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POLITICS

German minister quits over family vacation after floods

Germany's Family Minister resigned on Monday after coming under pressure for taking a summer vacation last year, shortly after the region where she was environment minister at the time suffered deadly flooding.

Family Minister Anne Spiegel (Greens) announces her resignation in Berlin.
Family Minister Anne Spiegel (Greens) announces her resignation in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Annette Riedl

Anne Spiegel said she had decided to step down “because of political pressure”.

“I am doing this to avert damage to the office, which is facing great political challenges,” she said in a statement.

The 41-year-old took on the family portfolio in December when her ecologist Green party joined a new coalition government led by Chancellor Olaf Scholz of the Social Democrats.

Spiegel’s departure comes after an emotional statement on Sunday in which she apologised for taking a four-week vacation to France with her family, 10 days after the western regions of Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia were hit by catastrophic floods that killed over 180 people.

READ ALSO: Volunteer army rebuilds Germany’s flood-stricken towns

Spiegel was the environment minister in Rhineland-Palatinate at the time. 

The vacation only recently came to light in media reports.

A tearful Spiegel had sought to defend the trip by saying her husband had suffered a stroke in 2019 and needed to avoid stress, while the pandemic and her own workload juggling numerous regional roles had weighed heavily on their four young children.

“I decided I had to be there for my family,” she said on Sunday.

Spiegel added that she had worked tirelessly in the days before the vacation to help the affected areas, and that she remained reachable during her holiday.

Spiegel acknowledged however that she did not take part in cabinet meetings during the vacation, despite what she had said previously.

Warnings

Opposition politicians had led calls for Spiegel to go, with the leader of the centre-right CDU party, Friedrich Merz, accusing Spiegel of caring more about her “vacation and her own image than the fate of people in the Ahr region”.

Chancellor Scholz said he had “great respect” for Spiegel’s decision to resign and that he had been “moved” by her personal statement.

North Rhine-Westphalia environment minister Ursula Heinen-Esser resigned last week following revelations she celebrated her husband’s birthday in Mallorca just days after the floods.

The two departures come against a backdrop of public discontent with Germany’s handling of the floods.

As well as being the deadliest in the country’s modern history, the deluges destroyed roads, bridges and thousands of homes and businesses. The mammoth reconstruction task is still ongoing.

The scale of the devastation has in part been blamed on a lack of warnings to residents ahead of time, despite weather services forecasting heavy rainfall.

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POLITICS

Germany plans return to debt-limit rules in 2023

Germany will reinstate its so-called debt brake in 2023 after suspending it for three years to cope with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, sources in the finance ministry said Wednesday.

Germany plans return to debt-limit rules in 2023

The government will borrow 17.2 billion euros ($18.1 million) next year, adhering to the rule enshrined in the constitution that normally limits

Germany’s public deficit to 0.35 percent of overall annual economic output, despite new spending as a result of Russia’s war in Ukraine, the sources said.

The new borrowing set out in a draft budget to be presented to the cabinet on Friday is almost 10 billion euros higher than a previous figure for 2023 announced in April.

However, “despite a considerable increase in costs, the debt brake will be respected,” one of the sources said.

Although Germany is traditionally a frugal nation, the government broke its own debt rules at the start of the coronavirus pandemic and unleashed vast financial aid to steer the economy through the crisis.

READ ALSO: Debt-averse Germany to take on new borrowings to soften pandemic blow

The government has this year unveiled a multi-billion-euro support package to help companies in Europe’s biggest economy weather the fallout from the Ukraine war and sanctions against Russia.

Berlin has also spent billions to diversify its energy supply to reduce its dependence on Russia, as well as investing heavily in plans to tackle climate change and push digital technology.

But despite the additional spending, Finance Minister Christian Lindner has maintained the aim to reinstate the debt brake in 2023.

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