A high-ranking official in the German economy ministry is stepping down from his position following a nepotism scandal, confirmed Economy Minister Robert Habeck on Wednesday.
Patrick Graichen, who served as deputy minister for energy, faced criticism when it was revealed that he had facilitated the hiring of a friend, who was also his best man, as the head of the German Energy Agency without initially disclosing their relationship.
Although Habeck had previously supported Graichen, acknowledging that the recruitment decision was a mistake, the ministry initiated an internal investigation. Opposition parties later called for Graichen’s resignation when his family’s ties to the Oeko-Institut, a research organization commissioned by the ministry, came under scrutiny.
Habeck stated on Wednesday that there had also been a violation of internal compliance rules concerning government funding for a national climate protection project involving Graichen’s sister. As a result, Habeck announced Graichen’s departure, emphasizing that it was a difficult decision and that a successor would be found, ideally before the parliamentary summer break.
Graichen, who previously held a position at the Agora Energiewende think tank in Berlin, admitted to making mistakes during his tenure but stressed that the focus should remain on climate protection and the energy transition rather than the nepotism controversy.
Both Habeck and Graichen belong to the Green party, which has experienced a decline in popularity in recent polls due to public concerns about the cost of the party’s climate policies. The Green party’s support fell by a third to 12% in the state of Bremen’s election on Sunday compared to the previous election in 2019. This decline is reflected at the federal level as well, with the party’s support dropping to around 15% in opinion polls from a peak of 23-24% last year.
The conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) opposition party regarded Graichen’s resignation as overdue and called for Habeck’s departure as well. CDU Parliament Secretary Thorsten Frei urged a shift in economic policy, emphasizing the need to return to a social market economy and move away from Habeck’s state interventionism and bureaucratic expansion.
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