Norbert Röttgen

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Norbert Röttgen
Norbert Röttgen in 2012
Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety
In office
28 October 2009 – 16 May 2012
Chancellor Angela Merkel
Preceded by Sigmar Gabriel
Succeeded by Peter Altmaier
Chairman of CDU North Rhine-Westphalia
In office
6 November 2010 – 13 May 2012
Deputy Ursula Heinen-Esser
Armin Laschet
Karl-Josef Laumann
Michaela Noll
Sven Volmering
General Secretary Oliver Wittke
Preceded by Jürgen Rüttgers
Succeeded by TBD
First Chief Whip of parliamentary group of CDU/CSU
In office
25 January 2005 – 26 October 2009
Head Volker Kauder
Succeeded by Peter Altmaier
Personal details
Born (1965-07-02) 2 July 1965 (age 56)
Meckenheim, West Germany
Nationality German
Political party Christian Democratic Union
Spouse(s) Ebba Herfs-Röttgen
Children 3
Alma mater University of Bonn
Religion Roman Catholic

Norbert Röttgen (born 2 July 1965) is a German politician of the Christian Democratic Union. He was Federal Minister for Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety from 2009 to 2012.

Early life and education

Röttgen graduated from the Gymnasium of Rheinbach. After completing his Abitur, he started to study law at the University of Bonn in 1984. He passed his first law examination in 1989, his second examination in 1993 and practised as a lawyer in Cologne.[1] He obtained a legal doctorate from the University of Bonn in 2001.

Political career

Röttgen joined the CDU in 1982 while he was still a highschool student. From 1992 until 1996, he served as the chair of the Junge Union, the youth organisation of CDU in the State of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Röttgen was elected to the Bundestag in 1994. From 2002 until 2005 he served as the legal policy spokesman of the parliamentary group of CDU/CSU.[1] During the First Cabinet of the Grand Coalition of Angela Merkel in 2005, he served as the Chief Parliamentary Secretary of the CDU/CSU Parliamentary group in the Bundestag until 2009.[1] He was also a member of the Parliamentary Control Panel, which provides parliamentary oversight of Germany’s intelligence services.

Federal Minister for Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, 2009-2011

Following the 2009 federal elections, Röttgen was part of the CDU/CSU team in the negotiations with the FDP on a coalition agreement; he joined the working group on economic affairs and energy policy, led by Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg and Rainer Brüderle.

From 28 October 2009, Röttgen was the Federal Minister for Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety in the Second Cabinet of Angela Merkel.[2] He also served as a member of the Board of Supervisory Directors at KfW from 28 October 2009 to 22 May 2012. From November 2010, he was the deputy chair of the CDU in Germany, as well as the chair of the CDU in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.[1] At the time, he was often mentioned as a potential successor to Merkel as chancellor.[3]

Röttgen, in his capacity as environment minister, led the German delegations to the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, the 2010 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancún and the 2011 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Durban, respectively.

In May 2011, Röttgen announced his government’s plans to shut all of the nation’s nuclear power plants until 2022. The decision was based on recommendations of an expert commission appointed after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.[4] Later that year, he teamed up with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in launching the Bonn Challenge, calling for 150 million hectares of forest – an area four times larger than Germany – to be reforested by 2020; the Bonn Challenge was later endorsed at the 2014 UN Climate Summit and supplemented by the New York Declaration on Forests, which calls for an end to deforestation by 2030.

Following the dissolution of the state's Landtag on 14 March 2012, Röttgen confirmed his intention to run in the subsequent election as the CDU's candidate for the office of Minister-President against the incumbent, Hannelore Kraft of the SPD.[5] Röttgen ran against the debt-financed spending supported by Kraft, and even described the vote as a referendum on Merkel’s Europe policies.[6] However, he was widely seen as having failed to commit himself whole-heartedly to state politics, refusing to promise that if he lost the election he would nonetheless lead the opposition in North Rhine-Westphalia;[7] 59 percent of respondents to an FG Wahlen poll said his refusal to commit to the state “damaged the CDU.”[8]

Following the election defeat of the CDU in North Rhine-Westphalia by a margin almost three times more than was predicted in polls,[9] Röttgen resigned his position as head of the CDU in North Rhine-Westphalia. On 16 May 2012, Chancellor Merkel fired him under Article 64 of the German Basic Law as Minister for Environment; Peter Altmaier replaced him.[10][11]

Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs

Since 2014, Röttgen has been the chairman of the Bundestag's Committee on Foreign Affairs. He also serves on the advisory boards of the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin and the Fachhochschule des Mittelstands in Bielefeld.

In February 2014, Röttgen accompanied German President Joachim Gauck on a state visit to India – where they met with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi, among others – and Myanmar.[12]

Political views

European integration

In 2011, Röttgen called for the direct elections of the President of the European Commission, a bicameral political system for the EU, and simultaneous parliamentary elections across the EU.[13]

Foreign policy

Röttgen is considered as an advocate of a more assertive German foreign policy. In an editorial for the Financial Times in March 2014, he argued that the only people who seemed not to realize that Germany was at the center of the Crimean crisis were “the Germans themselves.”[14] When Russian state-run energy group Gazprom conducted an asset swap with its long-term German partner BASF, under which it increased its stake in Wingas, Röttgen raised concerns about the deal.[15] In his opinion, expanding Gazprom activities in Germay are “deepening our dependence on Russia.”[15] In late 2015, Röttgen called for a review of the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline, saying it was a “highly-political subject which carried the risk of splitting Europe” and may “contradict the aims of the agreed European energy policy.”[16]

Röttgen supported the European Union leaders' decision to impose sanctions on 21 individuals after the referendum in Crimea that paved the way for Putin to annex the region from Ukraine.[17] By August 2014, he demanded that Europe respond to the escalation of violence in Ukraine by agreeing to further sanctions against Russia, saying that "[a]ny hesitation would be seen by [Russian President Vladimir] Putin as European weakness that would encourage him to keep going."[18] However, he ruled out a U.S. proposal to arm Ukraine against Russia, calling it a "grave mistake" which "not only would [give] Putin a pretext to expand the war beyond eastern Ukraine, it would also serve his other goal to divide the West wherever he can.”[19]

Amid the debate on sending military assistance to the Iraqi government following a dramatic push by Islamic State militants through northern Iraq in mid-2014, Röttgen told newspaper Die Welt that delivering weapons would violate the government's arms export guidelines.

Relations with Iran

In March 2014, Röttgen was part of a delegation of the European Council of Foreign Relations to Tehran, Iran. In an open letter published in prominent newspapers across Europe – including El Mundo, Corriere della Sera, Svenska Dagbladet, Tagesspiegel, and The Guardian – on 5 November 2014, he joined Javier Solana, Ana Palacio, Carl Bildt, Emma Bonino, Jean-Marie Guéhenno and Robert Cooper in urging the EU3+3 countries (the UK, Germany and France and the US, China and Russia) and Iran to reach agreement on a comprehensive nuclear deal, arguing “that there may never again be an opportunity as good as this one to seal a final nuclear deal.“[20]

Relations with Turkey

In a speech to parliament in April 2015, Röttgen urged his fellow parliamentarians to call the killing of hundreds of thousands of Armenians under Turkish rule in 1915 as genocidal and acknowledging that German actions at the time were partly to blame, adding that this recognition was overdue.[21]

Climate change and the environment

Following the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference, Röttgen sharply criticized both U.S. President Barack Obama and China’s leadership when he said: “China doesn’t want to lead, and the U.S. cannot lead.”[22] Writing in the Financial Times in 2010, he joined British Energy Minister Chris Huhne and French Ecology Minister Jean-Louis Borloo in urging the European Union to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent from the originally established 20 percent target by 2020.[23]

Both Angela Merkel and Röttgen, the chief architects of the government’s energy transition plan, are thought to have pushed for a rapid nuclear phase-out with a view to raising the prospects for a possible future national coalition with the Green Party.[24][25] In 2012, Roettgen’s plan to cut subsidies for solar power drew fire from opposition parties and the photovoltaic industry, which said the move threatened thousands of jobs in what was then the world’s biggest solar market by installed capacity.[9]

Relations with the African continent

Röttgen has in the past voted in favor of German participation in United Nations peacekeeping missions as well as in United Nations-mandated European Union peacekeeping missions on the African continent, such as in Somalia – both Operation Atalanta and EUTM Somalia – (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015), Darfur/Sudan (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014), South Sudan (2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014), Mali (2013 and 2014) and the Central African Republic (2014). He abstained from the vote on extending the mandate for Operation Atalanta in 2009 and 2010.

Other activities



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 official biography
  2. Kanzlerin Merkel feuert Umweltminister Röttgen
  3. Aaron Wiener (May 13, 2012), Merkel's party suffers loss in key German state, early results show Los Angeles Times.
  4. Judy Dempsey and Jack Ewing (May 30, 2011), Germany, in Reversal, Will Close Nuclear Plants by 2022 New York Times.
  5. "Neuwahlen in NRW: Röttgen gegen Kraft". (in German). 14 March 2012. Retrieved 15 March 2012.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Nicholas Kulish (May 13, 2012), In Rebuke to Merkel’s Party, Social Democrats Win German Vote New York Times.
  7. Quentin Peel (September 26, 2012), ‘Red-green’ victory makes waves in Berlin Financial Times.
  8. Brian Parkin (May 14, 2012), Merkel Defeated in Worst Postwar Result in Biggest State Bloomberg.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Patrick Donahue and Brian Parkin (May 16, 2012), Merkel Fires Roettgen After Worst Result in Biggest State Bloomberg.
  10. "Merkel Fires Environment Minister Röttgen". Spiegel Online. 16 May 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Roland Nelles (May 17, 2012), Another One Bites the Dust: It's Getting Lonely for Merkel within Her Party Der Spiegel.
  12. Anne Merholz (February 5, 2014), Großes Staatsbankett für Gauck "Bild".
  13. The ‘Yes’, ‘No’ and ‘Maybe’ team European Voice, May 23, 2012.
  14. Alison Smale (April 18, 2014), Twin Shocks Shake Foundation of German Power International Herald Tribune.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Stefan Wagstyl (March 26, 2014), Gazprom deal in Germany raises alarm Financial Times.
  16. Christian Oliver and Stefan Wagstyl (December 18, 2015), Tusk joins Italian premier in attacking Berlin over gas pipeline Financial Times.
  17. Brian Parkin and Arne Delfs (April 7, 2014), Merkel Backs U.S. Trade Deal Saying EU Ready to Shun Putin Bloomberg.
  18. Andreas Rinke (August 28, 2014), German lawmaker says EU must impose new sanctions on Russia Reuters.
  19. Sabine Muscat (February 11, 2015), ONLY IT SITREP: Berlin Clings to Hope for Ukraine Deal Foreign Policy.
  20. The time for a nuclear deal with Iran is now The Guardian, November 5, 2014.
  21. Brian Parkin (April 23, 2015), Germany Recognizes Armenian Killings in 1915 as Genocide Bloomberg News.
  22. Steven Hill (January 13, 2010), Europe's Post-Copenhagen View of Obama International Herald Tribune.
  23. Karolina Tagaris (July 14, 2010), Ministers urge EU to toughen emissions targets Reuters.
  24. Gerrit Wiesmann (June 30, 2011), Germans vote to scrap nuclear power Financial Times.
  25. Gerrit Wiesmann and Quentin Peel (May 23, 2011), Röttgen sees rewards in non-nuclear policy Financial Times.

External links