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Politics

Christian Schmidt to be Germany's new agriculture minister

Christian Schmidt is set to become Germany's new agriculture minister. He follows Hans-Peter Friedrich, who resigned after reportedly leaking police data about a child porn investigation involving a fellow politician.

Schmidt follows Friedrich

Christian Schmidt, the Parliamentary State Secretary for the Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, will take over for Friedrich, according to German media reports. The appointment of Schmidt, a member of the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), comes as part of a special CSU conference being held on Monday.

Filling Schmidt's soon-to-be-vacant state secretary post will be Bamberg CSU parliamentarian Thomas Silberhorn. The CSU fills such positions via regional proportion and, like Schmidt, Silberhorn hails from Upper Franconia.

The agriculture minister position was made vacant last Friday following the resignation of Hans-Peter Friedrich. The embattled CSU politician is suspected of passing on confidential information about a child pornography investigation in October, while he was interior minister, to Sigmar Gabriel, the head of the center-left Social Democrats (SPD). Authorities reportedly found the name of SPD lawmaker Sebastian Edathy on a customer list for child porn.

Friedrich said he acted in a "legally and correct" manner when informing Gabriel, whose SPD were in coalition talks with the CDU/CSU following Germany's September elections. Prosecutors have complained that leaking the information could have compromised the case against Edathy, saying last Friday that he appeared to have advanced knowledge of the investigation.

Frustration over CSU fallout

Leaders from the grand coalition's three parties - the CDU, the CSU and the SPD - are due to meet on Tuesday evening in order to discuss how to move forward from the scandal and subsequent cabinet reshuffle.

CSU leaders have expressed frustration that the only high-level politician implicated in the scandal, Friedrich, is a member of the Bavarian party.

"How can it possibly happen that a SPD lawmaker is alleged to have bought child porn and the only consequence is that a CSU minister resigns?" asked Hans-Peter Uhl, a longtime CSU member of Germany's parliament, the Bundestag.

Prosecutors are considering charging Friedrich with a betrayal of state secrets. SPD parliamentary group leader Thomas Oppermann told the media last week that the interior minister had informed the SPD leader of a possible investigation of Edathy's activities in October. He also said that the SPD chief had passed on this information to other high-level SPD officials, including himself.

Friedrich, however, insisted he acted in a "legal and correct" manner when informing Gabriel, whose SPD was in coalition talks with the CDU/CSU following Germany's September elections.

Prosecutors have complained that leaking the information could have compromised the case against Edathy, saying last Friday that he appeared to have had advance knowledge of the investigation.

CSU leader Horst Seehofer has now asked SPD members to clarify their actions surrounding the affair.

CSU Secretary-General Andreas Scheuer has openly called for Oppermann's resignation.

Leaders from the grand coalition's three parties - the CDU, the CSU and the SPD - are due to meet on Tuesday evening in order to discuss how to move forward.

dr/rg (dpa, Reuters, AFP)

DW.DE

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