Claudia Roth, a former leader of the Green party who has served in parliament for more than 20 years, has been named as the culture minister in Germany’s next government, putting a politician with an extensive network and wealth of experience into a post that has in the past been seen as marginal.
She succeeds Monika Grütters of the outgoing Christian Democrats, who has overseen a hefty increase in the federal culture budget and has raised the profile and stature of the position. Roth, 66, is a former member of the European Parliament who has served as the vice-president of the German parliament since 2013. She is also the Greens’ spokeswoman on foreign cultural policy in parliament.
Roth began her career working in theatre and was once manager of a radical left-wing rock band called Ton, Steine, Scherben. Her parliamentary work has focused on human rights and she is a passionate campaigner for women’s and LGBTQ+ rights. Under the Social Democrat chancellor Gerhard Schröder, she served in the Foreign Ministry as a state secretary for human rights policy and humanitarian aid.
Noted for her colourful outfits, warmth and humour, Roth is one of the highest-profile Green politicians and a polarising figure. Many leading artists, including the pianist Igor Levit, welcomed her appointment. Some conservative commentators were appalled. An opinion article in the daily newspaper Die Welt described her as “a hate figure for all uptight Germans”.
Culture in Germany is largely viewed as the preserve of the 16 states, so the culture minister is not a member of the cabinet and the ministry is integrated into the chancellery. It is the first time that the culture minister has not belonged to the same party as the chancellor, who will be Olaf Scholz of the Social Democrats. The Social Democrats and Greens are to rule in coalition with the Liberal Democrats.
“Good cooperation between Scholz and Roth is essential for a successful cultural policy,” cautioned Olaf Zimmermann, general secretary of the German Cultural Council, an association representing cultural institutions nationwide.