Merkel to take questions from MPs in Bundestag… for first time ever

Chancellor Angela Merkel will on Wednesday answer questions posed by members of the Bundestag (German parliament) - something which no head of government has done before.

Merkel to take questions from MPs in Bundestag... for first time ever
Chancellor Angela Merkel. Photo: DPA

In doing so, Merkel will fulfil an agreement in the coalition deal between the Christian Democrats (CDU), the Christian Social Union (CSU) and the Social Democrats (SPD). This agreement states that the Chancellor is to be “questioned three times a year in the Bundestag” and calls for government questioning to be restructured.

Regular government inquiries are not new. What's new about Wednesday's question period is that Merkel herself will personally answer questions posed by MPs.

In the past during such inquiries lawmakers had to initially submit their questions to the federal government. Afterward, pre-formulated answers would be read by state secretaries. According to Green party politician Volker Beck, a member of the Bundestag from 1994 to 2017, cabinet secretaries quietly competed over who could give the least informative answer.

According to Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert, the Chancellor will primarily answer questions on topics of the cabinet’s sessions and other policy areas. The inquiry will last about an hour.

After a short introductory talk about the G7 summit to be held in Quebec, Canada, later this week, she will take questions on this subject as well as on policies. Afterward there will be an open round of questions.

The parliamentary groups in the Bundestag initiated a reform in traditional government inquiries to “make the Bundestag once again the central place for social and political debate”.

A proposal on how the questioning should be conducted in future is currently being drawn up by the parliamentary executives.

President of the Bundestag Wolfgang Schäuble will moderate the questioning of the Chancellor.

In other countries, such as the UK, similar inquiry periods with the head of government have been in place for many years. 

Every Wednesday the British Prime Minister spends some 30 minutes answering questions from MPs. This is commonly referred to as PMQs and is officially known as Questions to the Prime Minister.

Several years ago, SPD politician Thomas Oppermann – now vice-president of the Bundestag – called for a touch of Westminster in Berlin.

“The Prime Minister himself stands by his political responsibility. This would give an extraordinary boost to the Bundestag and would also do our democracy good,” Oppermann said.

A lively debate is expected on Wednesday, reports Tagesschau, adding that Merkel won’t know the questions ahead of time.

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