How Flooding Impacts Politics

Flooded street

 

The political career of Ursula Heinen-Esser (CDU) will end for the time being. In a statement to the press scheduled at short notice, the NRW Minister for the Environment, Agriculture, Nature Conservation and Consumer Protection said: “I spoke with Prime Minister Hendrik Wüst this afternoon and offered him my resignation. And the prime minister has accepted his resignation.”

Mistake in Heinen-Esser’s ministry

In fact, during the flood disaster in the summer of 2021, mistakes were made in her department: Information from the state environmental agency subordinate to her house on rising river levels was formulated incomprehensibly. Communication within the ministry went awry during the disaster. Houses are now in need of water damage restoration like the ones available in Murrieta & Temecula.

But these circumstances are not the reason for her resignation. Heinen-Esser resigns on this day in April for her personal behavior during the flood, about which she has remained silent for too long.

“Scampi and white wine under the sun of Palma, while tens of thousands of people in our country sit in the dirt, that does not belong” – so bitingly formulated it in April, the SPD deputy Stefan Kämmerling. Because at the time of the disaster, Minister Heinen-Esser is on holiday in Mallorca. She interrupts it on 15 July and returns to NRW. This quickly becomes clear in the context of political enlightenment.

After 24 hours of departure from the disaster area on holiday

But only months later, after tough investigations by the investigative committee in the state parliament, Heinen-Esser will admit the following: After only 24 hours, when the flooded houses were still full of water, Heinen-Esser continued her Mallorca holiday – for nine days. Media reports finally revealed in April that she celebrated her husband’s birthday there. So the pressure becomes too great, Heinen-Esser resigns.

“There is no understanding for my actions last July,” she says in her statement in the afternoon. And: “I regret the image that my actions and the subsequent representation have created.”

But not only Heinen-Esser stumbles over her behavior last summer. Armin Laschet was then NRW Minister-President and Chancellor candidate for the CDU. And he laughs in the disaster area, while the Federal President expresses his condolences to the victims. The fact that the CDU ultimately loses the Bundestag election and Laschet does not become chancellor is also due to this laughter.

The political enlightenment has revealed many weaknesses in civil protection. Warnings were not passed on to the authorities, and large parts of the population were caught unprepared for the floods. Weather expert Jörg Kachelmann put it this way after his questioning in the parliamentary committee of inquiry: “It is very, very important that the authorities do their job next time. Nobody did their job this time, with the well-known consequences.”

 

ALSO READ: The Functions of Political Parties

 

Committee of Inquiry newly established in the Landtag

However, not all questions have been answered by the committee of inquiry – this is the opinion of Henning Höne, the parliamentary leader of the opposition FDP: “Specially commissioned expert reports could not be evaluated, witnesses could not even be summoned. Thousands of pages of files could not yet be evaluated.” Together with the SPD, his parliamentary group has therefore ensured that the committee of inquiry in the state parliament is re-established – because at the end of the legislative period it was automatically ended. The political enlightenment continues.

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