Julia Klockner, new Federal Minister of Agriculture © Kay Nietfeld

Julia Klockner stands for rejuvenation and renewal in the CDU-led federal government. The committed Catholic, who is also a member of the Central Committee of Catholics, will need to be assertive in her ministerial post.

Julia Klockner has long been one of Merkel's foster daughters. So it is not surprising that the Chancellor has entrusted the 45-year-old CDU state chairwoman from Rhineland-Palatinate with the office of Food and Agriculture in her fourth cabinet. Klockner knows the department from her time as a member of the Bundestag, where she was parliamentary state secretary from 2009 to 2011. A member of the CDU presidium since 2010 and vice party chairwoman since 2012, the extroverted "Julia" with a Catholic-folk temperament is seen as a fitting complement to the pragmatic Protestant reflective Merkel.

Christian social teachings as a basis

At the same time, the studied theologian and political scientist promotes a non-ideological people's party, beyond the wing wars of conservative, liberal or national. For her, the Christian social doctrine is the foundation of the party, as she reaffirmed at the recent party conference in Berlin. In view of the upcoming debate on the basic program, however, she called for the social doctrine to be "declined through" again.

She will now also be able to do this in her new office. Because "creation" is groaning in many areas under an overwhelmingly economically oriented agriculture and animal husbandry. "Germany should take a leading position in animal protection," says the coalition agreement. An ambitious goal in view of factory farming or antibiotic abuse.

Assertiveness in demand

The coalition is committed "to rural and regionally rooted agriculture" and aims for a nationwide ban on the cultivation of genetically modified crops. Other ies include healthy eating, more transparency on nutritional values and ingredients, and curbing food waste.

The daughter of a winegrower and former wine queen, Klockner, is particularly concerned about preserving the "typical German cultural landscapes" in winegrowing. As a federal minister, she will need a great deal of perseverance and assertiveness, especially in the further development of a common European agricultural policy.

She was able to learn both in Rhineland-Palatinate – and not least the difficult way of dealing with defeats. For after a lightning career in the CDU, she twice failed as a top candidate for the office of prime minister. That was largely due to the strong incumbency of Malu Dreyer (SPD) and the political tremors resulting from the refugee crisis – with the rise of the AfD party. Klockner needed time to digest the defeat personally.

Act of emancipation regarding refugee crisis

For the CDU candidate, the election campaign was a baptism of fire. With her plan "A2" in the refugee crisis, she contradicted the party leader's line at the time: an act of emancipation with high risk. As one of the first Christian Democrats to do so, she emphasized the sociopolitical potential for tension inherent in immigration from predominantly Muslim countries. For Klockner, the focus is on equal rights for women, from the burqa ban to swimming pool attendance.

The practicing Catholic self-confidently represents her convictions as a member of the Central Committee of Catholics (ZdK) – in tension with the official church. Bioethically, it opposes consumptive embryo research and, as a Donum Vitae member, speaks out against abortion – as well as assisted suicide.

Down-to-earth and "all-terrain"

What bothers her about the church? "The role of women, the treatment of homosexuals, the treatment of divorced people," she confesses succinctly. Her criticism is biographical: Her best friend lives in a registered civil partnership, and her parents separated years ago. Klockner is unmarried and childless. This does not prevent them from suing for the prerogative of parents in a thoroughly conservative way in terms of family policy: "Parents cannot be replaced, neither by daycare centers nor by state institutions.". The 45-year-old characterizes herself as down-to-earth and "all-terrain".

Christoph Scholz

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