Germany’s Economy Minister Robert Habeck has dismissed one of his aides over a nepotism scandal that has damaged the Green Party, adversely affecting his climate change policy and severely damaging his standing among the German public. Patrick Greichen has resigned as Secretary of State, which has dealt a blow to Habeck, one of Germany’s most prominent politicians and a long-time candidate for chancellor due to the creation of a new economy ministry. Häbeck relied heavily on Greichen to drive the coalition’s green energy revolution.
According to an internal investigation, Mr. Greichen violated compliance procedures, which forced Habeck to act. “Too many mistakes,” Häbeck told reporters in Berlin on Wednesday, who had endorsed the decision to give government funding to BUND Berlin late last year. Häbeck said he was forced to act “to protect the credibility of the ministry’s work as an institution.” The revelations about BUND Berlin’s subsidies come on top of scandals involving Mr Greichen’s role in Dena, Germany’s energy agency.
Graichen participated in the selection process for Dena’s new secretary, but did not reveal that Michael Schaefer, who was elected to him in March, was a close friend and a bridesmaid at his wedding. Mr. Greichen’s brother Jakob also works at Öko-Institut. Even before the nepotism scandal, Häbeck was under political pressure over a controversial ministry-sponsored law aimed at phasing out gas boilers and replacing them with heat pumps. Critics argue that the financial burden on homeowners is too great.
Initially, Mr. Habeck supported Mr. Greichen. After the pair came under intense scrutiny last week by two Congressional committees over the Dana case, Mr. Habek said he “decided that this mistake did not warrant the resignation of Mr. Patrick Greichen.” But he changed his mind after an internal investigation by the economy ministry revealed further compliance issues involving Greichen.
Häbeck said that this concerns a call for applications as part of Germany’s National Climate Protection Initiative. Last November, Gleichen had approved a list of three projects for funding, one of which was from the Berlin branch of BUND, which had applied for around €600,000. No funding was allocated to the organization, but Gleichen said Habek said the project was determined to be “eligible for funding,” which meant the decision to award the grant was “merely a formality.” Mr. Greichen’s sister is a member of the BUND Berlin Board of Directors, where she served as chair until May 2022.
In conclusion, Habeck thanked his secretary of state for his work, saying he had “done a lot for our country”, saving Germany from a gas shortage last year and helping to avert an economic crisis. However, Häbeck said Gleichen was “too vulnerable to carry out his duties effectively.” Häbeck defended Greichen in the Dena case, but said that doing so “requires making sure there are no cracks in the firewall of compliance built for family relationships.” These cracks are now appearing.