BerlinRight at the beginning of her term as Federal Minister of Justice, Katarina Barley triggered a small diplomatic crisis. It was about the case of the Catalan separatist leader Carles Puigdemont, who had been arrested shortly before Easter 2018 due to a European arrest warrant in Germany. However, the competent higher regional court declared Spain's charge of rebellion inadmissible and released Puigdemont.
In a confidential telephone conversation with a journalist, the SPD politician described the German verdict as "absolutely correct". But the assessment is public. Of course, diplomatically it is an absurdity to comment on the procedure. The Spanish government immediately protested against the interference. Barley then had to call her Spanish counterpart to clarify the "misunderstanding". But this remains one of the few situations in which the Minister of Justice acts awkwardly.
In the coalition negotiations, Barley described himself – as a joke – as an "all-purpose weapon", eventually becoming Federal Minister of Justice and Consumer Protection. But now her term ends again. The 50-year-old is Europe's top candidate and will hand over her ministerial office on the evening of May 26th.
"My request for dismissal as Minister of Justice has already been written. I will pass it on to the election evening of the Federal Chancellor. My word on it, "she confirmed the editorial network Germany. She had already canceled her apartment in Berlin, signed the lease in Brussels.
"I found the office of Minister of Justice a great privilege," Barley told Handelsblatt. "To run a house where the law and our constitution are lived every day is a great honor to me."
The native Rhinelander was strikingly diligent: Since taking office in March 2018 Barley has implemented research by the Handelsblatt a total of 14 legislative projects, including seven coalition projects, another 15 laws are in planning or have already been introduced for further consultation in the Bundestag. "I'm satisfied with what I've been able to do in a short time and get on track," Barley told Handelsblatt.
As an example, she mentioned the Tenant Protection Act. Thus, the rights of tenants were further strengthened, they could now easier reclaim too much money paid. "I could have imagined further regulations here," said the minister. With a second tenant protection law she has now presented an additional improvement. "Unfortunately, I will not be able to implement it myself."
She herself was able to benefit from the preliminary work of her predecessor in the so-called "Musterfeststellungsklage". On the very first day in office, Barley presented the relevant bill. Especially with regard to the VW exhaust scandal praises the 50-year-old instrument as the ultimate strengthening of consumer rights. Representatives of thousands of injured consumers now have the opportunity to go to court. At the end of such – presumably years – "one for all" -Klage but then every single person has to complain again.
Criticism from the Greens
For the Greens, the minister's "prestige project" lags far behind "more effective and faster enforcement options" for consumers. "The Justice Minister would have been able to exploit a wider scope of EU law and be able to launch a class action lawsuit," consumer policy expert Tabea Rößner told Handelsblatt.
The FDP member Katharina Willkomm said, however, appreciatively that it Barley, "borne by much external wind from the diesel scandal," as the first minister of this government was able to bring a "relevant law project" by the Bundestag. By doing so she has broadened the legal possibilities of affected consumers. What that brings in the end, but will show until long after Barley moved to Brussels.
Willkomm expressed sharp criticism at the actions of the minister in the Mietenthema. "First, she lays down a proposal for a sharp lease reform, bends in front of the Union, then celebrates the compromise reached as a substantial solution – and finally launches a new proposal for a rent-price brake a week before the European election of their potential successor in office," she said. That was "pure election campaign".
Klaus Müller, the head of the Federation of Consumer Organizations (VZBV), already rates the new instrument of the model suit as a "milestone in consumer protection", as he told Handelsblatt. Even if he could have imagined more. His hope is that Barley will continue to promote the subject at EU level in the future. "In Europe, she can take this law to a higher level and significantly improve it."
She wanted to make consumer protection the focus of her work, the German-British Barley had promised directly to her employees on taking office. That seemed amazing. For the law graduate, who first worked in a law firm in Hamburg, then worked as a judge in Trier and Wittlich and finally as a research assistant to the Federal Constitutional Court, always described herself as a legal politician "with heart and soul".
Many consumer annoyances "got left behind"
So she could not redeem the promise so completely. Germany's top consumer advocate Müller sees critically that under Barley other "annoyances" in the everyday life of consumers "have fallen by the wayside". "She could not terminate subcontracted contracts, exorbitant collection fees or unauthorized telephone advertising during her 15 months in office," Müller said. Although the Minister announced that the rent usury had a fight, "here her successor must remain stubborn and succeed."
A fair cost distribution of the power grid expansion, a strong algorithm control and a standard product for the private pension are also still "open construction sites." "In the interests of consumers, I expect quick solutions," warned the head of the VZBV.
Also right at the beginning of Barley's term of office, the Facebook data scandal occurred around the data analysis company Cambridge Analytica. Actually good for the Minister, who immediately offered the opportunity to profile. She quoted Facebook representatives to Berlin and threatened with strong surveillance of the powerful corporations.
Concrete did not happen. Finally, Barley came to the General Data Protection Regulation (DSGVO) to help, which came into force in May 2018.
Nevertheless, during Barley's term, another four major data scandals were registered on Facebook. Although Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg recently even overlooked Barley in Berlin and demanded more "regulation". But the minister remained skeptical. "We will enforce our European data protection and competition laws clearly and hard," she countered.
From the point of view of the Green politician Rößner, however, Barley's result is "extremely poor". She accused the SPD politician "many flowery announcements" before, even without the most urgent even addressed. "Minister Barley often missed the bite to push for consumer rights," she said.
She said she had failed to deliver on online consumer protection, even though her own consultants had provided recommendations for action long ago with an opinion on scoring and digital sovereignty. And with regard to the EU copyright form, she has "put on a zigzag course that makes one dizzy".
Sometimes rough relationship with Seehofer
As the lead justice minister, Barley had backed the federal government's support for the reform and voted in favor of the draft in Brussels, which provides for an EU-wide ancillary copyright for press publishers and better contract terms for artists. As a European election campaigner, she left no doubt that she is against the controversial upload filters that could provide about on Youtube for censorship. Here Barley made an unfortunate figure.
As a natural opponent of Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU), she focused on the mutual humor. Recently, however, the tone became rougher, for example when Seehofer wanted to make it possible for the Office for the Protection of the Constitution to also supervise children under the age of 14. "Horst Seehofer and me are united by the will to work together in a fair way, even if we are politically divided," says the SPD politician.
Now the time in Berlin has expired for the mother of two sons. Barley leaves her successor with some heavy chunks. These include the company sanctions already agreed in the coalition agreement, which require companies to incur fines of up to ten percent of their annual turnover if there are structures that promote criminal behavior such as fraud, corruption or environmental crime.
Also as a discount, Barley has recently submitted a bill quickly for real estate purchases. Anyone who hires a broker here, must pay for the costs incurred, so their initiative. This "ordering principle" is intended to lower the acquisition-related costs and lead to more families being able to afford their own homes, especially when there is a shortage of housing in conurbations. The coalition partner, however, showed little enthusiasm for Barley's actionism in the final meters in office. She will no longer have to negotiate a compromise.
More: Federal Minister of Justice Barley understands the resentment over the new EU data protection rules – and brings relief for the economy into play.
. (tagsToTranslate) Katarina Barley (t) European Elections (t) EU (t) Minister of Justice (t) Facebook (t) Copyright Reform (t) Government (t) SPD (t) Alliance 90-The Greens (t) Federal Ministry of Justice (t ) Federal Ministry of Consumer Affairs (t) Ministry of the Interior (t) VW (t) FDP (t) Cambridge Analytica (t) YouTube (t) CSU (t) Federal Constitutional Court (t) Katarina Barley (t) Klaus Mueller (t) Horst Seehofer (t ) Tabea Rößner (t) Carles Puigdemont