Viewing cable 10MUNICH29, GERMANY/BAVARIA: HORST SEEHOFER, MOSTLY FOCUSED ON
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|10MUNICH29||2010-02-16 08:08||2010-11-28 18:06||CONFIDENTIAL||Consulate Munich|
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MUNICH 000029 SIPDIS E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/12/2020 TAGS: PREL PGOV INRB GM SUBJECT: GERMANY/BAVARIA: HORST SEEHOFER, MOSTLY FOCUSED ON DOMESTIC POLITICS Classified By: Consul General Conrad Tribble for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d ) SUMMARY ------- ¶1. (C) Horst Seehofer, an unpredictable politician struggling to regain his party's hegemony in Bavaria, revealed only shallow foreign policy expertise when he met Ambassador Murphy on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference on February 6. Seehofer, Minister President and leader of the Christian Social Union (CSU), did not contradict the Ambassador when he reviewed the new NATO Afghanistan policy, which implied Seehofer was now on board with the German governing coalition in this respect. Closer to home, he expected the trend away from the major political parties to continue in Germany, creating opportunities for numerous smaller parties to enter German statehouses. Observers of Seehofer and his leadership of the CSU may wish to take his public pronouncements with a grain of salt, especially when he contradicts or criticize American foreign policy goals as he did recently on Afghanistan. End Summary. ¶2. (SBU) Ambassador Murphy met with Bavarian Minister President and CSU Party Chairman Horst Seehofer on the margins of the Munich Security Conference on February 6. Referring to his recent visit to Afghanistan, the Ambassador told Seehofer how impressed he was with the German operation in the North, stressing the importance of the new Afghanistan strategy. He praised the nomination of Volker Wieker to new Inspector General of the German Army, since Wieker had been General McChrystal's right hand and really knew what was going on. The Ambassador further emphasized the point that 2,500 U.S. soldiers would be sent to the North, but that Germans would be in control. Maximum effort was necessary," he said, noting "if we don't try, we fail." Turning to Iran, Seehofer asked about the Ambassador's assessment of Iranian Foreign Minister Mottaki's appearance in Munich, and Murphy answered that Mottaki's were rather vain and counter-productive efforts that could not be taken seriously. ¶3. (C) In general, Seehofer had little to say regarding foreign policy and seemed uninformed about basic things. For example, he expressed surprise when State Chancery Minister Siegfried Schneider, also present, emphasized that 20,000 out of the 40,000 U.S. soldiers in Germany were stationed in Bavaria. The Ambassador emphasized the excellent Bavarian-American relations, stressing his visits to the Bavarian Representation in Berlin and the many business contacts. Seehofer pointed to the economic/financial crisis and was not sure whether the EU would bail out Greece. He called for better regulation of financial markets, adding that the CDU/CSU's coalition partner, the FDP, was still dreaming about "total liberty," yet the citizens were more realistic. The Bavarian economy remained strong, he said, but despite relative low unemployment overall, Bavaria struggled with serious regional economic differences around the state. "You no longer buy our cars," he joked. The main problem for the Bavarian budget was the unresolved situation of BayernLB, he admitted. Federal Health Minister from 1992 to 1998, Seehofer expressed interest in the chances of success of the U.S. health reform, expressing his concern about 47 million Americans who had no health insurance. ¶4. (C) The Ambassador and Seehofer agreed that the political landscape in Germany had changed radically over the past few years. Seehofer did not dare predict an outcome of the May election in North Rhine Westphalia. Everything was possible, he said. German citizens no longer shrank from voting for the Left Party and in the long run, the SPD and Left Party would likely come together again. Five to six parties now had a realistic chance of entering state parliaments, even in Bavaria. COMMENT ------- ¶5. (C) As chairman of one of the three parties that make up the governing coalition in Berlin, Seehofer frequently and quite publicly addresses sensitive political issues, including foreign policy. Back in December, he gave an interview flatly rejecting an increase of German soldiers in Afghanistan, which startled many political observers, including CSU insiders. We note that Seehofer has never professed to be a foreign policy expert. His strengths are rather more in domestic politics. The drop of public support for the CSU in recent elections has further encouraged Seehofer's natural instincts to utter populist pronouncements MUNICH 00000029 002 OF 002 rather than substantive statements. TRIBBLE