When Andrea Nahles starts her new job as Chair of the Federal Employment Agency on Monday, the 52-year-old will not only be the first woman to head the federal agency. The former party leader, federal labor minister and chairwoman of the SPD parliamentary group is also more experienced and better networked in federal politics than her predecessors. “It helps everyone that I know how the political process in Berlin works,” she told Der Spiegel.
The woman from the Eifel has long had a close friendship with Chancellor Olaf Scholz (also SPD). Both were socialized with the Jusos, Nahles was the federal head of the association for four years, Scholz was vice-head for six years. Both entered the Bundestag for the first time in 1998 as representatives of the left wing of the SPD and worked together on the Committee on Labor and Social Affairs.
The SPD politician and her twelve-year-old colleague continued to keep in touch after Scholz had been promoted to Federal Labor Minister (2007 to 2009) and Hamburg Mayor (2011 to 2018), and Nahles to SPD General Secretary (2009 to 2013). Scholz has also been party vice since November 2009.
According to employees, the parliamentary group leader (since September 2017) and party leader (since April 2018) also coordinated almost daily with the new Federal Minister of Finance and Vice Chancellor (since March 2018) on all important issues. In the hardest days of the SPD politician’s career, when the parliamentary group rebelled against her in May 2019, Scholz could not help her: the finance minister was almost as much criticized for alleged arrogance and poor communication in the ranks of the SPD deputies as he was his political and personal friend. He too had to listen to bitter allegations, which, as usual, quickly became public.
Unlike her predecessors, who were SPD leaders, she gave no advice
Nahles withdrew, although her friend and Vice Chancellor Scholz is said to have tried to change her mind. Unlike many of her male predecessors after she gave up the post of chair, she has not publicly harassed her own party with unsolicited advice in the past three years. When asked by “Spiegel” whether it was difficult for her, she answered briefly and succinctly: “No.” A good year after her retirement, she was elected President of the Federal Post and Telecommunications Agency. It is subject to the technical and legal supervision of the Ministry of Finance, which Scholz headed at the time.
Within the traffic light coalition, there is a dispute about the transformation of Hartz IV into a citizen’s allowance, which was promoted by Federal Labor Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD): The FDP rejects the temporary suspension of sanctions. If the SPD, Greens and FDP agree, the federal agency would have to implement the new concept in practice. As SPD leader, Nahles had planned and implemented its principles herself.