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Viewing cable 09BERLIN1636, Lame Duck German Governor Kicked Upstairs as New

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09BERLIN1636 2009-12-31 14:02 2010-11-28 18:06 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Berlin
VZCZCXRO9015
RR RUEHIK
DE RUEHRL #1636 3651406
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 311406Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY BERLIN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6167
INFO RUCNFRG/FRG COLLECTIVE
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RUEHBS/USMISSION USEU
UNCLAS BERLIN 001636 
 
STATE PASS to EEB 
STATE PASS TO USTR 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: ECON EFIN ETRD ELAB GM
SUBJECT: Lame Duck German Governor Kicked Upstairs as New 
Energy Commissioner in Brussels 
 
REF: Frankfurt 002808 
Sensitive but unclassified; not for Internet Distribution. 
1. (SBU) Chancellor Angela Merkel nominated Baden- 
Wuerttemberg (BW) Minister President Guenther Oettinger as EU 
Energy Commissioner primarily to remove an unloved lame duck 
from an important CDU bastion.  The move was not the promotion 
of a valued colleague as Merkel's allies sought to portray it. 
Rather, Oettinger's increasing loss of party support in BW 
compelled Merkel to push Oettinger out to protect her support 
base there.  Oettinger is noted for a lackluster public 
speaking style, and some commentators have asserted that 
Merkel, who has often stood out at EU meetings, wanted to 
appoint a German Commissioner who would not outshine her. 
 
2. (SBU) Germany has a time-honored tradition of sending 
unwanted politicians to the EU Commission, although departing 
SPD EU Industry Commissioner Guenter Verheugen proved his 
worth during his tenure.  Oettinger has criticized Merkel for 
her policy stances (on federal support to Opel and on generous 
subsidies to the former eastern states, for instance)  and her 
purported lack of leadership while antagonizing other 
influential CDU leaders.  In addition to being a poor public 
speaker, he has a tendency to put his foot in his mouth.  The 
best-known example was his ill-advised 2007 defense of a CDU 
predecessor as an opponent of the National Socialist regime, 
despite his documented pro-Nazi war record.  Nonetheless, 
Oettinger is said by industry sources in Baden-Wuerttemberg to 
be an efficient behind-the-scenes negotiator. 
3. (U) Merkel was criticized for choosing the energy 
portfolio, which many derided as too insignificant for 
Germany.  Werner Langen, CDU/CSU caucus spokesman in the EU 
Parliament, said the portfolio has "lost significance." 
Prominent Green Member of the European Parliament, Reinhard 
Buetikofer characterized it as "not particularly influential," 
and Der Spiegel called it a "makeshift job."  The EU Energy 
Commissioner is responsible for issues such as supply 
security, energy R&D and efficiency, competition in the gas 
and electricity markets, infrastructure and low carbon 
technologies.  However, key issues such as energy security and 
climate change are not in the portfolio; nor will Oettinger 
take over the role of EU Commission Vice President from 
Verheugen. 
4. (U) Oettinger has an academic background in law and 
economics and professional experience as a tax consultant and 
accountant.  His political expertise is in media policy.  His 
background in energy appears limited to public support for 
nuclear power and the extension of power plant operating 
licenses.  His pro-nuclear stance is in stark contrast to many 
other German politicians, who support the phase out of nuclear 
power.  This endears him to the EU, which is focused on 
diversification of energy sources and does not exclude nuclear 
energy.  Nuclear power plants supply most of BW's energy while 
renewable energy and fossil fuels do not play a significant 
role.  Oettinger has not expressed interest to date in energy 
issues other than nuclear.  His priorities in his list 
submitted to the EU Parliament in the run up to the January 
hearings of the candidate Commission are reportedly vague. 
 
5.  (SBU) Parliamentarians, skeptical of several members of 
the new Commission, are likely to display particular interest 
in Oettinger's views on binding energy efficiency targets and 
encouraging more competition in internal energy markets. 
Although Germany has embraced a controversial domestic goal of 
increasing energy efficiency by 20% by 2020, it has yet to 
translate the EU energy efficiency directive into national 
law.  Germany has also steadfastly opposed liberalization of 
its power sector oligopoly (what Brussels calls "unbundling") 
although individual German companies are slowly moving in that 
direction.  Oettinger's stance on the internal energy market 
will also be of particular interest to European 
parliamentarians, who see France, and particularly French 
power giant EdF, as a major barrier to opening up the market. 
EdF is a major share-holder in BW regional energy supplier 
ENBW, which operates the state's nuclear power plants -- and 
with which Oettinger is known to have warm relations. 
 
 
DELAWIE