Allegations of cronyism against Economy Minister Robert Habeck’s right hand, Patrick Graichen, were debated in parliament on Wednesday after Graichen appointed his best man for a top job at the state-owned German Energy Agency.
Graichen, who is a state secretary at the Federal Economy and Climate Ministry, led by Habeck of the Greens, is at the centre of cronyism allegations. Graichen was part of a three-person search committee to find a new head of the German Energy Agency, which selected energy expert Michael Schäfer for the job – Graichen’s best man.
“I made a mistake when appointing the Dena director, which I very much regret,” Graichen said on Wednesday during a hearing at the parliament’s Economy Committee.
“The moment it became clear that my best man and long-time friend Michael Schäfer would apply for the position, I should have withdrawn from the selection committee,” he added.
Nevertheless, Graichen wants to keep his position as state secretary. Habeck, too, wants to keep Graichen in that position, saying that “of course, it is justified to ask whether the mistake is so serious that I have to dismiss State Secretary Graichen” – but that he concluded that this is not necessary.
Habeck said the process to fill the position at Dena would be repeated. “Of course, this does not undo the mistake, but it does allow a new Dena management to work free of accusations of bias.”
This is not enough for the opposition, urging Habeck to fire Graichen.
“In his hearing in the Economic Affairs Committee today, Robert Habeck had the opportunity to put an end to the undignified goings-on in his ministry,” Mario Czaja, secretary general of conservative opposition party CDU (EPP), said in a following debate in the parliament.
“He should have said: This is my state secretary’s farewell performance today. I am retiring Mr Graichen,” Czaja said. “This would have been the right decision today”.
“But now, unfortunately, we have to talk about Habeck’s green family clique again,” Czaja added, referring to other allegations against Graichen, which include his siblings.
Graichen’s brother and sister work for the think-tank Öko-Institut which received multiple research contracts from the Ministry, which was strictly separated from Graichen’s work, the ministry said. Graichen’s sister, Verena Graichen, is also the husband of Michael Kellner, another state secretary at Habeck’s ministry.
“Here, transparency was created by both of them independently and right at the beginning of the legislature,” Habeck stressed. “Immediately afterwards, firewalls were erected, and the structures were set up accordingly,” he added.
(Jonathan Packroff | EURACTIV.de)
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