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No reprieve

January 23, 2012

German President Christian Wulff faces renewed controversy over his tenure as the state premier of Lower Saxony. His government allegedly made false statements about the use of state money for a lobbying event.

German President Christian Wulff
Wulff has no plans to step down as presidentImage: dapd

The center-left Social Democrats in the northern state of Lower Saxony have threatened to sue Germany's president, Christian Wulff, for allegedly deceiving the state parliament over the financing of a private lobbying event.

During his tenure as the state premier of Lower Saxony, Wulff's government told the state parliament in 2010 that taxpayers' money had not been used to finance the "North-South-Dialogue" in Hanover, a meeting of prominent politicians, celebrities and business people from Lower Saxony and the southern state of Baden-Württemberg.

The Agricultural Ministry, however, allegedly paid 3,411euros ($4,396) for cookbooks that were given to the conference's guests as gifts. Then-government spokesman Olaf Glaeseker has also been accused of using state money to employ students for the event's hospitality services.

"We told the parliament that no taxpayer money was used for this event," Wulff said. "That was said to the best of our knowledge and belief."

"If taxpayers' money was used, then we did not tell the parliament the truth," Wulff said, adding that the issue should rightly be clarified in court.

former government spokesman Olaf Glaeseker
Glaeseker is being investigated for corruptionImage: dapd

Corporate sponsors

The news magazine Der Spiegel had reported that Glaeseker raised sponsor money for the event. He allegedly solicited the oil conglomerate Exxon for 15,000 euros and the energy conglomerate RWE for 25,000 euros. The public prosecutor in Hanover is investigating Glaeseker and the event organizer, Manfred Schmidt, on charges of corruption.

Although Wulff said the allegations were serious, he did not believe he made any personal mistakes and was not considering stepping down from his post as president, which serves a largely ceremonially function in Germany's political system.

But the head of the SPD's parliamentary group in Lower Saxony, Stefan Schostok, said that Wulff could not remain in office if the allegations were proven true.

"If it is proven that Wulff violated the constitution of Lower Saxony, then he cannot remain in office as Germany's president," Schostok said.

Author: Spencer Kimball (AFP, dpa)
Editor: Nicole Goebel