Manuela Schwesig
Manuela Schwesig 2.jpg
Schwesig in 2013
Minister President of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern
Assumed office
4 July 2017
DeputyLorenz Caffier
Harry Glawe
Simone Oldenburg
Preceded byErwin Sellering
Leader of the Social Democratic Party in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern
Assumed office
2 June 2017
DeputyChristian Pegel
Stefan Sternberg
Nadine Julitz
General SecretaryJulian Barlen
Preceded byErwin Sellering
Leader of the Social Democratic Party
Acting
In office
3 June 2019 – 10 September 2019
General SecretaryLars Klingbeil
Preceded byAndrea Nahles
Succeeded bySaskia Esken and Norbert Walter-Borjans
Deputy Leader of the Social Democratic Party
In office
13 November 2009 – 10 September 2019
LeaderSigmar Gabriel
Martin Schulz
Andrea Nahles
Preceded byPeer Steinbrück
Succeeded byKlara Geywitz
Federal Minister of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth
In office
17 December 2013 – 2 June 2017
ChancellorAngela Merkel
Preceded byKristina Schröder
Succeeded byKatarina Barley
Minister of Labour, Equality and Social Affairs of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern
In office
25 October 2011 – 16 December 2013
PremierErwin Sellering
Preceded byHerself (Social)
Jürgen Seidel (Labour)
Succeeded byBirgit Hesse
Minister of Health and Social Affairs of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern
In office
6 October 2008 – 25 October 2011
PremierErwin Sellering
Preceded byErwin Sellering
Succeeded byHerself
Personal details
Born (1974-05-23) 23 May 1974 (age 48)
Frankfurt (Oder), East Germany
Political partySocial Democratic Party
Alma materApplied University of Finances, Brandenburg

Manuela Schwesig (née Frenzel,[1] born 23 May 1974) is a German politician of the Social Democratic Party serving as Minister President of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern since 4 July 2017. She is the first woman to serve as head of government of this state. Previously she served as Federal Minister of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth in the third cabinet of Angela Merkel from 2013 to 2017.

Early life and education

Born in Frankfurt (Oder),[2] East Germany, Schwesig grew up in the nearby town of Seelow.[3][4] In 1990, she played a small acting role in the DEFA film Forbidden Love, which had the title Verbotene Liebe in the original German and which was directed by Helmut Dziuba.[5] After graduation in 1992 from the Gymnasium auf den Seelower Höhen,[2] she completed studies in higher civil service (tax administration) of the federal state of Brandenburg. She attended the Training and Further Education Centre (Fachhochschule für Finanzen) in Königs Wusterhausen.[2]

Political career

Career in local politics

Schwesig became a member of SPD in 2003, at the age 29. She subsequently served as a member of the Schwerin City Council from 2004 to 2008.

Career in national politics

Schwesig became a Federal Deputy Leader of the SPD on 13 November 2009 alongside Thorsten Schäfer-Gümbel and Olaf Scholz (and later Aydan Özoğuz and Ralf Stegner). She was then appointed State Minister of Social Affairs and Health in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern on 6 October 2008, under the leadership of Minister‐President Erwin Sellering. She served as minister and became member of the Landtag of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern from 4 September 2011 until she joined the federal government.

Ahead of the 2009 elections, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier included Schwesig, then a relatively unknown face to the German public, in his shadow cabinet of 10 women and eight men for the Social Democrats' campaign to unseat incumbent Angela Merkel as Chancellor.[6] During the campaign, Schwesig served as shadow minister for family affairs[7] who advocated the party's family-friendly policies.[8]

Schwesig was a SPD delegate to the Federal Convention for the purpose of electing the President of Germany in 2010, 2012, 2017 and 2022.[9]

In 2011, Schwesig led high-level talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel and Labor Minister Ursula von der Leyen for the then-opposition Social Democrats on reaching a compromise over how to increase basic social welfare benefits for the unemployed.[10]

Following the 2013 elections, Schwesig served as the Social Democrats' main negotiator in the working group for families, women and equal opportunities when Germany's two largest parties, Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative bloc and the left-leaning Social Democrats, held talks on forming a broad coalition government.[11]

Federal Minister of Family Affairs, 2013–2017

In the third Merkel cabinet, Schwesig, who at 39 was the youngest cabinet member,[12] became the Federal Minister of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth – a position also occupied by Merkel in her first cabinet post under German Chancellor Helmut Kohl in the early 1990s.[13]

At an SPD convention in late 2015, Schwesig received 93 percent of members' ballots, the best result of any of the party leadership.[14] Shortly after, the party's board mandated Schwesig and Thomas Oppermann with the task of drafting an electoral program for the 2017 federal elections.[15]

Minister‐president of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, 2017–present

On 30 May 2017, Schwesig announced that she would seek the succession of Erwin Sellering as Minister‐president of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.[16] As consequence, she resigned as federal minister, the resignation taking effect on 2 June.[17] On 4 July 2017, Schwesig became Minister‐president of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

As one of the state's representatives at the Bundesrat, Schwesig serves on the Committee on Foreign Affairs. She also chairs the German-Russian Friendship Group set up by the Bundesrat and the Russian Federation Council.

In the negotiations to form a fourth coalition government under Merkel following the 2017 federal elections, Schwesig led the working group on education policy, alongside Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, Stefan Müller and Hubertus Heil.

Together with Doris Ahnen, Niels Annen, Oliver Kaczmarek and Anke Rehlinger, Schwesig co-chaired the SPD’s extraordinary 2018 convention, during which the party elected Andrea Nahles as its first-ever female leader.[18]

From June 2019, Schwesig – together with her party colleagues Malu Dreyer and Thorsten Schäfer-Gümbel – was chosen as the SPD's interim leader, following former leader Andrea Nahles' decision to step down and leave politics. In September 2019, Schwesig announced she had been diagnosed with breast cancer and would step down from her duties at national level.[19]

In 2019, she was appointed by the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community to serve on the committee that oversaw the preparations for the 30th anniversary of German reunification.[20]

Schwesig led the SPD into the 2021 state election. Though the CDU had led the polls throughout 2020, the SPD experienced a major resurgence from July. By this time, Schwesig had established herself as a prominent and popular figure both within the state and across the country. The party's campaign was heavily based around her, running with the slogan "Die Frau für MV" ("the woman for Mecklenburg-Vorpommern"). The SPD a landslide victory with 39.6% of votes while the AfD, CDU, and Left all suffered losses. They chose to seek a coalition government with the Left, breaking the grand coalition with the CDU after fifteen years in power.[21][22]

Political positions

Child protection

Schwesig is a member of the German Child Protection League. Her main focus is to fight child poverty and provide for good state childcare facilities. In 2009 she supported the idea promoted by Minister Ursula von der Leyen to block websites featuring child pornography.

On her order the employees of nursery schools in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern have to declare their commitment to uphold the principles of Germany's basic laws (the constitution).

Advancement of women

Schwesig in 2014
Schwesig in 2014

In 2014, Schwesig helped introducing a bill mandating compulsory quotas for women on the supervisory boards of the Germany's top companies,[23] which was passed in early 2015. Also in early 2015, she called for a law that would force companies to allow female employees to see how their salaries compare with those of male colleagues.[24] Meanwhile, she has been championing a substantial expansion of state-sponsored child care facilities.[25]

In 2016, Schwesig successfully introduced changes to Germany's maternity protection legislation by expanding the laws to include groups of women not explicitly covered (including school and university students, women working as interns, and women pursuing vocational training) and attempting to reduce bureaucratic red tape.[26]

Alongside Dietmar Woidke, Schwesig was instrumental in the Bundesrat's 2020 selection of Ines Härtel as the Federal Constitutional Court’s first judge from East Germany.[27]

Political extremism

In a 2014 lawsuit before the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany, the far-right National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) complained about comments made by Schwesig during that year's parliamentary election campaign for the state of Thuringia. In a newspaper interview, Schwesig had said: "The number one goal is that the NPD does not make it into the parliament." The NPD accused the minister of breaching her duty of neutrality and interfering with the campaign, and made a complaint before the Federal Constitutional Court. The court ruled in December 2014 that Schwesig did not damage the NPD's right to a level playing field because her comments fell under the "political struggle of opinion."[28]

Controversy

Nord Stream 2

In her role as Minister President of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern she stated her strong support for the project; "We believe that it is right to build the pipeline. Nobody who is working on building the pipeline is doing anything wrong. The ones doing something wrong are those who are trying to stop the pipeline." [29] Her government created a foundation with the explicit goal, as written in its charter, of completing the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.[30] Amid a 2020 diplomatic row over the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, three U.S. senators − Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton, and Ron Johnson – sent a letter to a Baltic Sea port operator in Schwesig's state, threatening the port's managers with “crushing legal and economic sanctions” if they continued to support the project servicing the Russian ships laying the pipe. In response, Schwesig called the letter "blackmail".[31]

After the poisoning of opposition figure Alexey Navalny, she insisted it should have no effect on the construction of the pipeline. Ultimately, the project was cancelled after the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. Furthermore, Schwesig was revealed to have been colluding with the Russians, allowing Gazprom to run PR for the pipeline via her office and modifying her public speeches in accordance with the Russian demands.[32][33]

Other activities

Personal life

Schwesig is married and has two children.[37]

She was diagnosed with breast cancer in September 2019 and subsequently resigned from her party offices at the federal level.[38] She later confirmed that the cancer was curable and underwent medical treatment.[39] On 12 May 2020, she announced that she had overcome the illness.[40]

References

  1. ^ "Seelowerin im Kabinett". Märkische Onlinezeitung (in German). 16 December 2013.
  2. ^ a b c (in German) Manuela Schwesig's website Archived 4 December 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "Deutschlands jüngste Ministerin". Bild (in German). 4 October 2008.
  4. ^ "Die erstaunliche Karriere von Steinmeiers Mädchen". Die Welt (in German). 28 July 2009.
  5. ^ "Verbotene Liebe". Filmdatenbank. DEFA Stiftung. Retrieved 21 September 2020.
  6. ^ Bertrand Benoit (30 July 2009), Lagging SPD starts campaign Financial Times.
  7. ^ "Rising Star Paves Path to a Family Friendly Germany". Spiegel Online. 8 April 2009. Retrieved 4 September 2010.
  8. ^ Patrick Donahue (15 December 2013), Merkel’s Third-Term Cabinet: Social Democratic Party Ministers Bloomberg.
  9. ^ 17th Federal Convention, 13 February 2022, List of Members Bundestag.
  10. ^ Judy Dempsey (9 February 2011), Merkel Breaks Off Talks With Opposition International Herald Tribune.
  11. ^ Harriet Torry (18 November 2013), 30% Female Quota for German Boards Proposed: Parties in Coalition Negotiation Agreed to Put Forward Legislation Wall Street Journal.
  12. ^ Rainer Buergin (22 January 2014), Schaeuble as Merkel’s Dr. No Holds Coalition Purse Strings Bloomberg.
  13. ^ Patrick Donahue (15 December 2013), Merkel’s Third-Term Cabinet: Social Democratic Party Ministers Bloomberg.
  14. ^ Gabriel abgestraft, Stellvertreter gestärkt Tagesschau, 11 December 2015.
  15. ^ Oppermann und Schwesig sollen SPD-Wahlprogramm entwerfen Der Spiegel, 6 November 2015.
  16. ^ "Schwesig will auf Ministerpräsident Sellering folgen" [Schwesig wants take succession of Prime Minister Sellering]. NDR (in German). 30 May 2017. Retrieved 2 June 2017.
  17. ^ "Schwesig will sich weiter in Bundespolitik einschalten" [Schwesig wants to remain active in federal politics]. NDR (in German). 30 May 2017. Retrieved 2 June 2017.
  18. ^ Protokoll des außerordentlichen Bundesparteitages Wiesbaden, 2018 Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD).
  19. ^ Judith Mischke (10 September 2019), German Social Democrat leader to resign after breast cancer diagnosis Politico Europe.
  20. ^ 30 Jahre Friedliche Revolution und Deutsche Einheit Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community, press release of 3 April 2019.
  21. ^ ""The woman for MV" and her new government". ZDF (in German). 15 November 2021.
  22. ^ "How SPD power woman Manuela Schwesig defies her blows of fate". Stuttgarter Nachrichten (in German). 27 September 2021.
  23. ^ Alison Smale (26 November 2014), Germany Planning Quotas for Women in Boardrooms New York Times.
  24. ^ Louise Osborne (2 March 2015), Plan for 'equal wages' law in Germany meets with strong industry opposition The Guardian.
  25. ^ German court rules controversial child care subsidy unlawful Deutsche Welle, 21 July 2015.
  26. ^ Matt Zuvela (4 May 2015), Added protections for expecting and nursing mothers pass German cabinet Deutsche Welle.
  27. ^ Anne Hähnig, Martin Machowecz and Heinrich Wefing (1 July 2020), Ines Härtel: Eine Richterin als der ultimative Kompromiss Die Zeit.
  28. ^ Far-right NPD party loses case over German minister's opinion Deutsche Welle, 16 December 2014.
  29. ^ Escritt, Thomas; Marsh, Sarah (11 February 2022). "Explainer: How a German 'climate' fund set out to help Russia dodge U.S. sanctions". Reuters. Retrieved 5 March 2022.
  30. ^ Escritt, Thomas; Marsh, Sarah (11 February 2022). "Explainer: How a German 'climate' fund set out to help Russia dodge U.S. sanctions". Reuters. Retrieved 5 March 2022.
  31. ^ Matthew Karnitschnig (10 August 2020), Germany blames Trump in pursuit of Nord Stream 2 pipeline Politico Europe.
  32. ^ "Nord Stream 2 should not be used to punish Russia, says German state leader". Reuters. 11 September 2020.
  33. ^ Berlin, James Jackson. "German state leader Manuela Schwesig 'colluded with Russians on gas pipeline'".
  34. ^ Members Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES).
  35. ^ Board of Trustees Deutsches Museum.
  36. ^ Board of Trustees Total E-Quality.
  37. ^ "Bundesfamilienministerin: Schwesig bringt Tochter zur Welt". Spiegel Online (in German). 8 March 2016.
  38. ^ "Ministerpräsidentin Schwesig über Krebserkrankung: "Ich habe schon einige Kämpfe in meinem Leben geführt"". Spiegel Online (in German). 10 September 2019.
  39. ^ "Rising star of Germany's SPD quits as interim party chief due to illness". WSAU. Retrieved 10 September 2019.
  40. ^ "Manuela Schwesig hat Krebstherapie erfolgreich abgeschlossen" (in German). Spiegel Online. 12 May 2020. Retrieved 12 May 2020.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)

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