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This article is part of a special report: Berlin in Brussels.
The election of Ursula von der Leyen as European Commission president was seen by many in Brussels as the naked confirmation of Germany’s political heft in the European Union. The truth is that the country has plenty of other arrows in its quiver.
As Berlin prepares to take on the six-month presidency of the Council of the EU, POLITICO has compiled a list of the most powerful Germans in the EU, grading them according to their importance in Brussels and at home.
Michael Clauss and Susanne Szech-Koundouros
The German ambassador to the EU and his deputy are poised to take on a prominent role during the presidency. As chairs of the so-called Coreper meetings of ambassadors, they’ll be well-placed to push for Berlin’s priorities as they seek compromises among EU countries.
Clauss, a passionate long-distance runner, will need plenty of endurance in the upcoming marathon negotiations on the EU budget and the other hot political files that will cross his desk, including foreign policy, trade, economic and financial issues, and Brexit. The native Hanoverian is known as an experienced deal-maker and is no stranger to the challenges and pitfalls of a Council presidency (this one will be his third).
His previous job as German ambassador to Beijing will also likely prove useful, as Chancellor Angela Merkel has pinpointed China as a foreign policy priority for the next six months.
The policy areas that will fall to his deputy — such as health and transport — are no less sensitive in the age of coronavirus.