Dusseldorf NRW Environment Minister Ursula Heinen-Esser resigned five weeks before the state elections. It had previously become known that the CDU politician had met with other government members in Mallorca a few days after the disaster last July to celebrate her husband’s birthday.
“I regret the image that my own actions and the subsequent presentation created,” said Heinen-Esser in the state parliament. “This picture doesn’t represent who I really am. But with this picture of me in public, the necessary trust in me as a minister is permanently called into question.” She now wants to protect her family and avert damage from the office.
SPD and Greens in the Düsseldorf state parliament described the resignation as “overdue”. The SPD also suggested that Minister of Construction Ina Scharrenbach (CDU), who had celebrated her husband’s birthday with Heinen-Esser in Mallorca, resign. One has to ask whether Scharrenbach “still has the necessary integrity to stay in office. I don’t agree,” said Kuchaty.
Green parliamentary group leader Verena Schäffer said that Scharrenbach also had to explain itself. “Because with her, two important department heads were not on site in NRW during the flood disaster.”
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Building Minister Ina Scharrenbach (CDU), Europe Minister Stephan Holthoff-Pförtner (CDU) and the then State Secretary Serap Güler (CDU) took part in a joint “dinner” on July 23 in Mallorca, Heinen-Esser had previously reported in the “Kölner Stadt indicator” confirmed.
“Salami tactics and attempts to cover it up”
At noon she had still rejected her resignation. Later that afternoon, Heinen-Esser said she had seen the reactions. There is no understanding for her actions at that time. With her resignation, she now wants to avert “damage to her family and the office”.
She therefore offered Prime Minister Hendrik Wüst (CDU) her resignation in the afternoon and he accepted it. The SPD had previously called for Heinen-Esser’s immediate dismissal. While tens of thousands of people affected by the flood were struggling with the consequences of the flood, high-ranking representatives of the NRW state government in Mallorca “had a good time,” said SPD opposition leader Thomas Kutschaty.
After “salami tactics and attempts to cover up the environment minister” it is now apparent that “apparently a real scandal should be kept under the covers”. Greens and AfD had asked Heinen-Esser to resign.
Green MP Johannes Remmel spoke of the minister’s “Costa Concordia moment”. “You disembarked at a time when the ship was sinking,” said Remmel, referring to the 2012 ship disaster. “You deceived the committee and told an untruth.”
The Minister of the Environment has long been criticized for briefly interrupting her stay in Mallorca after the flood on July 15, but then continuing on July 16. She justified this in the state parliament’s investigative committee by saying that she had to bring back her underage daughter and her friends who had stayed on the island.
“Full” performance of official business in Mallorca?
When Heinen-Esser then sent the committee her flight details, it became clear that on July 25 she, her husband and daughter had started their regular return flight, which had already been booked in February. Heinen-Esser said that she had “completely” carried out her official duties on Mallorca and would again answer questions from the committee of inquiry on April 22nd.
The chairman of the committee of inquiry, Ralf Witzel (FDP), welcomed “the fact that the state government promised us further materials”. The testimonies of the witnesses questioned so far have varied, said Witzel, without naming names.
Since he is obliged to be neutral as chairman, it is forbidden to evaluate all the revelations of the past few weeks, “even if that is sometimes difficult as a person who thinks and acts politically,” said Witzel.
The FDP politician once again made the extent of the flood clear. With 180 cities and municipalities, almost half of the municipalities in NRW were affected by the flood. 49 people lost their lives in the flood. The committee owes you a “complete clarification of all causes and responsibilities”. The flood of the century on July 14 and 15, 2021 brought “unimaginable suffering and devastation”.
More: Survey for the NRW state election: CDU and SPD continue to be almost equal