Winfried Kretschmann (born May 17, 1948) is a German politician of the Alliance '90/Greens. He has been Minister President of the state of Baden-Württemberg since 12 May 2011. He was also President of the German Bundesrat from November 2012 to October 2013. He is the first member of the Greens to serve in these offices.
Kretschmann has been a member of the state parliament, the Landtag of Baden-Württemberg, since 1980, in the constituency of Nürtingen. In 2006 he was the frontrunner in the Baden-Württemberg state election for his party, as he was in the state election on 27 March 2011. He was also the chairman of his party's parliamentary group.
Following the state election of 2011, Kretschmann was elected on 12 May 2011 by the combined Green-SPD majority in the Landtag to succeed Stefan Mappus as Minister-President of Baden-Württemberg, becoming the first ever Green Minister-President of any German state. Kretschmann has wide personal popularity; if it were possible to elect the Minister-President directly during the Baden-Württemberg election of March 2016, Kretschmann would have won an outright majority according to polls; he was even favored by 45% of CDU supporters. Kretschmann was re-elected in May 2016 as Minister-President while leading a new coalition with the Christian Democrats.
On 12 October 2012 he was elected President of the German Bundesrat for the term from 1 November 2012 to 31 October 2013. This was the first time since 1953, and only the second time ever, that the President was not drawn from the ranks of either the CDU/CSU or the SPD.
Early life and education
Kretschmann was born at Spaichingen in Baden-Württemberg. His parents were expellees from the mostly Roman Catholic region of Ermland (East Prussia) after World War II. He grew up on the rural Swabian Alb (southern Baden-Württemberg). Kretschmann attended a Catholic boarding school in Sigmaringen and passed his Abitur in Riedlingen. Following his military service, he studied to be a teacher of biology and chemistry (later ethics) at the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart, graduating in 1977.
From 1973 to 1975 Kretschmann was active in the Communist League of West Germany. He later denounced this orientation towards the revolutionary positions of the German student movement as a "political misapprehension"; today he is more ecologically oriented and counted among the members of the more conservative wing of the Greens.
After three years as a school teacher at Sigmaringen, Kretschmann went into politics. He is one of the founding members of the Baden-Württemberg section of the German Green Party (at Sindelfingen on September 30, 1979).
In 1980, Kretschmann was for the first time elected into the Landtag, the state parliament, and a first stint of his chairmanship of his party's parliamentary group followed from 1983 to 1985. In 1985 he left Stuttgart to work in Hessen at the ministry of environment, then run by party colleague Joschka Fischer for two years.
In 1988, Kretschmann returned to Baden-Württemberg, being re-elected into the Landtag in 1988. He lost his seat in 1992, but returned – after four years back as a teacher – in 1996 and held his seat in 2001 and 2006. In 2002, he was again elected chairman of his party's parliamentary group.
Minister-President of Baden-Württemberg, 2011-present
In the 2011 state elections, amid a surge in support for the anti-nuclear Greens following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan, a coalition government of Greens and Social Democrats won over the former predominating conservative CDU Party; Kretschmann was elected as the new state Minister-President of Baden-Württemberg. He ran on a platform that called for shutting down nuclear power plants, overhauling a public school system the Greens see as elitist, and imposing speed limits on Autobahns. Also, Kretschmann is widely regarded as having benefited from his party's opposition to Stuttgart 21, a massive development project in Baden-Württemberg's capital. Kretschmann’s election ended 58 years of uninterrupted rule in Baden-Württemberg by the Christian Democratic Union party.
As Minister-President, Kretschmann is a member of the German-French Friendship Group set up by the German Bundesrat and the French Senate as well as of the German-Russian Friendship Group set up in cooperation with the Russian Federation Council.
When German Chancellor Angela Merkel held preliminary talks to sound out possible common ground with both the Green Party in an attempt to form a coalition government following the 2013 elections, Kretschmann was part of the Greens’ delegation.
In the 2016 state elections, Kretschmann led the Green Party to a historic 30%, thus coming three points ahead of the Christian Democrats. For the first time in any German regional election, the Greens emerged the strongest single party in the state. Kretschmann was confirmed as leader of a coalition government of Greens and Christian Democrats in May 2016.
Kretschmann belongs to the more Realpolitik-oriented, centrist wing of the Green Party. His business-friendly approach to policy has caused him to clash with his party on more than one occasion. While he shared his party’s official position of favoring an alliance with the SPD after the 2013 federal elections, he repeatedly criticized its campaign. He objected to the Greens’ election platform of tax increases, warning the leadership in a public letter to avoid any move that would be detrimental to business.
When Bavaria filed a lawsuit in the Federal Constitutional Court in 2012, asking the judges to back their call for an overhaul of the German system of financial transfers from wealthier states (such as Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg) to the country's weaker economies, Kretschmann decided that his state would not back the lawsuit and instead urged reform via negotiations between all the states.
Kretschmann has in the past been vocal about climate change policies. In May 2015, he joined Governor Jerry Brown of California and other international leaders from various states and provinces in signing a non-binding climate change agreement in Sacramento, California. At the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, Kretschmann and Brown convened in Paris during the talks to attract more supporters among governors, mayors and other leaders of “subnational” governments for stronger commitments to reducing emissions.
- Central Committee of German Catholics, Member
- Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Freiburg, Member of the Council
Kretschmann is a Catholic. He is married with Gerlinde, has three children and lives in Sigmaringen.
- Henkel, Peter, Henkel-Waidhofer, Johanna: Winfried Kretschmann – Das Porträt. Verlag Herder, Freiburg 2011, ISBN 978-3-451-33255-5.
- Kretschmann, Winfried: Reiner Wein: Politische Wahrheiten in Zeiten knapper Ressourcen. Winfried Kretschmann im Gespräch mit Johanna Henkel-Waidhofer und Peter Henkel. Herder Verlag, Freiburg/Basel/Wien 2012, ISBN 978-3-451-33269-2.
- Deutschlandradio Kultur vom 11. Mai 2011: Oberschwabe mit ostpreußischem Migrationshintergrund, Buchrezension von Pieke Biermann