Summer trips: Hubertus Heil scores goals, Steffi Lemke is looking for hamsters – politics

It has to be here somewhere, the field hamster. Steffi Lemke trudges in hiking boots through the stubble field, always after the farmer. Then they reach a fenced off small field, the barley is waist high. No plow comes in here, no combine harvester and no fox. One can assume, says the farmer enthusiastically, that “this is the largest field hamster population in Germany and Europe” – in the middle of the Börde.

You just don’t see it, the hard-working animal. The field hamster works in secret, that’s where he leaves his tracks. And Steffi Lemke, the Environment Minister from the Greens, should be familiar with that. She tours for three days East Germany, visited moors, river meadows, fields. She also wants to show “what’s important to me,” she says. Cameras are therefore always with us.

Running less than 20 kilometers away Hubertus Heil in the empty stadium of 1. FC Magdeburg and shoots the ball in a high arc into the upper left corner of the goal. The Magdeburger FFC goalkeeper doesn’t try very hard to prevent the goal, after all it’s supposed to be fun. A few penalties later, Heil comes back to the edge of the field. The Federal Minister of Labor is already slightly sweaty, and he also had to play in black leather shoes; shortly before the stadium the sole fell off one of his sneakers.

“The coolest thing about these tours is that you can sit anywhere”

A minister in hiking boots, a minister in front of the penalty spot – that’s what happens when the cabinet explores the republic on a “summer trip”. Every year in late summer, when parliamentary business in Berlin is still at a standstill, some federal ministers go on tour, always with a group of journalists and part of their team in tow. You choose one or two federal states and take the bus through the area.

Summer travel: Federal Minister of Labor Hubertus Heil (SPD) shoots on goal in the stadium of 1. FC Magdeburg.

Federal Minister of Labor Hubertus Heil (SPD) shoots at goal in the stadium of 1. FC Magdeburg.

(Photo: Basil Wegener/DPA)

The farmer in Börde has to hurry, the minister won’t be on his farm for long, and the schedule is tight. The colleague from the farmer’s newspaper quickly snaps a photo, that’s how long it takes: Lemke in front of a pile of peas. After all, the summer trip is always about pictures. The Minister of Labor scores goals, drives an ambulance, meets seniors at tablet courses and cuts down trees in the Harz mountains with forest workers in the harvester – which Heil summarized on Thursday with the sentence: “The best thing about these tours is that you can sit anywhere.” The pictures show ministers in action, on the front line, so to speak. These are images of a kind recently rarely seen by people like Lemke and Heil.

Both are victims in their own way. The Minister of Labor has already raised the minimum wage to twelve euros this year, a central promise made by his SPD and usually a big deal. But war, inflation and the energy crisis have been pushing even such legislative projects off the big stage for months. The summer trip gives Heil the opportunity to announce relief for those in need: They should continue to be able to easily apply for basic security.

In addition, the new citizens’ income is to be introduced at the turn of the year. The coalition is still arguing about Heil’s proposal; so it can’t hurt to bring yourself and the topic back into the conversation. In a way, he brought the journalists who could help him with him.

The Green Lemke is also struggling. Wherever she could act as an energetic fighter for environmental protection, she usually stepped on her own party friends’ toes: In the struggle between wind turbines and nature conservation, she would have to take on Robert Habeck, in the fight for more species protection in fields with Cem Özdemir. She hasn’t really sought out a dispute with the Transport Minister from the FDP, Volker Wissing. And if they did, it ended in a draw at best. Lemke doesn’t like conflict, she quietly seeks progress, just like the hamster.

But that doesn’t create a sharp profile, let alone fame. Sometimes that even makes people in their own ministry despair.

The tours are also visits to real life

But it would be doing the top politicians an injustice to claim that they only care about good photos and a bit of spotlight. In fact, even if the protagonists are well cast, the tours are also visits to everyday life, to citizens, entrepreneurs or volunteers. They see, so to speak, how their laws are received locally.

Heil enters the company Ambulanz Mobile in Schönebeck near Magdeburg on Thursday afternoon. Hans-Jürgen Schwarz welcomes him, the boss. The company builds ambulances and ambulances: They get the raw vehicles, then the interior work begins, from the stretcher to the blue light. “This is what it used to look like here,” says Schwarz, pointing to the photo in front of the company’s picture gallery with “1991” above it. They were six people who started on the site of the former VEB tractor factory. Your primary goal? “Not to become unemployed.” Today the company has 323 employees and it is difficult to find enough skilled workers.

On a tour of the company, Heil, who is currently working with Interior Minister Faeser on liberalizing immigration law, meets two Syrian employees. They came to Schönebeck as refugees in 2015. However, they should be sent back to Bulgaria after their training, because that’s where they first set foot on EU soil after their escape. Schwarz tells Heil how he pulled out all the stops and sent his assistant to Sofia until his two specialists were finally able to stay. Heil listens, nods and says that something is in the works about immigration law.

Summer trips: The Green Environment Minister Steffi Lemke gets an idea of ​​the environmental disaster on the German-Polish border river Oder.

Green Environment Minister Steffi Lemke gets an idea of ​​the environmental catastrophe on the German-Polish border river Oder.

(Photo: Patrick Pleul/DPA)

They are visits to reality. Lemke’s bus drives via Magdeburg to the Elbe meadows near Dessau. Lemke knows her way around here, it’s her home. After the Elbe floods, dikes were relocated here to give the river more space. Floodplains should be created, wet meadows, biotopes. But everything turned out a little differently than expected, explains the head of the biosphere reserve. Since then there hasn’t been too much water, but too little, the floodplains are dry. The usual cycle has been broken, explains a ranger, a flood every five to seven years, that’s over. It’s “unusual,” he says. “You can also say ‘catastrophic’,” Lemke adds quietly. Maybe too quiet.

And what is the labor minister up to during the day in the FC Magdeburg stadium? He met the founders of a start-up that makes it possible for people with visual impairments to experience a visit to the stadium: via an app that blind football fans can use to listen to the game as an audio report. Heil’s own career as a right-back at SV Adler Hämelerwald dates back quite a long time. On Thursday he said to the founders: “Thank you for getting me moving again.”

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