Peter Altmaier (born 18 June 1958) is a German lawyer and politician who has been serving as Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy since March 2018. Previously he was Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety from May 2012 to December 2013 and Head of the German Chancellery and as Federal Minister for Special Affairs from December 2013 to March 2018. Altmaier is widely seen as one of Chancellor Angela Merkel's most trusted advisors and advocates for her more centrist wing of the CDU. He is respected for his "compromising style" and has been described as "The most powerful man in Berlin".
Personal life and education
Altmaier was born on 18 June 1958 in Ensdorf, Saarland. He is the son of a coal miner and a nurse. He studied law at Saarland University.
In addition to his native German, he also speaks English, Dutch and French. He is known for his intellect, which some "feel intimidated by". In 2012, Altmaier stated that he has always been a single person in his life, "so there can be nothing in the archives about a relationship".
Altmaier began his career as a research assistant for public and international law at Saarland University in 1995 and later at the European Institute of Saarland University. His tenure lasted until 2000. He worked for the Directorate-General for Employment and Social Affairs of the European Commission from 1990 to 1994.
Altmaier has been a member of the CDU since 1976.
Member of the Bundestag, 1994–present
Altmaier has been a member of the Bundestag since the 1994 national elections. Between 1994 and 2002, he served on the Committee on Legal Affairs and the Committee on Affairs of the European Union, where he was his parliamentary group's rapporteur on matters related to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.
When the Bundestag created a committee to examine whether then-Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and others in the governing SPD party inflated economic figures before the 2002 federal elections to hide a growing budget deficit, he was chosen by his parliamentary group to lead the inquiry.
From 2006 to 2011 Altmaier was president of Europa-Union Deutschland, the German section of the Union of European Federalists.
Parliamentary State Secretary, 2005–09
Following the 2005 federal elections, Altmaier became Parliamentary State Secretary in the Federal Ministry of the Interior under Wolfgang Schäuble. In this capacity, he publicly admitted in 2009 that Germany followed a request of the government of Saudi Arabia it to grant influential cleric Abdullah Ibn Jibreen police protection in a Berlin hospital where he was undergoing heart treatment; the decision garnered sharp criticism from the opposition parties, with the Green Party questioning why Germany hosted someone who "has called for the killing of Shiites [and] praised Osama bin Laden."
In 2009, Altmaier was mentioned by international media as potential candidate for the office of European Commissioner.
Chief whip, 2009–12
Succeeding Norbert Röttgen as parliamentary secretary (chief whip) of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group in the Bundestag following the 2009 elections, Altmaier was in charge of negotiating the passage of Eurozone crisis legislation through the parliament. He served as the government's chief negotiator with the opposition Social Democrats and Greens, as well as with potential rebels from the government benches.
In 2012, Altmaier also served as chairman of the Parliamentary Oversight Panel (PKGr), which provides parliamentary oversight of Germany's intelligence services BND, BfV and MAD.
Return to the Federal Government
On 22 May 2012, Altmaier replaced Norbert Röttgen as Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety in the second Merkel cabinet.
While in office, Altmaier coordinated the government's efforts to exit nuclear power generation by 2022 and rely on more renewable sources such as wind and solar ("Energiewende"). He also demanded companies to harvest metals including rare earths from recycled electronics as Germany sought to become less dependent on imports from China and other nations. Together with his French counterpart Delphine Batho, he put in motion the establishment of the French-German Office for Renewable Energies (L'Office Franco-allemand pour les énergies renouvelables) in 2013.
In 2012, Altmaier led the German delegation to the 2012 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Doha.
In 2013, Altmaier and Economics Minister Philipp Rösler reached agreement on far-reaching regulations for the fracking industry.
Federal Minister, 2013–present
In the negotiations to form a government following the 2013 federal elections, Altmaier led the CDU/CSU delegation in the energy working group; his co-chair from the SPD was Hannelore Kraft, Minister-President of North Rhine-Westphalia. In Angela Merkel's third Cabinet he serves as the Head of the Federal Chancellery and a Federal Minister for Special Affairs. In this capacity, he is also in charge of co-ordinating Germany's intelligence services.
In July 2015, Altmaier invited the United States Ambassador to Germany, John B. Emerson, to explain documents publicized by WikiLeaks that showed what appeared to be summaries of recorded conversations involving Chancellor Merkel or senior officials. Shortly after, WikiLeaks released additional documents including Altmaier's telephone number, adding to a growing pile of allegations that United States intelligence agencies conducted extensive surveillance of the German government.
In October 2015, Merkel put Altmaier in charge of coordinating Germany's response to the refugee crisis. Since early 2017, he has been a member of the German government's cabinet committee on Brexit at which ministers will discuss organizational and structural issues related to the United Kingdom's departure from the European Union.
Following the 2017 elections, Altmaier became acting and temporary finance minister when Wolfgang Schäuble left office as Schäuble had agreed to become President of the Bundestag.
Altmaier belongs to the more liberal wing of the CDU. In the 1990s, Altmaier advocated the rehabilitation of armed-forces deserters and explicitly criminalizing rape within marriage. He was integral to the Pizza Connection, a group of moderate CDU and Green Party politicians – including Hermann Gröhe, Armin Laschet and Cem Özdemir – who met at Sassella, an Italian restaurant in Bonn.
In June 2017, Altmaier voted in favor of Germany's introduction of same-sex marriage in a conscience vote, unlike the majority of the CDU/CSU (including Merkel herself).
Ahead of the Christian Democrats’ leadership election in 2018, Altmaier publicly endorsed Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer to succeed Angela Merkel as the party's chair.
Responding to a growing unease over Germany's role in bailing out highly indebted European states, Altmaier in 2011 demanded that states that violate the EU's Stability and Growth Pact should be subject to the European Court of Justice. That same year, he advised against Germany pursuing a prompt debt haircut for Greece and warned of the consequences. According to Altmaier, the banks must be supported, in Greece and elsewhere, and the European Financial Stability Facility might have to issue guarantees for the holders of Italian and Spanish bonds, because they also fear that they will be asked to pay up.
In his position as Minister for Economic Affairs, Altmaier has become a figurehead for efforts to strengthen the European Union's defences against the encroachment of US and Asian technology companies. In 2019 he wrote to European Commissioner Margrethe Vestager urging the Commission to adopt a harder line on dominant online platforms such as Google and Facebook. Also in 2019, he presented plans to set up a standing government committee which, as a last resort, could decide to temporarily take stakes in German companies that produce sensitive or security relevant technologies.
Other activities (selection)
- Stability Council, Ex-Officio Member (since 2017)
- Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), Ex-Officio Member of the Board of Governors (2017-2018)
- RAG-Stiftung, Ex-Officio Member of the Board of Trustees (since 2017)
- KfW, Ex-Officio Member of the Board of Supervisory Directors (2013; since 2018)
- Europa-Union Deutschland, President (2005–2009), Honorary President (since 2009)
- European Movement Germany, Vice-President (2002–2009)
- German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), Vice Chairman of the Council
- Migration Policy Institute (MPI), Member of the Transatlantic Council on Migration
- Institute for European Politics, Member of the Board of Trustees (2005–2009)
- ZDF, Ex-officio Member of the Television Board (2002–2005)