Robert Habeck, who will lead a new “super-ministry” for climate, energy and economy in the incoming German government, is the co-leader of the urban greens who helped turn the party into a major electoral force.
The 52-year-old philosopher and author has used his soft charm as a powerful attraction for the ecologist outfit, which serves as the kingmaker in the new three-way coalition under Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
Habeck was long seen as a possible finance minister, holding the wallet of Europe’s top economy as it plows billions into a greener economy, but he lost a tug-of-war against the leader of the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), Christian Lindner.
For almost two months now, Habeck has seen Habeck win an attractive consolation prize – a new powerhouse that combines authority for the economy, climate protection and energy policy.
He will also serve as Vice Chancellor of Scholz.
“We are talking here about a moment to change the course of history,” Habeck insisted on the campaign train ahead of the general election in September, where the Greens placed third.
He made headlines in April when, as the more high-profile member of the Greens’ leadership duo, he stepped aside in favor of his younger female partner, Annalena Baerbock, to become the party’s first candidate for chancellor.
When her bid for the top job got into trouble due to a plagiarism scandal and dubious bonus payments, Habeck showed loyalty even when savvy people asked if he would not have been the better flag bearer.
“Panda of Politics”
A doctor of philosophy who has written several novels with his wife Andrea Paluch, Habeck is often described as a talented mediator between opposing political fronts.
As a politician who once sat on a boat and drank rum and discussed environmental policy with local fishermen, he is considered a natural communicator who can appeal to voters of all kinds.
During the complex coalition talks, Habeck worked to reach across the aisle, especially to the liberal FDP, usually strange bedfellows for the Greens.
“Even the last battles against ambitious climate protection goals must understand that when you preserve our climate, you are protecting our freedom,” he recently told German media.
The Danish-speaking father of four from the northern Schleswig-Holstein region entered politics relatively late.
After joining the Greens to campaign for bike lanes in 2002, Habeck became regional party chairman just two years later.
It was the beginning of a steady rise, and his eloquent manner and three-day stubble are now a regular part of Germany’s many political talk shows.
“He is more of a generalist than a specialist, and he has a way of simplifying complex issues,” Uwe Jun, a political scientist at the University of Trier, told AFP.
Once described as the “panda of German politics” for its mild nature by the daily newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Habeck has also cultivated a reputation for sensitivity with a weak point for sad films.
Still, the longtime media lover is not immune to the odd PR faux pas.
In 2019, he triggered a social media storm by saying he wanted to turn the former communist eastern state of Thuringia into a “democratic region”, suggesting that it was not already one.
Habeck claimed he had simply spoken incorrectly, but ended up quitting Twitter and Facebook in frustration.
“Sense Of Homeland”
Habeck has a crucial experience of both political mission and coalition.
As Schleswig-Holstein’s state energy and environment minister from 2012 to 2018, he served in coalitions with both the center-left SPD and the conservative CDU.
Habeck, meanwhile, has repeatedly urged the Greens to look beyond their traditionally left-leaning base and ecological core issues.
His book “Patriotism: A Left-Wing Case” from 2010 argued for the constitutional pride advocated by German philosophers such as Juergen Habermas.
Speaking of the 2019 book, he argued that “the flag and the national anthem do not belong to right-wing populists”, and that the left should also offer “a sense of unity and homeland”.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)