Dr. Michael Jansen

Germany

Lawyer, diplomat, former Head of the Office of the Federal President

DAAD Scholarship 1968–1969

Dr. Michael Jansen DAAD


Michael Jansen was No. 2 in the Office of the Federal President – second only to the Federal President himself – from 1 July 2004 to 1 March 2006. On reaching the age limit of 65, Jansen retired from this office. He was the state secretary for Germany's Federal President Horst Köhler (CDU) and was in charge of his office – and not only that. Although Jansen is a signed-up member of the CDU, his position meant that he was also be allowed to sit in on the strictly confidential cabinet meetings of the SPD-Green and later CDU/CSU-SPD coalition governments.

I've learnt to reach consensus through a cooperative approach.
Michael Jansen

Born in 1941, the former top civil servant has plenty of political experience. Jansen was born in Athens as the son of a German diplomat, read law in Bonn, Cologne and Washington, and, as a DAAD Scholarship holder, studied administration at the prestigious École Nationale d'Administration (ENA) in Paris. As a member of Federal Foreign Office staff, he gained his first career experience in Spain, Brussels and Venezuela. He wrote speeches for Federal President Carl Carstens, who was in office from 1979 to 1984, and in the 1980s climbed the career ladder at the Federal Foreign Office under Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher to become head of the Ministerial Office and director of the Executive Management Unit. In 1989 he successfully negotiated with the Hungarian government on the opening of the border for thousands of East Germans.

1990 saw Jansen move to the Executive Board of Degussa as a general representative for the company with full power of attorney. While there, he opened the company archives to a team of historians so that they could study the firm's history during the Nazi era and break the silence on its "brown" past. During the Hitler regime, Degussa processed the dental gold of extermination camp inmates who had been murdered. In 1991, when Iraqi rockets rained on Israel, Jansen spontaneously visited the Jewish country as a sign of solidarity.

In September 2000, the lawyer became chairman of the Board of Directors of the Remembrance, Responsibility and Future Foundation, which was responsible for paying financial compensation to former forced labourers under the Nazis. Until the middle of 2006, almost all of the available 4.32 billion euros was paid out for over 1.66 million former forced labourers. A great deal of tact and sensitivity is required in this work, which Jansen has continued in high-ranking positions – for example, as interim chairman of the Board of Trustees in 2015. When he was once asked about how he dealt with conflicts, he replied that he had learnt how to reach consensus through a cooperative approach.