Monday 26 October 2009

Werner Hoyer: Return to EU politics in the new German government

While all eyes are on the inexperienced new German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle (with no European profile) and the proposed German EU-Commissioner Günther Oettinger, let's have a look at the second row of German EU politics under the new government.

Werner Hoyer, liberal member of the German parliament (the 'Bundestag'), will return into the Foreign Office as "State Minister" (that is a special title for a state secretary of the Foreign Office having a seat in the Bundestag), a function he already served from 1994-98 in the last government of Helmut Kohl under foreign minister Klaus Kinkel.

As State Minister responsible for Europe (assisting or replacing the foreign minister in important European meetings), the new foreign minister Westerwelle will have an experienced and - as far as I can see - convinced European on his side.

In 1996, Hoyer was the main responsible in the preparation of the Intergovernmental Conference to revise the Maastrich Treaty (which would later be the Amsterdam Treaty), and already at that time he supported a smaller Commission, a stronger co-ordination of the European foreign policy while demanding that the Commission would need to initiate legislation on the demand of the European Council.

But he continued his European activities even after the victory of the Schröder government ended his term in the foreign ministry:

Vice-president of the ELDR from 1997 to 2000, he became president of the European Liberals in 2000 and remained in office until 2005. Consequently, one can expect that he still holds good contacts to the political scene in Brussels, proven by the fact that during a visit to Brussels in May he was able to meet representatives of the Commission and the Council or by his participation in the post-election analysis of the European Liberals in June.

Looking at his policy profile one finds a convinced European with clear liberal attitudes and a transatlantic orientation: In 2007, he supported the Lisbon Treaty, although criticising that the Charta of Fundamental Rights and the clear support of a free internal market were not included in the Reform Treaty. And in an interview published in September, he underlines (from minute 10) that we tend to take the European Union as something given, while forgetting that it needs work. He then demands that politicians should develop a future vision for Europe.

And although he will just be a state minister, Hoyer's role in determining the future German work and positions in Brussels should not be underestimated, in particular since earlier this year, he demanded a stronger role of the German foreign ministry in the coordination of German EU politics (by now this role is shared with the finance ministry and the ministry of the economy)

So, from what I could find, it looks like the German foreign policy, despite its inexperienced new foreign minister, will get a reasonable but determined State Minister for Europe who, as an EU insider, won't need much time to get back to work in Brussels and elsewhere in the Union.

PS.: Please, if you have critical remarks on Hoyer or if you can share links to sources that paint a more critical picture of him, I'd be most glad to include them in the article.