The Social Democrat Christine Lambrecht, German Defense Minister, is once again in the eye of the hurricane. The opposition, which has been attacking her relentlessly since the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine, has found a new vein to criticize her: a trip in an Army helicopter in which she took her son Alexander, 21 years old. . In Germany, family members can accompany ministers on official trips, but they must pay for their place according to fixed rates. This was the case in this case, according to the Defense Ministry. But just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s ethical, say its critics.
The trip became known a few days ago, after Business Insider publish a photo that Alexander himself had posted on his Instagram account. In the image, he is seen sitting in the military helicopter, with his seatbelt on and looking out the window. Lambrecht flew from Berlin to Schlewsig-Holstein, in the north of the country, to visit a battalion based in the town of Stadum. A trip like any other, if it weren’t for what he did afterwards. It so happens that Stadum is in front of the island of Sylt, a holiday destination in the North Sea, where the minister and her son subsequently moved to spend a few days off for Easter.
The German press calculates that the use of the Cougar helicopter with which the minister flew to Sylt is around 5,000 euros per hour. Nobody doubts that Lambrecht paid what corresponds to bring a companion, but his political opponents blame him for using Army means for a displacement, at least in part, private. The suspicion that he chose to visit that battalion and not another because he is close to Sylt floats in many of the analyzes that have been written these days. In question is also the moment in which he took a vacation, in the middle of the war in Ukraine. The Family Minister, the green Anne Spiegel, resigned last month after admitting that last summer she went on vacation a week after the serious floods that devastated Rhineland-Palatinate, where she was the head of the Environment.
the tabloid newspaper bild It has been particularly targeted with the minister, with flashy headlines that joke that she has confused the Luftwaffe (Air Force) with Lufthansa (the main German private airline). “Using Army resources for private and partisan purposes is inelegant. He should be more tactful,” said Thorstein Frei, CDU spokesman in the Bundestag. “The minister is not up to the task,” he added. Lambrecht has acknowledged that she could have managed the trip in another way, but she assured that she did everything according to the rules and asked for understanding for the fact that she wanted to spend time with her son in the midst of her demanding work as minister.
Lambrecht, a member of the government headed by the Social Democrat Olaf Scholz, has acquired a huge role since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began at the end of February. As the head of the German Army, she has been in charge of explaining the decisions on the military aid that Berlin has provided to kyiv. Her critics have accused her of hindering the sending of material. Even before the war, when the Ukrainian government asked Germany for defensive weapons in the face of the Russian threat, one of her decisions caused international ridicule. Under pressure, Lambrecht announced the shipment of 5,000 helmets. “What will Germany send next to support us? pillows?” reacted the mayor of kyiv, Vitali Klitschko.
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The Christian Democrats of the CDU, relegated to the opposition after elections in September last year, have been especially incisive with Lambrecht, one of three women who occupy ministries related to national security. For the first time, the German Government has women in Defense, Interior (Nancy Faeser) and Foreign Affairs (Annalena Baerbock). They will be in charge of piloting the historic shift in security and defense policies that Berlin has announced, especially the rearmament of its Army. Lambrecht is one of the members of the Executive worst valued by citizens, according to a recent survey.
From the beginning, the opposition has suggested that Lambrecht was not the best option to take charge of a ministry of this caliber. The controversy comes at a delicate moment for the Social Democrats, who in a few days will face the Christian Democrats of the CDU in the regional elections in North Rhine-Westphalia, the land most populous in the country. The two candidates are neck and neck in the polls. Last Sunday the SPD suffered a crushing defeat in Schleswig-Holstein and is now seeking to unseat conservative Prime Minister Hendrik Wüst.
Lambrecht, who was Minister of Justice in the previous Grand Coalition Executive led by Angela Merkel, has traveled on more occasions with her son. Alexander accompanied her on at least seven official visits abroad, according to the Ministry of Justice. Now the sensationalist media search the young man’s Instagram in search of other snapshots and wonder whether the fact of publishing photos in a military vehicle can constitute a crime.