Ilse Aigner: Bavaria's dirndl-wearing 'dinosaur'
Published: 28 Dec 2012 14:48 GMT+01:00
Updated: 28 Dec 2012 14:48 GMT+01:00
Ilse Aigner, just named "Dinosaur of the Year" by a nature group, is our latest "German of the Week." The dirndl-wearing agriculture minister is thought to be planning a strategic retreat from Merkel's cabinet to mount a challenge for the Bavarian state premiership.
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The criticism was sharp. The environmental organization NABU handed its 2012 "Dinosaur of the Year" award to Aigner for her "reactionary special interest politics," which defy the principles of sustainable policy, said NABU President Olaf Tschimpke, before going on to accuse Aigner of hanging on to "an environmentally damaging agriculture policy and a disappointing commitment to better animal protection law."
On top of that, Tschimpke said Aigner had blocked initiatives towards more ecological hunting laws and sustainable fishing policies.
Aigner, the first woman to be given a NABU dinosaur, shot back at the conservationists in particularly belligerent style, saying through a spokesman's statement that NABU should win the "blind nut of the year." "NABU puts its faith in cheap PR gags and closes its eyes to reality," the statement said.
The spokesman also defended Aigner's record in the Agriculture Ministry, saying that in her five-year tenure, Germany had modernized its farming, and shifted subsidies to a flat per-hectare fee rather than production to encourage more sustainable practices.
The 48-year-old Aigner is a Bavarian by nature and nurture. A Roman Catholic, a member of the conservative Christian Social Union (the Bavarian sister party to Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union) since her teenage years, she was first elected to the Bundestag in 1998 representing the picturesque town of Starnberg outside Munich.
After sitting on a number of parliamentary committees, and taking on the role of CDU/CSU education and research spokeswoman when Merkel was elected in 2005, she was finally promoted to the cabinet in 2008, where she took over from her party leader Horst Seehofer at the Ministry for Agriculture and Consumer Protection.
Apart from criticizing food price increases, and once publicly deleting her Facebook profile in protest at new privacy rules, one of Aigner's main policy bugbears over the past five years has been the fees on cash machines.
But now apparently content with her service to the Federal Republic, Aigner has announced her decision to resign from the cabinet at the end of the legislative period, in autumn 2013, to re-enter the Bavarian state parliament.
This means she'd be following in Seehofer's footsteps yet again (he did the same in 2008 to take up the premiership of Bavaria). Now, many say she is preparing to succeed him as both leader of the CSU and Bavaria.
Her party colleague Transport Minister Peter Ramsauer more or less confirmed such rumours by mooting Aigner as a possible successor to Seehofer. "She would have outstanding credentials for the positions of party chairwoman and state premier," he told Die Welt newspaper.