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Schavan 'embarrassed' by Guttenberg

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Schavan and Guttenberg in 2009. Photo: DPA
15:12 CET+01:00
Members of Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg’s fellow conservatives criticized him for plagiarizing his doctoral on Monday, calling him an embarrassment and labelling his handling of the matter a “nail in the coffin for” Germany's democracy.

In an interview with daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, Christian Democrat (CDU) and minister for education and research Annette Schavan was asked whether she was ashamed of Guttenberg for plagiarizing large portions of his doctoral thesis in law.

“As someone who earned my doctorate 31 years ago and has worked with many doctoral candidates during my career, I’m embarrassed, and not just privately,” she told the paper.

“Scholarship has to do with trust. A thesis advisor must be able to believe the statement that work has been completed to the best of one’s knowledge and belief.”

No one should come to the conclusion that Schavan considers plagiarism a “trifle,” she said.

When news of Guttenberg’s plagiarism broke nearly two weeks ago, the Defence Minister claimed he had done just that, and calling the allegations “abstruse.” But just days later he dropped his Dr. title, admitting that he made “serious errors,” though unintentionally.

His alma mater, the University of Bayreuth, later officially stripped Guttenberg of the title.

Still, Schavan told Süddeutsche Zeitung that her fellow cabinet member deserved a second chance, “particularly because everyone knows he is a great political talent.”

“We also know that this is not the first instance in which someone has done good political work while at the same time taken on fault in their personal life.”

However, in an interview with Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel, the conservative state premier of Saxony-Anhalt, Wolfgang Böhmer, said he was uncertain Guttenberg could overcome the crisis of credibility.

“I’m not sure how long he can endure it and hold out,” he said.

Speaker of parliament and CDU member Norbert Lammert also weighed in on the matter, calling the situation a “nail in the coffin for trust in our democracy” in meeting with a group of Social Democrats, according to daily Mitteldeutsche Zeitung.

But Horst Seehofer, leader of Guttenberg’s conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), said Lammert’s reaction was “inappropriate.”

“There is not the slightest doubt that the party stands together with their minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg,” he told the paper. The CSU is the Bavarian sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats.

Meanwhile German military leaders are becoming concerned about how the scandal will affect Guttenberg’s leadership and reform of the Bundeswehr.

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“I could not have imagined that the Bundeswehr reforms would take place under such uncertain circumstances,” head of the DBwV military association Ulrich Kirsch told daily Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung. “And I find it extraordinarily burdensome.”

An open letter signed by some 25,000 PhDs was sent to the Chancellery on Monday, accusing Merkel of making a “mockery” of their scholarly work through supporting Guttenberg.

Merkel last week said she still had complete confidence in Guttenberg, because she had appointed him defence minister and not hired him as a research assistant.

DPA/The Local/ka

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