At a special session of the Bundestag in Berlin on 24 July, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer was sworn in as German Defence Minister. In her first policy statement, she emphasized that Germany remains firmly anchored in NATO and that the alliance is "a guarantee of our security.” In light of the controversial issue of planned increases in national defence budgets, she affirmed that Germany is a reliable partner. “I remain committed to the 2% target,” she stated, noting further that she will try to achieve the increase to 1.5% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2024 – an undertaking already made to NATO.

The Minister, a member of the Christlich Demokratische Union Deutschlands (Christian Democratic Union – CDU) party, believes Germany urgently needs a combat-ready Bundeswehr and that reliable funding is the basis of effective modernisation of the armed forces. Therefore, the budget must grow. An increase in the budget, in her view, is absolutely necessary for the development of system such as a future combat aircraft and a new tank. “After 25 years of saving [money], we have turned the switch,“ she commented.

The Minister, appointed on 17 July to succeed Ursula von der Leyen, who was elected President of the European Commission the previous day, has already set out some of her programmatic issues in an early newspaper interview, outlining several of what will undoubtedly become long-running political issues.

  • "In the case of the 2% goal, we made a clear commitment to NATO. It is clear that the 2% cannot be achieved overnight. But it is clear that we have to go this way."
  • "NATO is and remains the cornerstone of our security architecture […] But to believe that a European initiative can substitute [for] NATO is not realistic […] On the contrary, the stronger Europe is, the stronger NATO will be."

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer was born on 9 August 1962 in Völklingen. From 2000-2011, she worked as regional Minister in various departments in the Saarland and was national Chairwoman of the CDU Saar from 2011-2018 and Prime Minister of the Saarland August 2011-February 2018. In December 2018, she was elected party Chairwoman of the CDU and since 17 July has been Federal Minister of Defence in parallel with her CDU role.

Frau Kramp-Karrenbauer’s unexpected appointment and von der Leyen's new post in Brussels show that Chancellor Angela Merkel has cleverly placed two individuals in her confidence in key positions in Brussels and Berlin – against considerable political resistance and public criticism.

Dr Theodor Benien

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (right) succeeds Ursula von der Leyen as Federal Minister of Defence. (Photo: German MoD)

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