Brigitte Zypries
Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy
In office
27 January 2017 – 14 March 2018
ChancellorAngela Merkel
Preceded bySigmar Gabriel
Succeeded byPeter Altmaier
Federal Minister of Justice
In office
22 October 2002 – 17 October 2009
ChancellorGerhard Schröder
Angela Merkel
Preceded byHerta Däubler-Gmelin
Succeeded bySabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger
Parliamentary State Secretary for Aerospace Affairs
In office
17 December 2013 – 26 January 2017
ChancellorAngela Merkel
MinisterSigmar Gabriel
Preceded byPeter Hintze
Succeeded byDirk Wiese
Member of the Bundestag
for Darmstadt
In office
18 September 2005 – 24 September 2017
Preceded byWalter Hoffmann
Succeeded byAstrid Mannes
Personal details
Born (1953-11-16) 16 November 1953 (age 68)
Kassel, Germany
Political partySocial Democratic Party of Germany (SPD)
Alma materUniversity of Giessen

Brigitte Zypries (born 16 November 1953) is a German lawyer and politician of the Social Democratic Party (SPD). Between 2017 and 2018, she served as Minister for Economics and Energy in the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel; she was the first woman to hold that office in German history.

Zypries had previously been Parliamentary State Secretary since December 2013, charged with the coordination of Germany's aviation and space policies. She was Federal Minister of Justice of Germany from 2002 to 2009 and State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of the Interior from 1998 to 2002.

Early life and education

Zypries studied law at the University of Giessen from 1972 to 1977, and took her first legal state exam in 1978. Then followed in-service training in the regional court district of Gießen, and in 1980 the second state exam. Until 1985 she worked at the University of Giessen.


Early career

State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of the Interior, 1998-2002

Following the 1998 federal elections, in the first cabinet of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, Zypries became State Secretary in the Federal Ministry of the Interior under Otto Schily. From September 1999, she chaired the State Secretary Committee for the management of the Federal Government program "Modern State – Modern Administration".

Federal Minister of Justice, 2002 – 2009

Following the 2002 federal elections, Zypries became Federal Minister of Justice in the second cabinet of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, succeeding Herta Däubler-Gmelin. Between 2007 and 2009, she was also one of 32 members of the Second Commission on the modernization of the federal state (Föderalismuskommission II), which had been established to reform the division of powers between federal and state authorities in Germany.

In 2003, Zypries represented the German government before the Federal Constitutional Court when the Free Democratic Party challenged a German law allowing authorities to eavesdrop on conversations in private homes. While law-enforcement officials and the government argue that the law helps fight organized crime and terrorism, opponents contend it violates constitutional privacy guarantees and has not allowed authorities to crack a single major case.[1]

In 2005, the German government suffered a major setback in its efforts to combat terrorism after the Federal Constitutional Court ruled that the country's implementation of the European Arrest Warrant was unconstitutional. The court said the EU idea was compatible with Germany's constitution, but that the law drafted by Zypries was sloppily written and did not go far enough in framing the leeway offered to prosecutors by the European Arrest Warrant.[2] Just hours after the ruling, German police released terrorism suspect Mamoun Darkazanli, who had been held awaiting extradition to Spain where he is believed to have been linked to al-Qaida activities.[3] When German economics minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg decided to outsource the drafting of new bankruptcy legislation in 2009, Zypries criticized that Guttenberg wasted taxpayers’ money and that it was the responsibility of her ministry, not his, to oversee the preparation of the legislation.[4] In 2010, the Constitutional Court ruled that a law requiring telecommunications companies to retain data from telephone, email and Internet traffic is unconstitutional; the law had been introduced by Zypries as implementation of an EU guideline.[5]

In the negotiations to form a government following the 2005 federal elections, Zypries led the SPD's delegations in the working groups on justice, consumer protection, and internal affairs; her co-chairs from the CDU/CSU were Wolfgang Bosbach, Horst Seehofer and Wolfgang Schäuble, respectively.[6]

After German prosecutors had issued arrest warrants in 2007 for 13 suspected CIA operatives believed to have been involved in the abduction of Khaled el-Masri in Macedonia in late 2003 as well as in his being taken via Baghdad to a secret CIA prison in Afghanistan in January 2004, Zypries soon decided not to further pursue the CIA agents. Though their names were still on an Interpol wanted persons list, the United States stated that it would not recognize its validity. Zypries explained that the US government had made clear to her that it would neither arrest nor hand over the agents. In the end, she concluded that, given the slim chances of success, it made no sense to even try to get them extradited.[7]

On the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel, Zypries participated in the first joint cabinet meeting of the governments of Germany and Israel in Jerusalem in March 2008.[8]

In the case of Richard Williamson in 2009, Zypries said that the German government was willing to press charges against the bishop if he did not clearly retract his comments.[9]

In 2009, Zypries led the resistance to the Google Books Library Project in Germany. In the daily Stuttgarter Nachrichten, she accused Google of behaving in a "simply unlawful" way.[10]

Member of Parliament, 2009 – 2017

Between 2009 and 2013, Zypries served on the German Bundestag’s Committee on the Election of Judges (Wahlausschuss), which is in charge of appointing judges to the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany. From 2009, she was also a member of the parliamentary body in charge of appointing judges to the Highest Courts of Justice, namely the Federal Court of Justice (BGH), the Federal Administrative Court (BVerwG), the Federal Fiscal Court (BFH), the Federal Labour Court (BAG), and the Federal Social Court (BSG).

Ahead of the 2013 elections, Peer Steinbrück included Zypries in his shadow cabinet for the Social Democrats’ campaign to unseat incumbent Angela Merkel as chancellor. During the campaign, Zypries served as shadow minister for consumer protection. In the negotiations to form a so-called Grand Coalition following the elections, she led the SPD delegation in the working group on digital policy; her co-chair was Dorothee Bär of the CSU.

Following the formation of the grand coalition in December 2013, Zypries was appointed Parliamentary State Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy. In January 2014, she became the government's coordinator for aviation and space policies.

In February 2014, Zypries accompanied German President Joachim Gauck on a state visit to India – where they met with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi, among others – and Myanmar.[11]

In June 2016, Zypries announced that she would not stand in the 2017 federal elections but instead resign from active politics by the end of the parliamentary term.[12]

Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, 2017 – 2018

In a cabinet reshuffle following the nomination of Frank-Walter Steinmeier as candidate for the federal presidency, Zypries was appointed Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy on 27 January 2017. She succeeded Sigmar Gabriel, who took the office of Minister for Foreign Affairs from Steinmeier.

During her time in office, Zypries led the government's efforts to save Germany's then second-largest airline Air Berlin. When the company filed for bankruptcy protection in August 2017, she authorized a bridging loan of 150 million euros ($176 million) to allow Air Berlin to keep its planes in the air for three months and secure the jobs of its 7,200 workers in Germany while negotiations with Lufthansa continue.[13]

In the negotiations to form a fourth coalition government under Chancellor Angela Merkel following the 2017 federal elections, Zypries led the working group on economic affairs, alongside Thomas Strobl and Alexander Dobrindt.

Later career

Since 2019, Zypries has been serving as ombudsperson for BDIU, the national association of Germany's credit management, debt collection and debt purchase sector.[14] In 2020, she took on a similar role in implementing the settlement agreed between Volkswagen and the Federation of German Consumer Organisations (VZBV) following the company's emissions scandal.[15]

Other activities

Corporate boards

Non-profit organizations

Political positions

Zypries is considered a proponent of regulating more tightly access to Internet platforms such as Google, Facebook, and Apple Inc.’s iTunes. A joint letter to the European Commission in November 2014, signed by Zypries and her French counterpart Axelle Lemaire on behalf of the German and French governments, suggested “essential” digital platforms should potentially be brought under existing rules for telecoms markets, a standalone regulation or specially tailored antitrust rules.[27]

Zypries is a supporter of the Campaign for the Establishment of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly, an organisation which advocates for democratic reformation of the United Nations.[28]


Ending a nasty diplomatic dispute between the United States and Germany, Zypries announced at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2006 that the German government was dropping its decades-long resistance to opening the archives kept at the International Tracing Service in the town of Bad Arolsen.[29]

On 3 June 2007, Zypries caused some controversy by saying at a meeting of G8 justice ministers in Munich that it should be assumed that missing British child Madeleine McCann was abducted by a gang that passes on children to be abused.[30]

In response to a 2007 meeting between chancellor Angela Merkel and the Dalai Lama, China canceled a high-level meeting on the protection of intellectual property rights of Chinese legal experts and Zypries in retaliation. A statement from the German Justice Ministry later said the meeting was called off "for technical reasons."[31] The opposition Green Party, which was in coalition with then-Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's Social Democrats from 1998 to 2005, also praised Merkel's stance.[32]


  1. ^ Top German Court Hears a Challenge To Eavesdropping The New York Times, July 2, 2003.
  2. ^ German Papers: Germany Released al-Qaida Terror Suspect Spiegel Online, July 19, 2005.
  3. ^ German Papers: Germany Released al-Qaida Terror Suspect Spiegel Online, July 19, 2005.
  4. ^ Judy Dempsey (August 26, 2009), In Dull German Race, ’08 Dinner Is an Issue The New York Times.
  5. ^ Taking on the Internet Giants: Germany Applies Brakes to Google & Co. Spiegel Online, March 11, 2010.
  6. ^ Timot Szent-Ivanyi (October 25, 2005), Gutverdiener sollen höhere Kassenbeiträge zahlen Berliner Zeitung.
  7. ^ Matthias Gebauer and John Goetz (December 9, 2010), The CIA's El-Masri Abduction: Cables Show Germany Caved to Pressure from Washington Der Spiegel.
  8. ^ Bilateral agreements reached at first Israeli-German intergovernmental consultations Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, press release of March 17, 2008.
  9. ^ Rachel Donadio (February 27, 2009), Vatican Calls the Apology of a Bishop Insufficient The New York Times.
  10. ^ Digital Library Controversy: Google Gives Ground at EU Hearing Spiegel Online, September 8, 2009.
  11. ^ Anne Merholz (February 5, 2014), Großes Staatsbankett für Gauck Bild.
  12. ^ Zypries tritt nicht mehr an Frankfurter Rundschau, June 5, 2016.
  13. ^ Madeline Chambers and Joseph Nasr (August 15, 2017), Germany provides 150 million euro bridging loan to insolvent Air Berlin Reuters.
  14. ^ Inkassounternehmen wählen Brigitte Zypries einstimmig zur Ombudsfrau Bundesverband Deutscher Inkasso-Unternehmen (BDIU), press release of April 12, 2019.
  15. ^ Ombudsstelle im VW-Dieselvergleich: Meiste Fälle entschieden Süddeutsche Zeitung, September 29, 2020.
  16. ^ Brigitte Zypries: New member of Bombardier Transportation supervisory board Bombardier Transportation, press release of September 26, 2019.
  17. ^ Brigitte Zypries übernimmt Beiratsvorsitzbeim Deutschen Institut für Service-Qualität Deutsches Institut für Service-Qualität (DISQ), press release of July 1, 2019.
  18. ^ Board of Trustees Archived 2017-08-20 at the Wayback Machine RAG-Stiftung.
  19. ^ Members of the Supervisory Board Deutsche Bahn.
  20. ^ Bundesministerin Brigitte Zypries an der Spitze der DTTB-Ethikkommission German Table Tennis Association (DTTB), press release of December 21, 2020.
  21. ^ Brigitte Zypries leitet jetzt die Tischtennis-Ethikkommission T-Online, December 21, 2020.
  22. ^ Shareholders and Supervisory Board
  23. ^ Bernd Westphal wird neuer Beirats-Vorsitzender beim Wirtschaftsforum der SPD Business Forum of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, press release of June 7, 2018.
  24. ^ Board of Trustees, Deutsche Nationalstiftung.
  25. ^ Presidency and Board German Israeli Lawyer’s Association (DIJV).
  26. ^ Circle of Friends Archived 2015-02-13 at the Wayback Machine Das Progressive Zentrum.
  27. ^ Alex Barker, Jeevan Vasagar and Michael Stothard (November 27, 2014), Euro-MPs eye action to break up Google Financial Times.
  28. ^ "Statements". Campaign for a UN Parliamentary Assembly. Retrieved 2017-09-28.
  29. ^ David Stout (April 19, 2006), Germany Agrees to Open Holocaust Archive The New York Times.
  30. ^ "Madeleine paedophile gang theory 'is likely'". The Scotsman. 2007-06-03.
  31. ^ Judy Dempsey (September 23, 2007), Despite censure from Beijing, Merkel meets with Dalai Lama in Berlin The New York Times.
  32. ^ Judy Dempsey (September 23, 2007), Despite censure from Beijing, Merkel meets with Dalai Lama in Berlin The New York Times.