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Kramp-Karrenbauer named new German defense minister

July 17, 2019

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the head of Angela Merkel's conservative CDU party, has replaced Ursula von der Leyen as defense minister. The announcement came as a suprise to many in Berlin.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer at a welcoming ceremony in Berlin
Image: Reuters/H. Hanschke

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer was officially named Germany's new defense minister during a ceremony in Berlin on Wednesday, a day after Ursula von der Leyen's departure from the post to become president of the European Commission.

Kramp-Karrenbauer, who leads German Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right CDU party, received her official letter of appointment from Berlin Mayor Michael Müller, who was standing in for the vacationing President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Müller also gave von der Leyen an official certificate of dismissal. Merkel, whose health has been in the spotlight after a series of shaking fits, was also in attendance, though she sat for most of the ceremony.

Kramp-Karrenbauer is scheduled to swear the oath of office next Wednesday in the Bundestag, Germany's parliament.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer and Ursula von der Leyen at a ceremony in Berlin
Ursula von der Leyen (L) stepped down as defense minister to become the next president of the European CommissionImage: Reuters/H. Hanschke

Unexpected appointment

The move is a surprise, as many had expected Health Minister Jens Spahn to become defense chief. It was doubly surprisingly because Kramp-Karrenbauer, also known by her initials AKK, had previously said she would forgo a ministerial post in favor of concentrating on party leadership.

Kramp-Karrenbauer won a hotly contested leadership vote in December to succeed Merkel as CDU leader. However, since then, she has failed to connect with voters and many see her as out of touch, stiff and lacking in the chancellor's political savvy.

A former leader of the state of Saarland, Kramp-Karrenbauer is well versed in domestic issues. The defense ministry could give her experience in security and military matters that could prove useful when Germany holds elections in 2021.

Her appoint as defense minister is also significant for the Bundeswehr, Germany's military, according to CDU defense and foreign policy expert Roderich Kiesewetter.

"What is special about this decision is that, for the first time in the history of the Bundeswehr, the defense minister and CDU leader positions will be held simultaneously," Kiesewetter told DW on Wednesday. "That is a clear commitment by the CDU to the Bundeswehr like never before in the history of Germany." 

Kiesewetter also said that he believes that Kramp-Karrenbauer's dual responsibility "will be able to face the upcoming Bundestag election campaign in a broad and experienced manner." 

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dv,es/amp (dpa, Reuters)

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