at the polls that much. Polls are one thing, elections are another. We are in a difficult time when politicians also have to make unpleasant decisions. Armin Laschet has a very clear compass with which he can steer properly through this pandemic. In addition, he has extensive experience, not only as a member of three parliaments, but also for many years in government offices. And he is able to convey topics and bring people together.

In other words: you support Laschet.

Yes. He was a minister in North Rhine-Westphalia for five years, and is now in his fourth year as prime minister – he can lead a country even in difficult times. The corona pandemic, which challenges him like all prime ministers, has made him even stronger. That clearly qualifies him for the party chairmanship.

You are responsible for the environment in the state cabinet. With which of the three candidates would climate protection be most likely?

Certainly with Armin Laschet, as well as with Norbert Röttgen. In NRW, climate protection and climate adaptation are at the center of our political agenda. Alone if you look at the exit from coal, for example.

At the moment, black-green is the most likely result after the general election. That could become an alliance in which it will not be easy to find compromises. Which of the three do you think could do it best?

We are part of a coalition that has a majority vote in the state parliament, so compromises in daily government activities are naturally part of it. That is given to Armin Laschet.

Should the future CDU leader automatically become the Union’s candidate for chancellor?

In any case, he should make the claim. A CDU chairman who does not have this claim is hard to imagine for me.

You don’t think that Laschet could make Jens Spahn a candidate for chancellor when he becomes CDU chairman?

Armin Laschet and Jens Spahn join the team; both have convincingly committed to this.

Hubertus Volmer spoke to Ursula Heinen-Esser

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