A local politician with a controversial past is the surprise choice of Germany as its member in the European Commission. Guenther Oettinger is the 56-year-old head of the Baden-Wuerttemberg regional government in southwest Germany.
Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was “very, very pleased” that the former lawyer with a firm grasp of economics accepted the post, to replace Germany’s current “man in Brussels”, Guenter Verheugen. Reactions included critisism, though some media said this rid Merkel of a domestic concern, since the two have differed over budget, and in 2007 a scandal arose when Oettinger played down the Nazi past of his late predecessor. But analyst Daniel Gros, with the Centre for European Policy Studies, took another angle: “This choice might not be too bad in the end, because it comes from somebody who knows how much German industry especially the German industry which is in the southwest of Germany depends on Europe and global markets.” One major German newspaper said that sending a relative unknown to Brussels showed disdain for the European Commission. Insiders revealed some consternation, and Commission President Barroso is said to have rung up German colleagues to ask: “What is that all about?”