Stealing Steinbrueck’s show?
Peer Steinbrueck, the front man in Germany’s fight against the financial crisis, has a new challenge on his hands: Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg. The young economy minister, in the job for only a month, is already proving to be a thorn in Finance Minister Steinbrueck’s side. The telegenic 37-year-old is coming up with policy initiatives that challenge Steinbrueck’s plans, and draw media attention away from him.
This is new territory for Steinbrueck. Until last month, he was able to capitalise on the low profile of former economy minister Michael Glos to make himself Germany’s primary spokesman on matters financial and economic — and the man Chancellor Angela Merkel turned to for leadership on these issues. Glos’s shock resignation last month opened the way for Guttenberg to make the step up from Bavarian politics to the national stage, and he hasn’t looked back.
This week he proposed amending a planned law on saving stricken banks, which was drafted by Steinbrueck’s ministry, to try to avoid nationalising them. The idea may not take off, but it grabbed media attention. And while Steinbrueck (wiping face in picture) joins other G20 finance ministers this weekend for a meeting in England, Guttenberg (left in picture) will be preparing for a trip to the United States next week, where he will meet Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner — Steinbrueck’s opposite number — as well top White House adviser Lawrence Summers, IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn and World Bank President Robert Zoellick.
“Peer Steinbrueck has to share the crisis management with high-flyer Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg — much to his displeasure,” ran a headline in Friday’s edition of the Handelsblatt business newspaper.
With a federal election looming in September, Guttenberg is using every opportunity he can to boost his profile. As a member of the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), Bavarian sister party to Merkel’s Christian Democrats, he is naturally more politically allied with the chancellor than Steinbrueck, a Social Democrat. His suave demeanour and aristocratic background are a contrast to Steinbrueck’s plain-speaking approach, and his media blitz could start to drown out Steinbrueck’s message.
“Like fire and water, these two”, Handelsblatt wrote.
(Reuters photo: Fabrizio Bensch)