Politician Edmund Stoiber: “I never thought about the career.”
Much is known about Edmund Stoiber – especially from his time as minister president of Bavaria. But how did it happen that a Bavarian James Dean fan, who actually wanted to be a lawyer and took additional courses at the Bavarian School of Public Policy, became one of the most important contemporary politicians? “Coincidence,” says Edmund Stoiber. Could everything have turned out differently? Yes – if his skills and achievements hadn’t made important people trust him in the right situations. This is how his success story developed step by step. What were the turning points and who were the key figures? We follow the trail…
Dr. Stoiber, today you return to the Bavarian School of Public Policy, where you studied more than 55 years ago. How did you become a student here?
I actually wanted to become a public prosecutor or a lawyer and decided to study Law. But since I was also very interested in politics, I started studying that at the same time. There are certain links between Political Science and Law. In 1962, I started to study at the School of Public Policy, at that time in the elementary school in Amalienstraße. The lectures were from five o’clock in the evening to nine, ten – sometimes half past ten. The students were a special species, a highly interested and motivated student body. And it was also particularly interesting because there were people who did not have their Abitur (high-school diploma allowing entrance to university). In contrast to Germany today, only about three percent of the population received the Abitur every year at that time.
Did you finish your studies in Political Science?
No, Law always took precedence. I do not come from an academic household. My father was a technical sales- man and my mother worked in a chemical laboratory. It was important to her that I study, though it was incredi- bly difficult for the family economically. School fees and train tickets had to be paid. That was a special effort giv- en the meager funds we had available then – my father was unemployed. But if you get the opportunity to study, you have to use it. And I thought, “If you pass the exams with good marks, then you have a good chance, too.” That’s why I focused on the state exam. I also worked alongside. Of course, it wasn’t possible to combine everything, so I had to suspend my political studies after five semesters. I wanted to take the exam at the School of Public Policy later, but never completed my studies. I always say, “I did not finish it academically, but practically.” And I’m proud to have studied here.
Is it true that as a teenager, you weren’t interested in politics? James Dean and Elvis were your heroes, not Konrad Adenauer.
Yes, James Dean and Elvis Presley, those were my teenage idols. Let me put it this way: I come from a conservative household and experienced all the problems of post-war society, including poverty. Many people didn’t want to have anything to do with the past after the war and were not so political. They had enough to do with their lives.
But they nonetheless cared about your political opinions at home?
Yes. That was unusual. We sat in front of the radio and followed the Bundestag debate on the introduction of the Bundeswehr. That was one of the most passionate debates in the German Bundestag that I have ever heard. And I was “obliged” to listen to it because we only had one living room and three children together in one bedroom. I was eleven years old then. My sister Hannelore was seven years older and was in the final year of high school. She followed the debate with great interest. Dominant as she was, she turned on the radio. The end of the war was only seven years before. Many prisoners of war were not yet home and there was endless suffering everywhere. In my school’s annual report, more than half of the students’ fathers were listed as “missing” or “fallen.” At that time there was the biggest demonstration against Adenauer. There has never been a larger demonstration in Germany.
If your sister had not been so interested in politics …
Perhaps I wouldn’t have turned to it myself. But it also interested me then. My sister explained what it was about. We had a very political household. My father discussed his views with us. My mother was a very conservative Catholic. Maybe the seed was sewn there. The consequence of this was that in 1958, at the age of 17, I joined the Junge Union (young conservatives) inRosenheim. But I was more of a member on paper than anything else. I did not have a car and the train connection was not so good. In 1962, when I started studying, I joined the Christian Democratic students’ organization.
When you passed your state exam, you started in the newly founded Bavarian Ministry of the Environ- ment. During your studies, did you plan to work in a ministry as a lawyer?
If you had good grades on the state examination in Ba- varia, you automatically received an interview invitation from all ministries. Since I knew that, I thought back then that I could at least start in a ministry at the begining and later take on another career. But, honestly, I did not think I would have such a political career.
You were politically active and did not think at the time of a political career?
Not really. After my oral exam, a department head from the Ministry of the Environment came to see me and said he was looking for two lawyers for the legal de- partment. Actually, I wanted to go to the Ministry of the Interior or the Ministry of Finance – this was the classic way. But the Ministry of the Environment had been reconstructed at the time, and I thought I might have more possibilities and opportunities there.
During the job interview at the Ministry of the Environment you may have been asked the most decisive question of your political career.
Yes. The conversation was a little different than I expected. The personnel officer said he was very interested in me because of my exam grade and CV. But most of all he had seen in my papers that I was a member of the RCDS and the Junge Union, and he suddenly asked me: “Can you also write speeches?” I was a bit perplexed and replied: “I haven’t ever done it. I have already given a few speeches. But I do not know how to write speeches. I’m primarily interested in your legal department.” But he said, “No. We’re building a political department right now, and we need young people to deliver excerpts to the minister.”
You started as an assessor. Then came the day when you had to write your first speech for the Environment Minister, Max Streibl.
That wasn’t so easy. I had 14 days. The topic was “Regional planning and spatial planning using the example of Middle Franconia” – a complicated topic for someone starting from scratch and with no idea about regional planning. I had big problems. The new Ministry of the Environment still did not have any of the basics in place and necessities in place, nor many documents. So I went to the state library, which I knew from my studies, and I made myself knowledgeable there.
And how did it go?
After I handed in the speech, the secretary of the minis- ter reported to me and said that Minister Streibl wanted to speak to me. I was briefly shocked and sat petrified in my room. I thought, “For God’s sake, what did I do?” When I finally got to Max Streibl’s office, he said, “Oh, you’re the one. I wanted to talk to you anyway.” He knew me as a foot soldier, so to speak, of the Junge Union. At some point we had met before. Then he said that he really liked my speech and asked me, “Do you want to work for me in the ministry office?” I said, “Yes – that’s a special challenge, of course.”
You accepted the offer?
Yes. And it significantly intensified my political activities. For many years, Streibl was General Secretary and District Chairman of the CSU of Upper Bavaria. He was someone who embodied the future at that time, including that of the CSU. That’s when I got into situations and had to deal with people I would never otherwise have had anything to do with.
Franz Josef Strauß. He was then the fiscal spokesman for the CDU / CSU parliamentary group and party chair- man. He wanted to talk to Max Streibl but he couldn’t reach him. Suddenly I had him on the phone. And when you suddenly talk to Franz Josef Strauß as a young man about a topic that was on the front page of newspapers at the time – that’s something special. This also meant that I became more politically involved and developed.
That really sounds like a decisive experience for you.
I’m surprised I still remember. But those were my first big steps. If I had stayed in the legal department, I might have become a ministerial councilor and long since retired. I don’t know if I would have gone into politics.
So, while you worked for Max Streibl, you started to establish yourself on the political scene in the CSU?
Yes, I was very close to Max Streibl and grew more and more into politics. In 1973, as a young man, I became a candidate for the state parliament of the CSU. This was also a coincidence. I came from the small district Wolfratshausen. The majority of the voters in the constituency of Miesbach-Wolfratshausen were from Miesbach, and my opponent was the district chairman of the CSU Miesbach. He was a successful young man. I was chairman of the Junge Union of Bad Tölz-Wolfrats- hausen. Regional differences clashed. In the end, I was proposed in a hard assembly that lasted six hours. That was no longer academic politics, but practical politics. In the subsequent election, I was elected as a member of the state parliament. As an office manager for Streibl, I knew my way around and was also his personal speaker in the state parliament. This allowed me to establish myself very quickly in our faction. Only four years later, Strauß surprisingly appointed me general secretary.
You have already had impressive career so far though, so it can’t have been a huge surprise?
Yes, it was. I hardly knew Strauß. Once a year there was a meeting with the officials of his former constitu- ency. He might have noticed me there. When I was in the state parliament, after we lost the federal election in 1976, I declared publicly: “Strauß must become Minister President.” The established members of the group thought otherwise. I was ready to endure their displeasure. In 1978, Strauß actually became Minister President. Some time later – I had already been elected to the parliament for the second time – the head of Strauß’ office came to me and told me to come around to Strauß’ home in the evening. There, Strauß told me that he wanted to make me CSU General Secretary. I almost fell off my chair. I said I needed to think about it.
How did he react?
He reacted in a quite surly fashion. I said that I wasn’t sure if I would be up to the job. Maybe it would be wiser if I first became a state secretary. He looked at me completely dumbfounded. “How did you get that idea? State secretaries, they come in spades. There is only one general secretary.”
Was that the moment you realized you were about to embark on a big career in politics?
No, I wasn’t really thinking about my career at that mo- ment. But my entry into politics before that – my candi- dacy to become an MP – in 1973, was a very deliberate decision. From there, I was quickly noticed in the state parliament. Not only because I called upon the incum- bent Minister President to step down but because I made very political speeches. Whenever I talked there was always a bit of a hoo-ha.
Five years after that decision you became the General Secretary.
At the age of 36. As General Secretary you go from zero to one hundred. You are then, at that time alongside Strauß, in the big leagues. It meant Bonn and Munich became my fields of work. There were many debates in which I had to prove myself and so I attracted a certain nationwide level of attention. Strauß was traveling a lot and I told him at some point that the situation couldn’t continue as it was and that the State Chancellery need- ed a director. Not the formal deputy minister president, but rather a political director who could represent him. I suggested two veritable ministers to him. He considered my idea good in principle and replied, “You do that.” I said, “I cannot do that. I am General Secretary.” We were close to the 1983 general election, so it was out of the question that I might step down from that position.
You remained General Secretary of the CSU.
I remained General Secretary and I also became Director of the State Chancellery with 350 civil servants under me. I was Strauß’ left and right hand. It was a very busy time,but I learnt an incredible amount. And so it went on and on and on. My subsequent career steps are known.
And on it goes still. This year you turn 77 and you are still active. Is retirement not an option?
I am a lawyer and I represent a number of clients. On the other hand, I am Honorary Chairman of the CSU. I’m not inside the party anymore, so to say, but I’m also not outside. It seems I’ve become a bit of a legend in the party. As Honorary Chairman and as a senior gentleman, I get somewhat inundated by invitations – despite the fact that I haven’t had any official function for a long time. Whether I go depends on my enthusi- asm and the state of my health.
Since 2014, the School of Public Policy (HfP) has come under the mantle of TUM. This made you, like all other former HfP Alumni, a TUM Alumnus. You have often supported TUM.
A key experience for me was the 125th anniversary of TUM in 1993. That is when I gave one of my first big speeches as Minister President. The former TUM Presi- dent Otto Meitinger drew my attention to his successor, the young chemist and Leibniz Prize winner Wolfgang A. Herrmann. I have a tremendous affinity for technology. Innovation is essential. You need to have the courage to change. In me Herrmann found a man who supported his ideas and was willing to carry out a fundamental university reform in Bavaria. Of course, I also always followed the course of the HfP. At first, I thought it was a strange idea for it to become part of TUM, but Herrmann made the argument very persuasively and was therefore able to save the School of Public Policy. Thus, the circle closes, and I sit opposite you today at my former place of study.
Dr. Dr. h.c. Edmund Stoiber
Student of School of Public Policy 1962 – 1965
Edmund Stoiber is a lawyer, Honorary Chairman of the CSU, husband, father of three children and grand- father of seven grandchildren. He grew up in a work- ing-class family in post-war Germany in the Upper Bavarian village of Oberaudorf. After graduating from high school, he studied law at the Ludwig-Maximil- ians-Universität München and political science at the School of Public Policy. In 1968, while completing his legal clerkship, he married his wife Karin. He then completed a doctorate at the University of Regens- burg. After his state examination in 1971, he worked in the Ministry of the Environment as an assessor. He began his political career at the Ring Christlich- Demokratischer Studenten (Association of Christian Democratic Students) and the Junge Union. He en- tered the Bavarian state parliament in 1974. From 1978 to 1983 he was CSU General Secretary. In 1993 he be- came Minister President of the Free State of Bavaria. In 2002, he was the CSU/ CDU candidate for Chancellor in the general election, which was narrowly won by Gerhard Schröder (SPD). He remained minister presi- dent of the CSU until 2007. He then headed a Europe- an Commission working group for reducing bureau- cracy. Currently he represents several clients as a lawyer, he is Honorary Chairman of the CSU and a member of various supervisory boards. He is proud to be a member of the supervisory board of soccer team Bayern Munich. Both during his time as Bavarian Min- ister President and afterwards, he gave substantial support to TUM. He made it possible to extend sub- way line 6 to TUM Campus Garching and he helped found the Straubing Science Center. In 2017 he was appointed an honorary senator of TUM.