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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Olaf Scholz picks top EU, economic and foreign advisers: official

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German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has chosen top aides for his chancellery, picking Jörg Kukies for a dual role as economic and EU adviser and Jens Plötner as foreign and security policy adviser, an official close to Scholz told POLITICO Wednesday.

The news of the two nominations comes the same day as Scholz was elected and sworn in by the German Bundestag as the country’s ninth post-war chancellor, heralding a new political era after 16 years of conservative-led rule under Angela Merkel.

In a major promotion, Kukies, a former Goldman Sachs banker and financial market and Europe adviser under Scholz’s previous tenure as finance minister, will take up the powerful role of advising Scholz on economic and financial policy as well as European affairs — a job that is usually handled by two different aides.

The choice of Plötner, reported exclusively by POLITICO, brings a long-serving career diplomat to a top position as foreign and security policy adviser: The northern German from the city of Eutin has held postings as ambassador in Sri Lanka and Tunisia as well as a role as foreign ministry spokesperson from 2007 to 2009. He also worked as chief of staff for former Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, now German president, from 2014 to 2017.

Since April 2019, Plötner has been a political director in the foreign ministry, dealing with a whole portfolio of top-level foreign policy issues. These range from diplomatic relations with the U.S., Russia, Turkey and the Western Balkans to EU foreign and security policy to cooperation with NATO and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

Kukies, a passionate fan of his hometown football club FSV Mainz 05, earned a lot of international credit over the past two years as one of the architects behind the EU’s coronavirus recovery fund.

His new job will involve a lot of international travel well beyond Brussels, Paris and other European capitals: As Scholz’s so-called “sherpa,” Kukies will have to prepare, together with his international counterparts, for major gatherings such as the G7 or G20 summits.

The German daily Handelsblatt was first to report about Kukies’ double job.

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