Florian Hassler – Kretschmann’s understanding of Europe

Florian Hassler (Greens) is Baden-Württemberg’s Secretary of State for Europe.

In 2011, Florian Hassler could have entered the Bundestag as a successor for the Greens. But the then 34-year-old decided against it. Many others would have preferred to start a career as a member of parliament on their own account instead of continuing in the second tier of politics. Hassler, however, felt obligated to the Prime Minister of Baden-Württemberg, Winfried Kretschmann. He had offered him to become his office manager. Hassler has stayed true to his line. In 2017, Kretschmann made him head of the policy department at Villa Reitzenstein, responsible for planning and European policies.

In 2021, Kretschmann brought him into his now third cabinet as Secretary of State. The title has become more important, but Hassler’s role has remained similar: He is responsible there for political coordination at the government headquarters Villa Reitzenstein and for European policy. On the one hand, he does the troubleshooting for Kretschmann, and on the other hand, he is his European understanding.

The EU is part of his political DNA

Unlike his predecessor Guido Wolf of the CDU, who was given Brussels powers to upgrade the ministry, Hassler has the EU in his political DNA. After studying politics and economics in Freiburg and Aix-en-Provence, he went to Brussels. There he was the office manager of the Green Party MEP Heide Rühle. From that time he also knows the current MEP and head of the Internal Market Committee, Anna Cavazzini (Greens/EFA) and Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who also worked for a Green in Brussels and Strasbourg at that time.

Today, he lives in Stuttgart with his wife and two children and likes to go to the soccer field in his spare time. Hassler spends half of his working time as state secretary representing the MEP and watching her back, while he devotes the other half to European policy. The fact that Kretschmann has brought the coordination of European policy back to the Ministry of State shows the importance he attaches to EU legislation. Kretschmann travels to Brussels with his cabinet at least once a year and then attends meetings at the state representation in Rue Bellard. Since the federal states have no competence in EU legislation, they have to skillfully represent their interests.

Focus on the automotive industry and suppliers

Hassler observes legislation in Brussels and talks to MEPs and commissioners. For example, when both hospitals in the country and the industry complained massively about the EU’s Medical Device Directive and the first vital surgeries were to be moved to children’s hospitals. Another important issue is the transformation of the automotive industry. In the home country of manufacturers Mercedes and Porsche, as well as suppliers Bosch, Mahle and others, people are looking highly attentively at issues such as the phasing out of internal combustion engines and the future regulation of pollutants. The amendment to the Clean Air Directive, which could result in new driving bans, is also being followed very closely in Stuttgart (“Neckartor measuring station”) and some other cities in the southwest.

The positions that Kretschmann is pursuing on Euro 7, for example, hardly differ from those that a Christian Democrat MEP would have advocated. This is much to the annoyance of many a Green member of the European Parliament from the southwest, for whom the switch to electric cars cannot happen fast enough. Hassler makes no secret of the fact that he understands the needs of the industry. In Böblingen, Hassler’s bus travel company has been around for more than 100 years and is owned by family members. Hassler doesn’t need to be told that there is still a long way to go before long-distance travel by bus can be CO2 neutral.

And when Industry Commissioner Thierry Breton soon launches a discussion group in which manufacturers and suppliers, academia, trade unions and politicians sit around the table to jointly tackle the problems of transformation, this is a borrowing from the strategy dialog that Kretschmann and Hassler have been practicing for years in the southwest and receiving high marks for it. Markus Grabitz


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