handelsblatt exclusive Gabriel to Remain Vice Chancellor

Sigmar Gabriel’s surprise decision not to lead the Social Democrats into the coming election does not mean he is stepping down as vice chancellor. He will keep the post and retain some of his closest staff members.
Sigmar Gabriel will stay on as Angela Merkel's Vice Chancellor.

Sigmar Gabriel will remain Germany's vice chancellor at the same time as he takes on his new role as foreign minister, according to information obtained by Handelsblatt.

Mr. Gabriel, who announced on Tuesday that he was stepping down as SPD leader and would not be running against Chancellor Merkel in September, will also take some of his closest aides including Rainer Sontowski, currently one of his deputies in the ministry for economics and energy, to his new post leading the foreign ministry. In his previous post, Mr. Sontowski was responsible for the central, management and planning department and the department for economic policy.

Rainer Baake, state secretary for energy, and Mr. Gabriel's deputy minister Matthias Machnig are likely to remain in the economics and energy ministry.

Handelsblatt has learned that the new appointments in the foreign ministry and the economics ministry will take place on Friday. Brigitte Zypries, a former justice minister and currently a deputy minister in Mr. Gabriel's economics ministry, will take over as economics minister.

Ms. Zypries, born in Kassel, was justice minister under chancellor Gerhard Schröder from 2002 to 2005 and under chancellor Merkel until 2009. Before the developments this week she was in the process of winding down her career in central government and had announced she did not plan to run for the Bundestag again last June.

But she is the obvious and perhaps the best candidate to succeed Mr. Gabriel as economics and energy minister for the months before the election. She has known the ministry for years and, as state secretary, she has had Mr. Gabriel's back since December 2013, and has frequently filled in for him. In particular, she has addressed topics such as digitalization, technological change in the economy and society, innovation and policy governing SMEs.

Martin Schulz is to replace Mr. Gabriel as party leader and run against Ms. Merkel, who is running for a fourth term. Mr. Schulz, the former European Parliament president, will not be taking on a role in Ms. Merkel's government.


Dana Heide is a correspondent for Handelsblatt in Berlin, focusing on energy policies, small and medium-sized companies and innovation. To contact the author: [email protected]