AGI Profiles: Carsten Schneider

Connor Spruell

Mr. Connor Spruell is a research intern at AICGS for the spring of 2022. He supports resident fellows with their research projects, manages databases, and helps organize and document AICGS events.

Mr. Spruell is pursuing a Master of Arts degree in International Affairs at American University’s School of International Service, with a regional focus on Europe and Eurasia. In his program, he concentrates on issues of nationalism and identity, and his interests include populism studies, nationalism, memory politics, and Transatlantic cooperation and security.

Mr. Spruell holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Affairs from the University of Georgia, where he minored in German. During his master’s program, Mr. Spruell spent a semester studying in Geneva at The Graduate Institute, Geneva, where he was part of an interdisciplinary social science and international affairs program. In his spare time, Mr. Spruell enjoys hiking and reading German poetry.

State Minister and Federal Commissioner for East Germany

Carsten Schneider, from Erfurt, Thuringia, was elected to the Bundestag in 1998. He was appointed State Minister and Federal Commissioner for East Germany (Staatsminister und Beauftragter der Bundesregierung für Ostdeutschland) in 2021 after serving as the SPD’s parliamentary faction chief executive (Erster Parlamentarischer Geschäftsführer der SPD-Bundestagsfraktion) from 2017 to 2021. Chancellor Scholz removed the office from the Federal Economics and Energy Ministry and instead placed it in the chancellery, where Mr. Schneider will report directly to Chancellor Scholz.  Mr. Schneider, in his various SPD roles, was critical of the Merkel government. As the SPD’s budget spokesman, he criticized former Labor Minister Ursula von der Leyen for requiring collateral from euro-area members requesting aid. Later, as the SPD’s acting chairman for the SPD’s parliamentary group, he also expressed concern when Angela Merkel used funds from the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) to help recapitalize banks rather than provide aid for eurozone states. In his new role, Mr. Schneider is advocating for increased informal democracy by bringing civil society groups together in Runde Tisch discussions, combating vaccine hesitancy and COVID demonstrations, and reaching out to AfD voters to try and bring them to the SPD.

However, there have been some concerns over his office; some claim that it could “delegate from the top” and not properly reach out to the new Länder and address their issues or that the office is no longer necessary and could be interpreted as further solidifying the differences between west and east Germany. There have also been concerns over Mr. Schneider’s own comments, such as claiming coronavirus demonstrations are an east German phenomenon or that east Germans lack “democratic praxis for negotiation and compromise.” Fellow politicians such as Sebastian Ehlers, a CDU member of the Landtag in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, called the remarks “embarrassing” and that demonstrations against COVID regulations are located “all over Germany.” Moreover, with the recent canceling of the Leipzig Book Festival, the bankruptcy of several shipyards in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, and Mr. Schneider’s emphasis on tours and speaking to people locally, questions have arisen about how effective his office will be in coordinating policy that takes east German interests into account. Schneider and his office will likely be under heavy scrutiny due to his past comments and the questions over the relevance and the effectiveness of the bureau in contemporary Germany.

The views expressed are those of the author(s) alone. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the American-German Institute.