Barbara Hendricks (Germany): minister responsible for construction but not dealing with it

Barbara Hendricks (Germany): minister responsible for construction but not dealing with it
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We continue the series of articles about foreign construction ministers. Earlier we told our readers about Ben Carson, invited to the post by the new US President.  This article is dedicated to Barbara Hendricks, German Minister for environment, nature protection, construction and nuclear reactors safety.

Barbara Hendricks has a musical name. One may remember Jimmy – an artful guitar-player of the hippy period, besides her full namesake, an Afro-American opera singer. However, information about the minister of construction of the FRG, having occupied this post in 2013, is really laconic. And it refers only to the political establishment and other creative (not musical but still) spheres of activity such as ecological security.  

Barbara Hendricks was born in 1952 in the tiny picturesque German town of Kleve on the bank of the Rhine not far from the border with Holland. She studied history and social science at Bonn University. Being an outstanding young campaigner and activist with a distinct civic position whilst a student she joined the German social democratic party, the world’s first ever official pro-marxist party and the oldest in the German parliament. 

Barbara Hendricks (Germany): minister responsible for construction but not dealing with it

(Photo: Barbara’s youth)

At the age of 31 Barbara Hendricks became the party’s press secretary’s assistant at Bundestag, at the age of 40 she was assigned the post of the permanent secretary of the Ministry for environment protection of the North Rhine-Westphalia area, and later to the post of the parliamentary state secretary of the Federal Ministry of Finance in Gerhard Schroeder’s government. When she was 55 she was appointed Paymaster General of the SDPG, responsible for all party media and likewise a publishing house.

This true patriot, with 35 years in the party, and Nordic character became Federal Minister at the age of 61. She understood her task according to her previous experience that the protection of nature is above all! 

In 2014, frau Hendricks headed the German delegation at the UN summit on climate change, in 2015 she proposed a bill draft on full prohibition of shale gas production technology, and last year she visited Chernobyl. There has not been a word on construction unless it is connected with threatening ecological safety.

In wider circles, Barbara Hendricks got her name mentioned as a “tactless man”. The thing is that last year, during the course of an official meeting in Berlin, Barbara Hendricks and Masoumeh Ebtekar, Vice-President of Iran, (also a woman, by the way) shook hands as they greeted each other!

The Muslim society was taken aback and indignant: an Islamic woman, even a politician, is forbidden to shake hands with a man, even a foreign minister! 


(Photo: Hendricks and Ebtekar are shaking hands  HYPERLINK)

Iranian media boiled over until the mistake was revealed and then did not know how to react: Hendricks really resembles a man with her appearance and style of dressing. This is no accident either because she is an explicit representative of non-conventional sexuality and a member of the LGBT community, which is no secret in tolerant Germany.  This all sits comfortably with the passionate nature protection and “artistic” name, but does not fit so well with construction. Even the definition of her position puts construction in the last place. Despite this, there is no other federal minister in Germany for this important sphere of the economy.

Of course, we are now familiar with Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon and the Minister of Construction in the USA with zero experience in the sphere. However, they do at least have the post of chief constructor there, while Germany seems not to have one.

Still, there is the chief, and Barbara Hendricks is this person.

The thing is that construction issues in Germany are not regulated at a governmental level but, rather, within federal areas. The rules and regulations may differ in different municipalities and may be even stricter than federal ones. It is only important that national regulations should be observed, everything else is up to the local authorities! 

Pedantic Germans famous for their outstanding quality and responsibility are good at observing law, plus know and highly appreciate their rights. Besides, there are several special organisations for the development of general regulations for construction and supervision over their observation, including the German Institute of Normalisation (DIN), which consists of representatives of the expert and scientific community, and the German Institute of Construction Equipment (DIBt), created by federal executive authorities together with local authorities of the areas.

The system is absolutely transparent and clear to everybody and does not need to be constantly overseen by the higher authorities. The Cabinet of Ministers deals with conceptual issues, plus large-scale and long-term objectives. In this context, environment protection, the ecological friendliness of technologies, and the development and implementation of alternative energy sources is not only federal but an international, all-European, level of work. 

This means that the Cabinet of Ministers in modern Germany does not deal with day-to-day problems, but instead with the strategy of prospective development, which would be very useful for Russia as well.  

Alexei GARIN