A resignation and an “apology”. German Family Minister Anne Spiegel announced on Monday that she was leaving her post after being widely criticized for leaving on vacation shortly after the devastating floods of last July that hit his region.
The 41-year-old environmentalist, who was then Minister of the Environment of the Land of Rhineland-Palatinate, explained in a statement “to make his post available because of political pressure” aimed at her. The Social Democratic Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who has headed a coalition government since December with the Greens and the Liberals, “took note with great respect” of his minister’s decision.
Anger of many victims
Anne Spiegel had left for a month on vacation in France with her husband and four children ten days after the deadly floods of mid-July 2021 which affected her region, which aroused the incomprehension and the anger of many victims. The opposition, mainly the conservatives, had been demanding his departure for several weeks, when the facts had filtered through the German media. The floods, which also affected the neighboring state of North Rhine-Westphalia, killed more than 180 people in total and caused significant material damage.
The noose was further tightened after the resignation last week of the conservative regional Environment Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia Ursula Heinen-Esser for having also taken a vacation in Mallorca during this period.
An “urgent” need to take a vacation
Sunday evening, Anne Spiegel had admitted in an unusually emotional statement to have made “a mistake” and had apologized. Her family then had an “urgent” need to take a vacation, she explained on the verge of tears, referring to her heavy workload – she accumulated several ministerial portfolios – combined with her husband’s serious health problems to which added the stress caused by the pandemic on his children and his family life.
She added that she was always reachable during her holidays, which she had interrupted for a one-day visit to the devastated Ahr valley. But she also admitted not having taken part in a meeting of the regional government during this period, contrary to her previous statements.
” Warning “
The head of German diplomacy Annalena Baerbock, also an environmentalist, regretted the departure of “a fantastic minister for the family” who had started the project of universal financial protection for children from poor families, a flagship project of the coalition. Her fate shows “how brutal politics can be” and this should serve as a “warning” to us, she also said on the sidelines of an EU Foreign Affairs meeting in Luxembourg.
The Greens will now have to quickly offer a replacement for Anne Spiegel. This case falls badly for the party before regional elections scheduled for May in Schleswig-Holstein and North Rhine-Westphalia. In Saarland, environmentalists had already narrowly failed at the end of March to reach the 5% mark necessary to be represented in the regional parliament.