Annalena Baerbock

Annalena Baerbock during the signing of the coalition agreement for the XX legislature of the Bundestag. – Author: Sandro Halank, Wikimedia Commons (Source)

Annalena Charlotte Alma Baerbock (pronounced [anaːˌleːnaː ˈbɛːɐ̯ˌbɔk] (audio speaker iconlisten); born 15 December 1980) is a German politician of Alliance 90/The Greens serving as the Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs since 2021.

From 2018 to 2022, Baerbock served as co-leader of Alliance 90/The Greens, alongside Robert Habeck. She was the party’s chancellor candidate in the 2021 federal election, making her the first such candidate for the Greens and, after Angela Merkel, only the second woman to be nominated for chancellor by a major German political party. After the election, the Greens formed a traffic light coalition led by Olaf Scholz, and Baerbock was sworn in as Germany’s first female foreign minister on 8 December 2021.

Born in Hanover, West Germany in 1980, Baerbock attended the University of Hamburg and the London School of Economics and Political Science. She was first elected to the Bundestag in 2013. From 2012 to 2015, she was a member of the party council of Alliance 90/The Greens and from 2009 to 2013 the leader of her party’s state group in Brandenburg.


Early life and education

Baerbock is the daughter of a social worker and a mechanical engineer[1] who worked for WABCO Vehicle Control Systems.[2] After several years in Nuremberg,[3] she grew up with two sisters and two cousins in an old reconstructed farmhouse her family owned[4] in Schulenburg, which is part of Pattensen, near Hanover in Lower Saxony.[5][6] As a child, she joined her parents at antiwar and anti-nuclear power protests organized or supported by the Green Party.[7][8] She attended the Humboldt School in Hanover[9] and at age 16 completed an exchange year at Lake Highland Preparatory School in Orlando, Florida.[10]

As a teenager, Baerbock was a competitive trampoline gymnast, taking part in German championships and winning bronze three times.[11][12][13]

From 2000 to 2004, Baerbock studied political science and public law at the University of Hamburg. She also worked as a journalist for the Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung from 2000 to 2003.[14] She completed internships at Norddeutscher Rundfunk, Deutsche Presseagentur and the Council of Europe.[15]

In 2005, Baerbock completed a one-year master course in public international law at the London School of Economics (LSE).[8] During her time at LSE, she stayed at Carr-Saunders Hall in Fitzrovia.[4] In 2005, she was a trainee at the British Institute of International and Comparative Law (BIICL).[16] She also started a dissertation on natural disasters and humanitarian aid at the Free University of Berlin, but did not finish it.[17]


Early career

After her studies, Baerbock worked from 2005 to 2008 in the office of MEP Elisabeth Schroedter. In 2008 and 2009, she worked as an adviser on foreign and security policies for the parliamentary group of the Alliance 90/The Greens in the Bundestag.


Political career

Beginnings

Baerbock became a member of Alliance 90/The Greens in 2005.[8] In October 2008, she was elected to the executive board of her party’s state group in Brandenburg. The next year she succeeded Ska Keller as co-chair of the board (with Benjamin Raschke), an office she held until 2013.[18]

Baerbock served as the national spokesperson for the Green Party’s working group on European affairs from 2008 to 2013. From 2009 to 2012, she was part of the executive board of the European Green Party, under the leadership of co-chairs Philippe Lamberts and Monica Frassoni.[19]

Member of the German Bundestag, 2013–present

In 2009, Baerbock unsuccessfully ran for a place on her party’s electoral list for the federal elections. In 2013, she was the Green Party candidate in the constituency of Potsdam – Potsdam-Mittelmark II – Teltow-Fläming II and also secured the leading spot on the party’s electoral list for the State of Brandenburg.[20] Through the electoral list, she became a member of the Bundestag.[19]

During her first term, Baerbock was a member of the Committee on Economic Affairs and Energy and the Committee on European Affairs. In her parliamentary group, she served as speaker for climate policy.[6] In the latter capacity, she participated in the United Nations Climate Change Conferences in Warsaw (2013), Lima (2014), Paris (2015) and Marrakesh (2016).

In addition to her committee assignments, Baerbock served as deputy chair of the Berlin-Taipei Parliamentary Circle of Friends and a member of the German-Polish Parliamentary Friendship Group from 2014 until 2017.

In the 2017 election, Baerbock was again the leading candidate in the state of Brandenburg, retaining her seat in Parliament. After the election she was part of her party’s negotiating team, as the Green Party entered (unsuccessful) coalition talks with the CDU/CSU and FDP.[21][22] She has since been a member of the Committee on Families, Seniors, Women and Youth.

Co-Leader of the Green Party, 2018–2022

Baerbock speaking in the Bundestag, 30 October 2020

On 27 January 2018, at the Green Party’s national convention in her hometown of Hanover, Baerbock was elected as one of two equal chairpersons of her party on the federal level, with Robert Habeck.[18][23] She won 64% of the vote, more than her challenger, Anja Piel.[6] At a 2019 party convention, she was reelected with 97.1%, the highest-ever result for a party chair.[24]

In the negotiations to form a coalition government under the leadership of Minister-President of Brandenburg Dietmar Woidke after the 2019 state elections, Baerbock was a member of her party’s delegation.[25][26]

Chancellor candidate, 2021

On 19 April 2021, Baerbock and Habeck announced that the federal board of the Greens proposed Baerbock as candidate for chancellor for the 2021 federal election – the first time the party nominated a single candidate instead of co-leaders.[27] This was formally confirmed at the party congress from 11 to 13 June. Baerbock is the second woman after Angela Merkel to seek the highest government office. On election day, she was only 12 days older than Guido Westerwelle in 2002, the youngest chancellor candidate ever.[28][29] On 12 June 2021, Baerbock was confirmed as candidate for chancellor after receiving 98.5% of the confirmation vote.[30] In the 2021 German federal election, she again ran in the constituency of Potsdam – Potsdam-Mittelmark II – Teltow-Fläming II, this time against fellow chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz. She lost the constituency to Scholz by over 15,000 votes, but was nonetheless elected to the Bundestag through the Green list in Brandenburg.[31]

According to studies conducted by the German Marshall Fund and the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, both German and Russian state-backed sources have targeted Baerbock with a large amount of disinformation, from false preconceived assumptions about the Greens to explicit sexism, such as the circulated online image featuring Baerbock’s face photoshopped onto a naked female body with the caption “I was young and I needed the money”.[32][33][34]

Under Baerbock’s leadership, the Greens won 14.8% of the vote and 118 seats in the Bundestag, the best result in the party’s history, but the performance was considered somewhat disappointing as the party finished third after leading some polls earlier in the year.[35]

Foreign minister, 2021–present

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Washington, D.C., on 5 January 2022

Following the 2021 election, the Greens agreed to enter government with the FDP and the Social Democrats, as part of a traffic light coalition led by Olaf Scholz. Baerbock was named Foreign Minister, and took office on 8 December 2021, the first woman ever to hold the role.[36]

Baerbock visited Warsaw in December 2021 to meet with the Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau. They discussed Poland’s dispute with the EU over the rule of law and the superiority of European Union law. Baerbock backed Poland’s efforts to stop the flow of migrants seeking entry from Belarus.[37] She rejected the idea of paying World War II reparations to Poland. Germany still asserts that Poland waived all reparation rights with the 1953 agreement and that the dispute is settled. Poland rejects this view, stating that the Polish government was then under the sway of the Soviet Union and that its 1953 refusal is non-binding.[38][39]

On 23 December 2021, Baerbock warned that Afghanistan is “heading into the worst humanitarian catastrophe of our time”, with major economic sectors collapsing and more than 24 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.[40] She said, “We cannot allow hundreds of thousands of children to die because we don’t want to take action.”[41] She also promised to speed up the evacuation of more than 15,000 vulnerable Afghans, including staff who worked for Germany and their family members.[42]

In January 2022, Baerbock refused to supply German weapons to Ukraine amid rising tensions on the Ukraine-Russia border, while NATO allies including the United States have opted to send arms in support of Ukraine.[43][44]


Political positions

Foreign policy

German Minister Annalena Baerbock and French Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian as European Union member states Foreign Ministers on meeting with American Secretary of State Antony Blinken and UK Minister of State for Middle East, North Africa and North America James Cleverly in Berlin, 2022

Baerbock is regarded as taking a centrist line on defense and pushing for a stronger common EU foreign policy,[45][46] especially against Russia and China.[47][48] She has proposed a post-pacifist foreign policy,[49] calling for a European army under the supervision of the European Parliament and outlining steps toward Germany’s denuclearization in consultation with allies.[47] She supports NATO‘s eastward expansion and cooperation with the United States.[47][50] In November 2020, she said: “Europe has been revolving around itself for years, the Trump administration turned its back on the world. Authoritarian states fill the gap that emerged. That leads to Russia or Turkey becoming active in our neighborhood—and the EU, as in the case of Nagorno-Karabakh, is left out.[51] In December 2021, Baerbock proposed a “values-driven” foreign policy in conjunction with other European democracies and NATO partners,[52] and called on the EU to implement sanctions against Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik.[53]

Baerbock appears to have taken a pro-Israel stance in response to the 2021 Israel–Palestine crisis.[54] She called the number of UN resolutions criticizing Israel “absurd compared to resolutions against other states.”[55]

Energy, climate, and environmental policy

Baerbock (left) with Green Party secretary Michael Kellner at an anti-coal protest in Berlin, 2018

Baerbock has argued in favor of a European and trans-Atlantic Green Deal.[56] She has cited a need for technology transfer so that countries worldwide can limit the increase in global temperatures to 1.5 °C as outlined in the Paris Agreement.[52]

Baerbock has called for coal to be phased out in Germany by 2030, the implementation of a speed limit of 130 kilometers per hour (81 mph), and allowing the registration only of emission-free cars “by 2030 at the latest”. She has said that “agricultural subsidies should be oriented towards the common good” and that animal populations and meat production should be “reduced very significantly”.[57] Baerbock has also said that “climate policy is not in contradiction to the economy” and that she wishes to preserve Germany’s status as an industrial location “into the 21st century—in light of the Paris climate agreement.” She advocates for the production of climate-neutral steel and has expressed support for climate tariffs – international taxes on goods that are carbon-intensive. Under her policies, domestic German flights are to be made “superfluous” by 2035, through strengthening the rail network.[58]

When the Federal Constitutional Court ruled that the promised greenhouse gas reductions in the Climate Protection Act were insufficient on 29 April 2021, Baerbock held out the prospect of setting concrete greenhouse gas savings targets in the event that her party participated in the federal government. She also called for the quota of annual expansion of renewable energy sources to be doubled by the mid-2020s. Baerbock has said that environmental destruction caused by climate change is becoming increasingly expensive.[59]

Baerbock opposes the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project between Russia and Europe.[50]

Immigration

Amid the European migrant crisis in 2015, Baerbock joined fellow Green parliamentarians Luise Amtsberg, Franziska Brantner, Manuel Sarrazin and Wolfgang Strengmann-Kuhn in calling for more responsibilities for the European Commission in managing the EU’s intake of refugees, a clear mandate for Frontex and EU-managed facilities for asylum seekers in their countries of origin.[60]


Criticism

Plagiarism controversy

In June 2021, Baerbock’s book Jetzt. Wie wir unser Land erneuern (Now. How We Renew Our Country) came under scrutiny for plagiarism, with 12 passages highlighted as identical to other sources, such as blogs, news articles and “Greens” party program.[61][62] Her party denounced the accusations as negative campaigning[63][64] and affirmed its support for Baerbock.[65] She promised to add sources and citations in later editions,[66] but later announced she would withdraw the book due to a lack of time.[67]

Income controversy

In May 2021, various media outlets reported that Baerbock had been late to declare to the German Parliament’s administration a total of 25,500 euros in additional income she had received over the course of three years – 2018, 2019 and 2020 – in her capacity as leader of the Green Party.[68][69][70][71]

Scholarship controversy

From April 2009 to December 2012 Baerbock was a PhD scholarship holder from the Heinrich Böll Foundation and got a scholarship of more than €48.000.[72] The Böll Foundation is subject to a funding guideline from the Research Ministry, which states that people should not receive a scholarship who “worked for more than one eighth of the regular weekly working hours” or “some other activity that predominantly uses the manpower of the sponsored person”. At that time she was Brandenburg state chairman of the Greens, a member of the Greens board and spokeswoman for the Federal Working Group on Europe. The Greens’ spokesman said: “Ms. Baerbock’s main focus during these years was on working on her doctoral project. The party-political, essentially voluntary commitment took place in the evenings and on weekends”. Baerbock never finished her doctoral thesis, Naturkatastrophen und humanitäre Hilfen im Völkerrecht,[73] and the foundation rescinded its request for devolution of the given support.[74]

Other controversies

In June 2021, it was reported that Baerbock had exaggerated her involvement with the German Marshall Fund and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).


Other activities

Corporate boards

  • KfW, Ex-Officio Member of the Board of Supervisory Directors (since 2021)[76]

Non-profit organizations

Since 2020, Baerbock has participated in the World Economic Forum‘s Young Global Leaders program, a group that has coached political representatives such as Emmanuel Macron, Sanna Marin and Jacinda Ardern.[80]

Personal life

Since 2007,[81] Baerbock has been married to Daniel Holefleisch, a political consultant and PR manager who has been a lobbyist in the position of Senior Expert Corporate Affairs for Deutsche Post DHL Group since 2017.[82] They have two daughters, born in 2011 and 2015.[83][84] In 2013, they moved from Berlin to the Nauener Vorstadt district[18][85] of Potsdam, Brandenburg.[45]

Baerbock is a member of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD).[19] She describes herself as “not religious” and remains a church member because “the idea of togetherness is extremely important” to her.[86]


Book

Volker

I am Volker Schunck and live in Dresden, Germany. First I was an industrial clerk, then I studied theology. Through my engagement with Zen, I became aware of the Christian mysticism. Meanwhile, I go my own way. For me, faith is not a world-view but a being. It is important to me, not to live lost in thought but aware and intensely. For me, this also includes careful handling of other people. The NVC (Nonviolent Communication), which I learned during my training as a mediator, helps me with this.

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