Parliamentarian and lobbyist: the greatest of conflicts of interest

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Gero Hocker: FDP-Abgeordneter schließt Lobbyfirma - Politik - SZ.de

To make a career in post-ideological politics, one needs money and influential friends before ideas. Thus, those who choose a career as a political official and do not aspire to great governmental responsibilities have a highway of options and opportunities in front of them, provided they have a firm starting point behind them. An example of this type of career is the German MP Gero Hocker – a name that nobody knows, but the spokesman of one of the governing parties (the FDP, i.e. the liberal party) for all matters concerning agriculture and, before that, fisheries.

Born in 1975, with a degree in economics from Bremen, masters in New York, Canton and Adelaide, Hocker has been elected to the Bundestag since 2017[1] and is precisely the spokesman for food for the FDP fraction[2]. Hocker has a very solid organisation behind him: he is the president of the German Fishing Association (DFV Deutscher Fischerei-Verband)[3]. Before entering politics, Hocker was a financial advisor[4] and insurance consultant[5].

In politics, Hocker does not pay attention to appearances: in August 2020, he meets with representatives of the tobacco and fertiliser industry lobbies: Jan Mücke, Director General of the Tobacco Industry Association, and Ludwig Willnegger, who represents the interests of the Russian fertiliser company Eurochem in the European Union. They paid to have a live Facebook conversation with Hocker, who (although FDP spokesman for agriculture) in the circumstance proved to be a far from uncomfortable interlocutor for the two lobbyists[6].

The company paid for organising the meeting is Feinschliff Consulting GmbH Berlin, owned by Benjamin Berg and Christof Pein: Berg runs Hocker’s electoral office in Achim, in his constituency[7], while Pein is the head of Hocker’s Berlin office[8], as well as a municipal councillor in Achim[9]. The meeting comes at a time when the Bundestag is dealing with advertising bans for the tobacco industry, while the EU plans to reduce fertiliser use by 20%[10]. The outraged reactions of all political forces in the country, even of his own party, prompted Hocker to call for the dissolution of Feinschliff Consulting[11], which reopened in 2021 – with the same name and the same owners, but in the small town of Verden[12]. Even today, Berg and Pein contact potential interlocutors promising them meetings on Hocker’s web platform in return for adequate compensation. The sale to lobbyists of talks with an MP is also considered disconcerting by Timo Lange[13], spokesman for the Berlin-based Lobbycontrol association[14]. But nothing happens, Hocker can continue to play politics in his own style.

The effects: in the Bundestag, Hocker) appeals against stricter rules for the tobacco industry. As for Eurochem (which would lose billions of Euros with the European 20% cut in fertiliser use), Hocker writes an open letter to the then Minister for the Environment Svenja Schulze (SPD) in which he emphasises the need to use new technologies to secure crops[15]. This is not the first time: already in May 2020, Hocker sided with German farmers protesting against Schulze’s statements about the negative environmental impact of the massive use of fertilisers and pesticides[16].

AJC video calling for the inclusion of hezbollah in the list of groups recognised as terrorists by the European Union[17]

Gero Hocker has his back covered: he is a member of the AJC Transatlantic Friends of Israel Institute[18], a research institute of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), which aims to improve the integration and living conditions of the Jewish people in the context of the consolidation of US-EU-Israel relations[19] – and is a centre of pressure on Europe to follow the pro-Israel policy of the United States in the international arena[20]: Hocker is among the signatories of a declaration calling on the EU to consider Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Hezbollah as terrorists[21]. But the AJC aims to obtain arms sales to Israel, to justify genocide in Palestine, and other positions of the extreme right-wing government of Bibi Netanyahu[22].

So, Hocker continues: in 2022 he speaks out against the European Green Deal, which aims to cut the use of pesticides by 50 per cent by 2030, increasing the share of organic farming from 8 to 25 per cent – he says this is a measure that will lead to Europe’s food dependency[23]. In 2021, he participates in an online conference produced and promoted by Bayer (a chemical and agribusiness giant, engaged in a struggle for control of the world market for glyphosate[24]), in which he again points out that it is necessary to use Bayer/Monsanto group chemicals, because they increase crop yields[25]. The paths of Hocker and Bayer crossed already in 2018: during the livestock trade fair EuroTier, Hocker is photographed, smiling, together with the staff of the chemical industry[26].

In 2016, Monsanto patented the CRISPR-Cas9 technology, which can speed up and simplify the genetic transformation of seeds, creating plant organisms that are resistant to hostile weather conditions (drought, extreme heat or cold) and able to meet the nutritional needs of consumers who buy the fruits of those plants; environmentalists around the world immediately raised doubts about the possible consequences of the massive introduction of these genetically transformed plants[27]: They could be poisonous to insects or genetically transformed, reduce their numbers below the level necessary for the balance of the environmental cycle, or harm the animals and people who eat them[28].

Hocker is openly in favour of this technology[29]. In an interview, he states that declaring organisms treated with CRISPR-Cod9 as genetically modified (GMO) would be a mockery for the end consumer, inviting them to judge the product, instead of the label, by minimising safety issues[30]. The comment is related to the 2018 European Court of Justice ruling, which (rightly) equates the rules for genetically mutated organisms with those for all other types of food[31]. In 2019, Hocker, together with other FDP MPs, presents a motion in the Bundestag entitled ‘Recognising the opportunities of new breeding methods – For a genetic engineering law open to technology’, in which the merits of the CRISPR-Cas9[32] system are listed, and continues to declare himself in favour of chemical pesticides[33]

But if Hocker loves genetic mutants, nature’s true protagonists put him in open embarrassment: since 2015 he has been campaigning for the removal of the wolf from the list of protected species, motivated by the danger that the sudden increase in the wolf population will afflict pastoralism, and now (naturally) he is at the forefront of the battle to allow wild boar hunting even within the inhabited perimeters of cities – as the incursions of these animals, in search of food, increase in Germany as in the whole of Europe[34].

Since 2013, Hocker has been conspicuous for his anti-environmentalist statements: he denies human responsibility for climate change[35], advocates German energy autarchy – promoting the use of coal and nuclear energy, railing against NGOs that oppose new drilling in the North Sea in search of gas deposits, and more generally support the development of renewable energies[36]. According to Hocker, environmentalists are responsible for German industry’s dependence on Russian gas production[37].

Spring 2022: a pair of wolves walking through a Zurich suburb[38]

Once elected to the Bundestag, Hocker was elected to the board of KENFO, the Fund for the Financing of Nuclear Waste Disposal[39]: one of his goals is to introduce a ban on new wind turbines, which are guilty of exterminating birds[40], lowering people’s quality of life, and being superfluous to energy supply problems[41]. And so, of course, Hocker is not only against the closure (which has been planned for years) of Germany’s nuclear power plants, but is in favour of building new ones.

In his role as DFV president, Hocker is involved in the fishing quota debate between Germany, the UK and the EU[42]. The DFV represents the fishermen’s lobby, and Hocker is its spokesman in the Bundestag. Since 1983, Europe has allocated catch quotas to each EU country every year; this system, which aims to prevent fish stocks from falling below the immanent danger threshold for fish species, no longer works, causing serious depopulation of certain fish and bird species[43].

In order to preserve endangered species, fishing quotas allocated to individual countries have been drastically reduced over the years: in Germany, the quota of herring that can be fished was reduced by 94% between 2017 and 2021, and that of cod by 88%[44]. All this has a dramatic impact on small-scale coastal fisheries, which receive only 4% of the paltry national quotas from the German government, even though they account for 76% of the vessels[45]. The remainder is allocated to large industrial fishing vessels[46]. At the same time, Scandinavian countries are trying to ban other countries’ fishing vessels (including Germany) from their territorial waters[47], and Hocker is among those who have been fighting for a new trilateral agreement between Norway, the EU and the UK – finally reached in December 2022[48].

It was a complex negotiation, to which Hocker did not always contribute in a straightforward manner, since, in 2020, when the Bundestag is about to vote on a draft of that agreement, he vehemently opposes it: in the preparatory phase, Greenpeace dumped boulders into the sea to make it impossible for industrial fishing trawlers to trawl – a fact that Hocker, as a representative of small-scale fishermen, should have been pleased about. On the contrary, Hocker sides with the multinational fishing companies[49] and demands severe punishment for the Greenpeace activists[50].

These are fundamental issues. The fight over fishing quotas hides the central issue of the survival of fish in our seas: an issue of which small-scale fishermen are aware, but also inane spectators of a criminal exploitation of the seas by multinational companies that, at least apparently, are completely disinterested in the future of the oceans, and instead of planning the rebalancing of the fish fauna, so as to guarantee its existence for the following years, they fight for the last crumbs. The same applies to the lobbies for tobacco and genetically manipulated agricultural products: those who argue in favour of chemistry hide behind legal arguments, avoiding the central question, which is still unresolved: should industrial agriculture remain anarchically free to do as it pleases, or should there be precise boundaries?

Lobbying has precisely this objective: to succeed in getting something harmful to the population accepted by the state’s own democratic management systems. These people do not often break the law, but they are, always, monuments to cynicism.


[1] https://www.bundestag.de/abgeordnete/biografien/H/hocker_gero-857472

[2] https://www.fdpbt.de/koepfe-fdp-politiker-bundestag

[3] https://dafv.de/referate/aktuelles/item/271-dr-gero-hocker-ist-neuer-praesident-des-deutschen-fischerei-verbandes-dfv

[4] https://www.bwe-seminare.de/referenten-dr-gero-hocker

[5] https://www.bundestag.de/abgeordnete/biografien/H/hocker_gero-857472

[6] https://www.kreiszeitung.de/lokales/verden/achim-ort44553/kaeufliche-politik-hocker-unter-druck-90025276.html

[7] https://www.kreiszeitung.de/lokales/verden/achim-ort44553/hatte-fluechtlingswohnung-angeboten-fehlende-dusche-grund-5960088.html ; https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1215368401895992

[8] https://www.linkedin.com/in/christoph-pein-29b97a19a/?originalSubdomain=de

[9] https://www.bundestag.de/abgeordnete/biografien/H/hocker_gero-857472

[10] https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1215368401895992

[11] https://www.kreiszeitung.de/lokales/verden/achim-ort44553/kaeufliche-politik-hocker-unter-druck-90025276.html

[12] https://firmeneintrag.creditreform.de/27283/2012864316/FEINSCHLIFF_CONSULTING_GMBH

[13] https://www.nwzonline.de/politik/verden-berlin-lobbyismus-vorwuerfe-hat-gero-hocker-fuer-auftritte-honorar-bezogen_a_50,9,2154691608.html#

[14] https://www.lobbycontrol.de/autor/timo-lange/

[15] https://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/lobbyismus-bundestag-fdp-hocker-1.4995070

[16] https://www.agrarheute.com/politik/bauerndemos-geht-protesten-landwirte-569005

[17] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pImlNWFZw1E

[18] https://transatlanticinstitute.org/transatlantic-friends-israel/members

[19] https://transatlanticinstitute.org/about-us

[20] https://www.haaretz.com/2004-02-19/ty-article/an-american-jewish-lobby-at-the-european-union/0000017f-dee0-df62-a9ff-def794750000

[21] https://transatlanticinstitute.org/campaign/transatlantic-statement-iran

[22] https://www.mondialisation.ca/ajcs-transatlantic-institute-an-eu-pro%C2%AD-israel-lobby-aka-an-international-advocacy-group/5525911

[23] https://www.globalagriculture.org/whats-new/news/en.html?tx_sosnews_list%5Bpage%5D=2&cHash=27cc87541ccfc3bfc5d699fcbea080c8

[24] https://www.bayer.com/de/roundup-rechtsstreitigkeiten-fuenf-punkte-plan

[25] https://www.bayer.com/de/de/btw21-live-talk-wie-die-landwirtschaft-zukunftsfaehig-wird

[26] https://mobile.twitter.com/gesundheitbayer/status/1063064034038161408

[27] https://www.statnews.com/2016/09/22/monsanto-licenses-crispr/

[28] https://www.broadinstitute.org/news/licensing-crispr-agriculture-policy-considerations

[29] https://twitter.com/gerohocker/status/1076524001923645440

[30] https://www.deutschlandfunk.de/gentechnik-urteil-landwirte-werden-von-innovationen-100.html

[31] https://curia.europa.eu/jcms/upload/docs/application/pdf/2018-07/cp180111en.pdf

[32] https://dserver.bundestag.de/btd/19/101/1910166.pdf

[33] https://www.agra.de/age-kompakt/ansicht/news/hocker-chemischer-pflanzenschutz-ist-weiter-notwendig

[34] https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1345230595576438 ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWHPJJg39H4 ; https://www.jaegermagazin.de/jagd-aktuell/woelfe-in-deutschland/wolf-und-politik-interview-mit-gero-hocker/2/

[35] https://www.kreiszeitung.de/lokales/verden/verden-ort47274/klima-hocker-satz-2013-wird-nicht-wiederholt-13178483.html

[36] https://www.facebook.com/hockergero/posts/kernenergie-kohle-und-gas-seit-jahrzehnten-hat-sich-deutschland-sukzessive-von-g/4643961865703278/

[37] https://mobile.twitter.com/GeroHocker/status/1542034551777681410

[38] https://www.defacto.expert/2019/05/08/im-schatten-des-wolfes/?print=print

[39] https://www.kenfo.de/der-fonds/organe-und-gremien

[40] https://www.myheimat.de/bad-grund-harz/c-politik/gero-hocker-toetung-von-voegeln-durch-windkraftanlagen-wird-ausgeweitet_a2821898

[41] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DJOTskh7Pn4ù ; https://www.weserbergland-nachrichten.de/nienburg/8658-2016-03-09-14-57-47

[42] https://www.deutsche-flagge.de/de/aktuelles/nachrichten-archiv/nachrichten-2021/fangquoten-fuer-2022-sorgen-fuer-entsetzen-bei-ostseefischern

[43] https://www.bund.net/meere/fischerei/fischereipolitik/

[44] https://www.deutsche-flagge.de/de/aktuelles/nachrichten-archiv/nachrichten-2021/fangquoten-fuer-2022-sorgen-fuer-entsetzen-bei-ostseefischern

[45] https://www.bund.net/meere/fischerei/fischereipolitik/

[46] https://www.bund.net/meere/fischerei/fischereipolitik/

[47] https://www.abendblatt.de/region/mecklenburg-vorpommern/article232798435/Deutsche-Fischer-fuerchten-Konfrontation-mit-Norwegen.html

[48] https://www.fishfarmermagazine.com/news/norway-reaches-fishing-deal-with-uk-and-eu/#:~:text=The%20cod%20quota%20was%20set,record%20low%20level%20in%202022

[49] Greenpeace, the fishermen and the heavy stones

[50] Crimes as a strategy

IBI World Limited

IBI World Limited

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