At the beginning of 2018, when Horst Seehofer became not only Minister of the Interior and Building, but also of Homeland, there was a lot of ridicule, especially from left-wing circles. Now the lederhosen will definitely come, it was joked at the time. But even in the self-proclaimed progressive coalition of the SPD, the Greens and the FDP, there is still a “home” section in the Ministry of the Interior.
“I made a conscious decision to keep the term home because I see it as a very open and diverse term,” said Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) this week in the “Zeit”. There is much to be done.
According to observers, under Seehofer little came out of Department H, in which homeland politics is organized – at least with regard to the actual founding idea. One of the reasons for this was that the homeland policy was immediately supplemented by the integration policy. Spatial planning issues were added, as was the promotion of volunteer work. The goal of taking up the interests of those who were left behind in Germany and thus creating equal living conditions became one of many topics in an overflowing agenda.
Under Faeser, Department H is now headed by former SPD member of the Bundestag and a graduate theologian, Jörn Thießen. In the budget of the Federal Ministry of the Interior (BMI), the item “Home, Society and Constitution” accounted for around 900 million euros in 2021. The BMI states that the exact expenses for the home area cannot be precisely defined. Homeland politics is a cross-sectional task. The main goals are to strengthen cohesion and create equal living conditions.
The taxpayers’ association is skeptical about the organization of the home ministry. In terms of the number of departments, “H” quickly became the largest department in the ministry. It currently consists of 17 departments and a working group. Under Seehofer, however, the Heimatabteilung had only initiated one draft law and also participated in 33 initiatives. “It should be discussed whether the corresponding tasks could not be coordinated by an interdepartmental working group,” said the taxpayers’ association.
The founding father of all home ministries is Markus Söder (CSU), who in 2013 under Prime Minister Horst Seehofer was given the extra “Home” section of the Ministry of Finance. And the up-and-coming Söder knew how to use his office – not only because he settled the office of the new department in his hometown of Nuremberg. Almost every day, Söder appeared at openings, groundbreakings or folk festivals, smiled at the cameras and a day later was able to look forward to a photo in the local newspaper. “Anyone who hands over a funding notification every day is far from being a strategist,” said Seehofer at some point, whose chair Söder sawed for years.
It is primarily the big issues that are to be promoted in the Home Ministry. Creating equivalent living conditions for rural areas, especially in northern Bavaria, is one of the core tasks. In concrete terms, this means broadband expansion, funding programs for public transport and village renewal projects. But there is a lot of symbolism involved. The ministry awards the 100 best local farms every year. “Taverns and restaurants are a living symbol of the Bavarian way of life,” says the website. In addition, the Free State awards the “Bavarian Homeland Prize” to numerous clubs every year. A lot of money is also invested in the maintenance of dialect and folk music.
There has also been a home ministry in North Rhine-Westphalia since 2017. The NRW Home Congress 2018 made the headlines. Pop singer Heino was invited. He brought home minister Ina Scharrenbach (CDU) the double album “The most beautiful German homeland and fatherland songs”. Several titles were found in Hitler’s time in the “Songbook of the SS”.
Scharrenbach was still satisfied with their balance sheet. More than 80 million euros have been put into more than 4700 home projects, she was happy last December. “The home promotion is a real success model,” said the CDU politician. In fact, her ministry supports many local projects and associations, but also renovation work on historic buildings. It is usually amounts of a few thousand euros that are awarded. The ministry is obviously quite generous, with a good two-thirds of all applications being approved.