Christine Lambrecht couldn’t have known what was in store for her: the Russian war against Ukraine, the first arms deliveries to a warring party, the modernization of the German armed forces.
Rigorously, as in previous offices, the defense minister relies on her own confidants with SPD party membership. Your appearance is not well received in the Bundeswehr. But she had problems from the start, and the Union has been criticizing her for weeks as the wrong choice.
First she sold 5,000 helmets for the Ukraine as a great achievement, then the chancellery preferred to announce the first arms deliveries themselves, Lambrecht is said to have been quite angry. Most recently, she was allowed to announce the green light for up to 50 Gepard tanks and seven 2000 self-propelled howitzers. She put a lot of pressure here and tried to organize further aid for Ukraine.
But the publication of her 21-year-old son’s flight in the government helicopter before an Easter holiday on Sylt comes at the wrong time for her – is work and private life sufficiently separated?
Legally, there is obviously nothing to complain about so far. But it’s unfortunate for Lambrecht that her son boasted about flying in the Defense Ministry’s flight readiness helicopter and published a picture of it on Instagram at Easter, with the words: “Happy Easter”.
Lambrecht also had her son with him as Minister of Justice on seven trips abroad, as has now become known. A spokeswoman told the Tagesspiegel that the trips went to Helsinki, Liechtenstein, Lisbon, Luxembourg, Paris, Prague and Slovenia. “Minister Lambrecht has always attached great importance to the fact that all costs incurred by accompanying her son are billed separately and paid for privately by her.”
In the current case, Lambrecht visited the Electronic Warfare Battalion 911 in Stadum in Schleswig-Holstein on April 13, the day before Maundy Thursday. Her son often accompanied her on official occasions. Here the question arises as to why Lambrecht had planned the visit to the troops immediately before a vacation on Sylt and whether an inexpensive and time-saving opportunity to fly with the German Armed Forces should be organized for her son.
At the request of the Tagesspiegel, the Ministry of Defense announced that the son was not present when the battalion actually visited him. “The family member of the Federal Minister did not take part in the visit to the troops,” said a spokesman. This raises the question of why he then had to travel in the Defense Ministry’s flight readiness helicopter – and whether that still complies with the travel rules.
After the visit, BKA bodyguards are said to have traveled from North Friesland by car to Sylt – in any case, “no Bundeswehr aircraft were used during the further course of the trip,” emphasizes a ministry spokesman when asked by the Tagesspiegel.
The island of Sylt is only around 50 kilometers away from the battalion in Stadum and can be reached, for example, by car train via the Hindenburgdamm.
“We cannot provide any information on private appointments after the end of official business,” emphasizes Lambrecht’s ministry.
The flight was from the Ministry of Defense in Berlin to Ladelund, between 12:20 p.m. and 2:00 p.m., as arrival for the visit to the troops in Stadum.
Ladelund is in the district of North Friesland and is 13 kilometers from Stadum, where Lambrecht visited the battalion. The flight was correctly registered on April 8, along with the passenger list, which also included the son. The minister can specify such an accompaniment, but the family members must pay for the flight themselves, “who have to bear different cost rates depending on the federal interest,” as her ministry emphasizes.
According to “Business Insider”, the cost per hour of flight in the government helicopter should be 5300 euros, but the son only has to pay an amount that corresponds to the normal Lufthansa tariff (economy class) for a comparable flight route, which should be a little over 100 euros be.
However, Lambrecht has not yet paid for the flight. “The final cost statement is currently being prepared. Therefore, no information can be given about the amount of the costs incurred,” emphasizes a spokesman.
But on Monday, the Ministry of Defense initially emphasized: “Flight and reimbursement took place in full compliance with the guidelines.”
But this reimbursement has not yet been given, as the ministry confirmed on Tuesday. It is common for billing to take a few weeks – but this case is politically sensitive.
The CDU politician Paul Ziemiak comments on the case: “Helicopter mother is now taking on a whole new meaning.” SPD faction leader Rolf Mützenich expresses criticism in his own way: “I’ve never flown in a helicopter.” But against the background of the Everything was done correctly in the guidelines.
The Union now accuses Lambrecht of “maximum clumsiness” – and insists on full transparency. “That shows a lack of tact,” says the first parliamentary manager of the Union faction, Thorsten Frei (CDU). The process has a taste: “There are things that are forbidden. And there are things you just don’t do.”
While the chancellor can only influence the ministers of the other parties in the traffic light coalition to a limited extent, things are different with his SPD. And he chose her. Scholz said about Christine Lambrecht when she was presented as a minister that the Bundeswehr needed someone who could do it too. “And that is exactly the case with Christine Lambrecht.”
She showed in all tasks what great skills would be in her. “And she will be a very, very important Minister of Defense in the Federal Republic of Germany.”
The chancellor appreciates her hard hand, but he is now judged by the words about her. Scholz likes to talk about leadership, but for him loyalty to his people is also part of it in difficult times, he doesn’t drop them at the first headwind, preferring to give internal advice.
The chancellor likes to govern with a steady hand, without drama. But that is just reaching its limits – and the Union will now ask many more questions about Minister Lambrecht’s travel practice.