Jürgen Trittin (born 25 July 1954) is a German Green politician. He was Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety from 1998 to 2005 in Germany.
Early life and education
Trittin was born in Bremen. He earned a university degree in social economy in Göttingen and worked as journalist.
Trittin's political career started in 1982 as Secretary of the Alternative-Greens-Initiative List (AGIL) Group in the Göttingen City Council (until 1984). From 1984 to 1985, he worked as press spokesman for the Green Party's group in the Lower Saxony State Assembly, which he joined in 1985 as member of the state parliament.
From 1990 to 1994, Trittin was the Lower Saxony Minister for Federal and European Affairs in a coalition government with the SPD, led by Minister-President of Lower Saxony Gerhard Schröder (SPD). In his capacity as minister, he also served as the Head of the Lower Saxony State Mission to the Federal Government in Berlin.
After Schröder's SPD won an absolute majority in the state elections in 1994, the coalition with the Greens was ended. Trittin subsequently served as Member of the Lower Saxony State Assembly and as Deputy Chairman of the Alliance 90/The Greens group in that parliament. Also in 1994, Trittin was elected spokesman (chairman) of the national Green Party, serving alongside Krista Sager (1994–1996) and later Gunda Röstel (1996–1998).
In the 1998 national elections, Trittin was elected as Member of the German Bundestag. Upon entering parliament, he discontinued his work as party chairman, because its statutes did not allow concurrently being a member of parliament and a member of the party executive.
In the federal red–green coalition, the federal red–green coalition government under Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, Trittin was appointed Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, a role which he held from October 1998 until the Grand Coalition under Chancellor Angela Merkel took power in 2005. In his capacity as minister, he was responsible for the decision to abandon the use of nuclear power by 2020, called the nuclear power phase-out (see Nuclear power in Germany). He also pushed the 2000 Renewable Energy Act through parliament.ion cabinet, he was appointed Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety under Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, a role which he held from October 1998 until the Grand coalition under Chancellor Angela Merkel took power in 2005. In this position he was responsible for the decision to abandon the use of nuclear power by 2020, called the nuclear power phase-out (see Nuclear power in Germany).
After having lost against Fritz Kuhn in the vote on the Green Party’s parliamentary group leadership in 2005, Trittin served as vice-chairman group in charge of foreign, security and European policy from 2005 to 2009.
Alongside Renate Künast, Trittin led the Green Party’s campaign for the 2009 elections. In the following years, both chaired the party’s parliamentary group. In addition, Trittin served as alternate member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs.
For the 2013 elections, the Greens under lead candidates Trittin and Katrin Göring-Eckardt centered their campaign on a call for tax increases for the wealthy, a strategy that many in the party later blamed for its losses in the polls. As part of the campaign, Trittin strengthened his profile as foreign policy expert by making a five-day trip to the United States in May 2013, including meetings with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and officials from the International Monetary Fund.
Following his party’s defeat in the elections, Trittin became a member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and of the German delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. He also serves as deputy chairman of the German-Russian Parliamentary Friendship Group and of the German-Iranian Parliamentary Friendship Group.
In late 2015, Trittin was named co-chairman (alongside Ole von Beust and Matthias Platzeck) of a government-appointed commission tasked with recommending by early 2016 how to safeguard the funding of fulfilling Germany’s exit from nuclear energy. By April 2016, the commission agreed to ask the power firms to pay €23.3 billion ($26.4 billion) into a state fund to cover the costs of nuclear waste storage.
In August 2012, Trittin was one of 124 members of the Bundestag to sign a letter that was sent to the Russian ambassador to Germany, Vladimir Grinin, expressing concern over the trial against the three members of Pussy Riot. "Being held in detention for months and the threat of lengthy punishment are draconian and disproportionate," the lawmakers said in the letter. "In a secular and pluralist state, peaceful artistic acts – even if they can be seen as provocative – must not lead to the accusation of serious criminal acts that lead to lengthy prison terms."
At the time of Hurricane Katrina in August/September 2005, Trittin wrote an opinion piece in the newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau associating the US failure to sign the Kyoto protocol with the hurricane and its devastation.
In August 2005, Trittin responded to a question on how best to react to the 2005 petrol prices crisis with "leave the car at home from time to time." The media, in particular Bild, attacked these comments.
Already by 1999, shortly after Gerhard Schröder’s coalition government, Trittin told Stern magazine that "Red-Green as a reform project is dead," adding that he saw the Social Democrats as virtually indistinguishable now from the Christian Democrats of former Chancellor Helmut Kohl. He added that the Greens might even consider future political alliances with the Christian Democrats.
In 2001, Trittin compared a prominent Christian Democrat, Laurenz Meyer, to a "skinhead" for declaring that he was proud to be a German. A vigorous debate on the legitimacy of German patriotism has ensued, with most Germans appearing sharply critical of Trittin. The minister justified his remark by noting that extreme-right parties in Germany often use the badge, "I am proud to be a German." However, Trittin came under considerable pressure to quit after making the remark and was openly reprimanded by Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. The Greens' voting results subsequently fell significantly – to 7.8 percent, from 12.1 percent in the 1996 state election, in Baden-Württemberg, and to 5.3 percent, from 6.9 percent, in Rhineland-Palatinate.
In 2010 Trittin attended an event to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the Free Republic of Wendland in Hannover where someone threw a pie at him during a panel discussion.
- Foundation for Reusable Systems (SIM), Member of the Board of Trustees
- Weltfriedensdienst (WFD), Member of the Board of Trustees
- German Energy Agency (dena), Member of the Supervisory Board (1998–2005)
- KfW, ex-officio Member of the Board of Supervisory Directors (1998–2005)