Preparing for the G7 Summit: The Chancellor’s Sherpa


Status: 06/23/2022 04:39 a.m

The G7 summit in Elmau begins on Sunday. For months, the Sherpas, the most important advisors to the heads of state and government, have been negotiating with one another behind the scenes. For Chancellor Scholz, this is the ex-banker Kukies.

By Evi Seibert, ARD Capital Studio

Normally you don’t need Sherpas in the Bavarian mountains. Unless the summit is called the G7. Then yes. For the Chancellor’s Sherpa, Jörg Kukies, that has meant traveling around and negotiating for months. And above all: Get to know the other Sherpas in the world. Because Kukies is just as new in office as the chancellor. That’s why when he travels with the chancellor to G7 countries, he always adds a day to visit his respective Sherpa colleague in person.

Kukies no longer has to get to know the Chancellor himself, he was already advising Scholz in his time in the Ministry of Finance. Kukies is a specialist, he was previously an investment banker at Goldman Sachs. After studying in Paris and Chicago, he made a career in the financial world.

From investment banker to chancellor advisor

Not necessarily a typical SPD career path. As a young man, Kukies was the head of Juso in Rhineland-Palatinate. Later, however, he did not take off as an international investment banker and remained connected to the domestic SPD. That’s how contact with Scholz came about at some point. The two got along well and Scholz convinced him to switch sides. Instead of big money on the international financial markets, it was now time to roll over files in the highest German tax authority.

So now: World politics in the Chancellery. Prepare contracts – and above all: negotiate through to a result. Often until the last minute, on the last night before the summit. This, in turn, is well-known territory for Kukies – there are also night meetings in the business world: “Contracts are often negotiated when the deadline is approaching. I remember my studies, when you didn’t hand in your work at twelve noon, but mostly shortly before Midnight. Deadlines can make a lot of sense,” says Kukies.

Ukraine, Pandemic and the Climate Club

This time it’s about a common position of the G7 on the Ukraine war, but also about the pandemic, the protection of democracies – and the climate. Germany would like to found a climate club. States that are leading the way in renewable energy. It won’t be easy because there are many different ideas and dependencies in the individual countries. The topic could become one of those night sessions, Kukies believes. His maxim when negotiating: “That everyone can go out and think: difficult but good result.”

In his previous job as an investment banker, Kukies certainly earned more than he does now in the Chancellery. But as a Sherpa, he has much broader responsibilities. It’s no longer just about money – it’s about the future: “It’s just a fascinating task when you work together with the largest and most important democracies and industrialized nations in the world to achieve climate neutrality – it’s just a great task,” means Kukies. There is hardly a higher political summit for a Sherpa.

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