Exactly one week ago, it took place, the memorable meeting of the Economic and Energy Committees on the witness affair in the Federal Ministry of Economics. The Green Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck was still self-confident in the Bundestag that he could keep his controversial state secretary. "I have decided that Patrick Graichen does not have to leave because of this mistake," Habeck said after the meeting. And later in the evening: "I'm not willing to sacrifice people to give in to this campaign."

Julia Löhr

Business correspondent in Berlin.

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Now he's sacrificing Graichen after all. Shortly after 11 a.m. this Wednesday, a visibly touched Habeck appears in front of the cameras at the Federal Ministry of Economics. He takes a long time before he gets to the point: The last few weeks have been overshadowed by the debates about the replacement of the German Energy Agency and about Graichen's family connections.

The Ministry of Economics has created transparency. Donations to organizations such as the Öko-Institut – where Graichen's siblings Verena and Jakob work – and the BUND – where the sister is deputy chairwoman – have not increased compared to the previous government. In the course of the audits, however, two further facts have now "emerged" in which Patrick Graichen was involved, contrary to the compliance rules of the ministry.

A project of BUND Berlin

"I need to be sure that the compliance firewall has no cracks. It now has these cracks," Habeck said. Overall, Graichen has made himself too vulnerable. "It's one mistake too many." He had asked the Federal President to put Graichen into temporary retirement. He wants to decide on a successor "as quickly as possible," Habeck said.

So the 51-year-old Graichen is out, the post of State Secretary of Energy in the Federal Ministry of Economics is vacant for the time being. Shortly before the upcoming deliberations in the Bundestag on the amendment to the Building Energy Act (GEG), the separation of Graichen comes at a very inopportune time for Habeck. Habeck was confident, however, that the law will come as planned by him and Graichen, that the installation of new oil and gas heating systems in Germany will soon be banned. If "things are smarter and better designed" – all the better.

Habeck also briefly touched on what exactly led to the separation of Graichen: One process concerns the National Climate Initiative. On November 30, 2022, Graichen approved three project outlines for this purpose, one of which was a project of BUND Berlin. The promised 600,000 euros have not yet flowed, but this is only a formality. Graichen's sister had been a board member of the Berlin BUND until May 2022. "In this respect, it is to be assessed as a compliance violation," Habeck said. "This submission should not have been presented to him, nor should he have signed it."

"In the gray area" process

The second process is one "in the grey area". The focus will be on the Commission of Experts on Energy Transition Monitoring and the role of Felix Matthes, research coordinator at the Oeko-Institut. An "in-depth examination" had shown that the "appearance of partiality should have been better avoided". The mistakes on their own are not dramatic. Overall, however, they made this "dramatic consequence" necessary.