German Defence Minister criticised for son’s helicopter ride

German Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht faced criticism Tuesday for allowing her son to accompany her on a government helicopter on their way to a family vacation.

Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht at a government event on May 4th.
Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht at a government event on May 4th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa Pool | Kay Nietfeld

Lambrecht and her 21-year-old son Alexander flew from Berlin to northern Germany on board a Bundeswehr helicopter in mid-April, Business Insider reported, adding that the son had posted a picture of the flight on Instagram.

Lambrecht used the trip to visit troops in Stadum in the state of Schleswig-Holstein, before travelling on to the nearby island of Sylt for a brief Easter break with her son.

A defence ministry spokesman told AFP that Lambrecht did not breach any rules by bringing a family member along on the helicopter, and that Lambrecht “covered 100 percent of the costs” of his flight.

German media nevertheless questioned the wisdom of the move, with Der Spiegel weekly saying it “raised some eyebrows” and the Bild daily asking whether the holiday had been necessary at all in the middle of the Ukraine crisis.

Opposition lawmaker Thorsten Frei, from the centre-right CDU party, accused Lambrecht of confusing the German air force “with Lufthansa”.

“Using the Bundeswehr military for private and partisan means is inelegant,” he told Bild.

MP Reinhard Brandl, a defence policy spokesman from the CDU’s Bavarian sister party, the CSU, said the timing of Lambrecht’s vacation “was already borderline” given the war in Ukraine.

“That her son is now also boasting on Instagram that he was allowed to fly on a government helicopter to Sylt is the last straw,” he told Spiegel.

Lawmaker Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann from the liberal FDP, whose party belongs to the coalition government headed by Lambrecht’s Social Democrats, said the decision to bring the son on the helicopter was “unusual”.

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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.