Cablegate: Top Hesse Cdu Players Koch and Roth Tussle

Published: Tue 8 Jul 2003 01:15 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
REF: A) 2002 FRANKFURT 11843; B) FRANKFURT 392
1. (SBU) Summary: Hesse's two most powerful Christian
Democratic (CDU) politicians, Hesse's Minister President
Roland Koch and Frankfurt Lord Mayor Petra Roth have public
disagreements and competing national ambitions. Roth was
elected in May 2003 as president of the German Council of
Cities. Koch was reelected in February 2003 as Minister-
President of Hesse with an absolute majority. They disagree
on major issues such as the expansion of Frankfurt airport
and regional reform. Though Roth is losing support in the
Hesse state CDU, she remains very popular in Frankfurt. Her
public opposition to Koch's initiatives could create
problems for the Hesse Minister-President for the remainder
of his second term. End summary.
2. (SBU) The media have reported a serious rift between
Hesse Minister-President Roland Koch and Frankfurt Lord
Mayor Petra Roth (both CDU). The Frankfurter Neue Presse, a
left-of-center newspaper, quotes CDU politicians'
description of icy relations between the two influential
Hesse leaders that date back to Roth's re-election as Mayor
of Frankfurt two years ago. Roth had distanced herself from
Koch, who was then entangled in a party financing scandal.
Roth denies allegations of tensions, stating that, "There
are several politicians in Wiesbaden who want to fabricate a
rift that does not exist." She does admit that she tends to
compensate with her outspoken views for what she perceives
as Frankfurt's insufficient representation in the state
parliament. "Frankfurt is Hesse's most important urban
center," says Roth's assistant, "But we only have twelve
deputies in state parliament (out of 100). Frankfurt lacks
a strong lobby."
3. (SBU) Roth and Koch, publicly clash on:
- Frankfurt airport expansion. Koch supports it, Roth
rejects the selected variant, because due to the potential
increase in noise for residents near Frankfurt;
- Regional reform. Roth would like more responsibility
for a regional (multi-state) body led by Frankfurt to
facilitate administrative, economic and cultural
cooperation. Koch intends to limit Frankfurt's influence;
- Privatization of the Frankfurt Trade Fair, a huge
exhibition center in downtown Frankfurt. Koch supports
selling Hesse's 40 percent share. Roth is against selling
the city of Frankfurt's 60 percent share.
4. (SBU) Since Lord Mayor Petra Roth was elected head of the
German Council of Cities May 15, 2003, she has been de facto
Hesse's second most powerful politician. Roth's
relationship with the Chairman of the Frankfurt CDU, Udo
Corts is especially problematic. Udo Corts is Hesse
Minister of Higher Education and former state Interior
Minister. He is a rising star in Koch's cabinet, and a
favorite of the Minister-President. In a meeting with the
Consul General in June, Corts openly expressed his dislike
of Roth. Corts said that Roth is losing support in the
state CDU due to her reputation for unreliability and open
resistance to Koch's initiatives. Corts said not only Koch,
but other cabinet members, are wondering what Roth's goals
really are. Corts also said it was, "far from certain that
Roth will be re-nominated by the state CDU, if her track
record does not improve." (Note: Roth was re-elected for a
six-year term in 2001.)
5. (SBU) Comment: Koch and Roth are both ambitious
politicians who have set their sights on national office:
Koch for Chancellor (2006), Roth for Federal President
(2004). Both know that it would be virtually impossible for
two Hesse politicians to hold these offices at the same time
and the competition adds to the tension between them.
(Note: Despite her ambitions, most observers put Roth's
chances of becoming Federal President at close to zero.)
Koch's drive to redesign the administrative structure of the
region is perceived as a threat by Roth and others across
the Frankfurt political party spectrum. The tension between
Hesse's competitive Minister-President Roland Koch and
Frankfurt's vocal Lord Mayor Petra Roth could make Koch's
second term more difficult than his absolute majority might
indicate. End comment.
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