Monday, June 3, 2013

Günther Oettinger - archetypical EU official

Günther Oettinger, CDU polititian and Commissioner for Energy, last week complained about amongst other things that France isn't planning to weaken the weakest by increasing the retirement age and reforming the labor market to reduce labor costs. He also moaned about starry-eyed idealism (Gutmenschentum - "good human being-ness"). I don't care at all what he has to say, since he is the last person who should talk about others not saving enough. There is a reason why he is in his current job and that's what I want to talk about because I think it will show what is one of the main problems of the EU institutions in general.

Günther Oettinger became Minister-President of Baden-Württemberg in 2005. The Bundesland at that point had not seen a single Government without CDU participation since 1952. His (Mappus took over in 2010 when Oettinger got the Commissioner job) was the last CDU led government because in 2011 the Greens and the SPD won the election, making Baden-Württemberg the first state with a Green Minister-President. This was mostly due to Stuttgart 21, a plan to redesign the railway system around Stuttgart including a new underground central station for Baden-Württemberg's capital. In 2007 he agreed to the Bundesland paying € 950 million of the total project costs of € 2.8 billion. Today six years later € 6.8 billion seems to be a more realistic number with estimates ranging from € 5.3 billion to € 8.7 billion. Of course, Oettinger was aware that the original costs were nonsensical, he just believed that a more realistic price tag would be "difficult to communicate". He ordered that no more calculations should be made. 

Now, after a look at Oettingers track record as Minister-President who together with the even worse performance of Mappus, who followed for a little over a year, made possible what seemed extremely unlikely when he took over - his party losing power after ruling comfortably for more than half a century, let's look at why he has a problem with decent human beings(Gutmenschen). In the eulogy for the former Minister-President Filbinger Oettinger in 2007 he said:
Hans Filbinger was not a national socialist. To the contrary: he was an opponent of the NS-Regime. But he could not withdraw from the constraints of the regime like millions of others. [..] It needs to be noted that: there is no verdict by Hans Filbinger, which caused a person to lose his life. (he probably wanted to say that Filbinger never sentenced anybody to death)
Hans Filbinger joined the National Socialist German Students' League in 1933 and in 1937 the NSDAP itself. From 1943 onwards he was judge and prosecutor in the Kriegsmarine. The last of his four participitation in death sentences (two in each of his roles) was as prosecutor in January 1945 in this case for deserting.  On March 15th 1945 he personally gave the order to fire.

So after Oettinger talked blatant nonsense at the funeral of a typical "Mitläufer" (follower) - Filbinger was definitely part of the system and did in no way work against it and sueddeutsche rightly called him "bloodjudge". It took him several days to distance himself from his own words after decent people (Gutmenschen) including Merkel ripped the nonsense, he had said, to pieces. This basically should, in my opinion, have marked the end of his career. Of course, instead he went on to become EU Commissioner. In a leaked US cable this event was described thusly:
Chancellor Angela Merkel nominated Baden-Wuerttemberg (BW) Minister President Guenther Oettinger as EU Energy Commissioner primarily to remove an unloved lame duck from an important CDU bastion
The phrase lame duck is in my opinion a overly diplomatic description of his track record in Baden-Wurttemberg - but that's to be expected from a diplomatic corps even in internal documents. After the eulogy incident Sueddeutsche described him as "smart, but not the sharpest knife in the drawer", and that is what makes him an absolutely typical EU Commissioner in my book. It isn't that he lied about the cost of his most important project, or his defense of a typical NSDAP member and participant in crimes, it is his just not being good enough for a job as minister president, but being too good to get rid of all together, that makes him the EU official archetype.

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