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Germany: Habeck's office sent suspect envelope

May 25, 2023

An envelope containing a mysterious white powder sparked a major emergency operation and forced the evacuation of a police station. The package had arrived at German Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck's constituency office.

Robert Habeck with a Green party logo in the background
Habeck's ranking in opinion polls has fallen in recent weeks following a nepotism scandal Image: Martin Schutt/picture alliance/dpa

A large-scale police and fire operation was launched after German Economy Minister Robert Habeck's constituency office received an envelope containing a suspicious white powder, the office said on Thursday.

The discovery of the contents of the package, sent to the Green Party office in the northern port of Flensburg, caused the evacuation of a police station in the city center.

What do we know so far?

Workers took the envelope to the police station shortly before 4 p.m. local time (1400 GMT/UTC) on Wednesday, a police statement said.

A member of staff had opened the envelope and discovered a white powder. On the advice of the police, they decided to take the envelope to the police station.

At least one employee from the party office was said to have come into contact with the substance beforehand.

Staff there alerted the fire brigade and, because the contents could not be immediately identified, the station and surrounding area were evacuated.

At around 5:45 p.m., firefighters wearing protective suits secured the envelope in a container. They took precautionary measures to remove it from the building. There were no reports of people being harmed.

A full analysis of the material was reportedly ongoing on Thursday, with the results still pending. The powder is assumed to be mainly composed of fine sand, but it was not yet clear if biological substances were present.

German government: Energy saving strategy

The presence of hazardous chemicals or radioactive substances had already been ruled out, a police spokeswoman told the German DPA news agency.

Popularity on the wane

Climate activists in January occupied one of Habeck's offices in a show of support for a major anti-coal protest, accusing the Greens politician of betrayal.

That came after a 2022 government decision to press ahead with plans to demolish the small village of Lützerath in western Germany to allow the expansion of a nearby coal mine.

Habeck, whose ministry is responsible for energy as well as the economy, has been the face of policies seeking to mitigate the economic fallout in Germany of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

His opinion poll ranking, and that of the party in general, has fallen in recent weeks since a nepotism scandal in his ministry and criticism of an effort to phase out antiquated home-heating systems.

Edited by: Natalie Muller

While you're here: Every Tuesday, DW editors round up what is happening in German politics and society. You can sign up here for the weekly email newsletter Berlin Briefing.

Richard Connor Reporting on stories from around the world, with a particular focus on Europe — especially Germany.