Cem Özdemir (German pronunciation: [ˌʤɛm ˈœzdɛmiʀ]; born 21
December 1965) is a German politician of the German political party
Alliance '90/The Greens.
Between 2008 and 2018, Özdemir served as co-chair of the Green Party,
Claudia Roth and later Simone Peter. He has been a
Member of the German
Bundestag since 2013 and he was a Member of the
Bundestag between 1994 and 2002 and of the European Parliament
between 2004 and 2009. He was standing as one of the top two Greens
candidates for the 2017 German federal election. Since 2018, he has
been serving as Chairman of the Committee on Transport.
1 Life and work
2 Political career
2.2 Member of the German Bundestag, 1994–2002
2.3 Member of the European Parliament, 2004–2009
2.4 Co-chair of the Green Party, 2009–2013
2.5 Member of the German Bundestag, 2013–present
3 Political positions
3.1 European integration
3.2 Relations with Russia
3.3 Relations with Turkey
3.4 Armenian genocide
3.5 Legalization of cannabis
3.6 The United Nations
3.7 Relations with the African continent
4 Other activities
8 External links
Life and work
Born in Bad Urach, a small town in the hills between
Cem Özdemir is the son of a Turkish gastarbeiter ("guest
worker") of Circassian provenance, hailing from Tokat, Turkey; in 1983
he and his immigrant parents acquired German citizenship. After
graduating from a German Hauptschule and a Realschule Özdemir
completed an apprenticeship, becoming an early childhood educator.
After qualifying for advanced technical college entrance he studied
social pedagogy at the Evangelical Technical College (Evangelische
Fachhochschule für Sozialwesen Reutlingen (de)) in Reutlingen,
Germany. After completing his studies in 1987,
Cem Özdemir worked as
an educator and a freelance journalist.
Özdemir describes himself as a "secular Muslim" and is married to
the Argentine journalist Pía María Castro. They have two children: a
son and a daughter.
Özdemir has been a member of the Green Party since 1981, originally
in the district chapter of Ludwigsburg. Between 1989 and 1994 he was a
member in the State Executive (Landesvorstand) of the Green Party in
Baden-Württemberg. During that time he was one of the founding
members of Immi-Grün – Bündnis der neuen InländerInnen, an
alliance of InländerInnen (locals), as opposed to the German word
Ausländer (foreigners).
Member of the German Bundestag, 1994–2002
From 1994 until 2002, Özdemir was a member of the German Bundestag;
along with Leyla Onur of the Social Democrats, he was the first person
of Turkish descent ever elected to the country's federal
parliament. From 1998 until 2002, he was a member of the
Committee on Home Affairs and served as his parliamentary group's
spokesperson on this issue. In this capacity, he advocated for reforms
to Germany's citizenship laws. In addition, he was the chairman of
the German-Turkish Parliamentary Friendship Group.
In 1999, nine months after the Greens for the first time joined a
German federal government under Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, Özdemir
was among 40 younger party members of the self-described "youth of the
second generation" who declared in a controversial manifesto "[that]
we cannot and will not idly watch the moralizing know-it-alls in our
party from the founding generation" around Jürgen Trittin.
In 2002, Özdemir was accused of violating parliamentary regulations
for retaining "Miles & More" frequent-flier miles accrued during
official travel as a member of the
Bundestag for personal use. He
was also criticised for having taken out a credit with Moritz
Hunzinger, a German PR consultant and lobbyist, in order to overcome
personal financial issues. This affair was also associated with Rudolf
Scharping, former German Minister of Defence (1998 – 2002).
Subsequently, Özdemir resigned as spokesman for domestic affairs and
as a member of the Bundestag.
In 2003, Özdemir joined the
German Marshall Fund
German Marshall Fund of the United States
Washington, D.C. and
Brussels as a Transatlantic Fellow. During his
fellowship he gave various speeches and brown bag lectures at the
University of Wisconsin-Madison, on the issue of Turkey and
Europe. He also researched on the ways that minority
groups in the United States and Europe organize themselves
Member of the European Parliament, 2004–2009
From 2004 until 2009, Özdemir was a Member of the European Parliament
in the parliamentary group The Greens/European Free Alliance
(Greens/EFA). During that time he served as the group's spokesperson
on foreign policy and a member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs
(AFET). In addition, he served as the European Parliament's rapporteur
on Central Asia and as vice chair of the Permanent Ad Hoc
Delegation for Relations with Iraq.
Between 2006 and 2007, Özdemir also served as vice president of the
"CIA Committee" (Temporary Committee on the alleged use of European
countries by the CIA for the transport and illegal detention of
Co-chair of the Green Party, 2009–2013
On 2 June 2008, Özdemir announced his candidacy as co-chair of his
party. Özdemir's rival candidate was Volker Ratzmann, leader of the
Green parliamentary group in the Berlin House of Representatives, who
eventually withdrew his candidacy on 4 September 2008 for personal
In the run-up to the party co-chair elections, Özdemir also ran for a
promising party list position for the 2009 German elections at the
federal state party conference of Baden-Württemberg. In two separate
runs he lost to his respective direct opponents. Nevertheless,
Özdemir adhered to his candidacy for the party chairmanship.[citation
Since 15 November 2008, Özdemir has been one of two co-chairs of
Alliance '90/The Greens. He received 79.2 percent of
the delegate votes.
In the 2009 elections, Özdemir was not elected to the Bundestag. As a
candidate in the constituency of
Stuttgart I, which covers south
Stuttgart he polled 29.9%, but lost to Stefan Kaufmann, the candidate
of the CDU.
Member of the German Bundestag, 2013–present
Özdemir re-entered the
Bundestag as a result of the 2013
elections. He serves as deputy chairman of the
German-Chinese Parliamentary Friendship Group. Since
2018, he has been chairing the Committee on Transport.
In 2011, Özdemir called for European Union citizens to get more
direct influence in European affairs via plebiscites on key policy
Amid the 2013 Cypriot financial crisis, Özdemir proposed making an EU
bailout for Cyprus conditional on reviving talks about reunification
of the island divided since 1974.
Relations with Russia
In 2011, Özdemir stepped down from the Quadriga Award's board of
trustees after the nonprofit group's decision to honor Prime Minister
Vladimir Putin of Russia sparked a public outcry; the group later
canceled its annual prize ceremony. After a two-day visit to
Armenia, Özdemir tweeted in reference to Armenia's recent accession
Eurasian Economic Union
Eurasian Economic Union that "The closer
towards Putin's Russia, the less freedom for media, NGOs, LGBT. People
want open society."
Relations with Turkey
Along with the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), Özdemir and his
Green Party support the accession of Turkey to the European Union.
When Özdemir criticised Prime Minister
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of
Turkey in a speech he delivered in Cologne in May 2014, Erdoğan
personally targeted Özdemir during one of his party's group meetings
in the parliament declaring him "a so-called Turk" and described his
criticisms as "very ugly." Upon Erdoğan's attacks, the Turkish
ambassador in Berlin, Hüseyin Avni Karslıoğlu, was summoned to the
German Foreign Office and was informed about Germany's unease on the
prime minister's remarks.
Soon after, Özdemir told
Spiegel Online it would be "irresponsible"
for German intelligence services not to target Turkey given its
location as a transit country for Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
militants from Europe.
On 12 March 2015 Özdemir visited the
Armenian Genocide memorial in
Yerevan, Armenia and declared his formal recognition of the Armenian
Genocide and called on Turkey to recognize it as well. In
an interview he stated: "I think that Germany should obviously refer
Armenian Genocide issue. As a friend of two countries, we
should help to open the Armenian-Turkish border. As a friend of both
countries, we should exert effort, so that the Armenian-Turkish
relations become like the French-German or Polish-German
In 2016 Özdemir initiated a resolution in the
Bundestag that would
formally classify the 1915 massacres as genocide. The resolution
passed on 2 June 2016 with what Speaker
Norbert Lammert called a
"remarkable majority." At the time, Özdemir emphasized that the
resolution was not designed to point fingers at others but rather to
acknowledge Germany's partial responsibility for the genocide. In
1915, the German Empire was an ally of the
Ottoman Empire and failed
to condemn the violence. After the Bundestag's approval of the
resolution he received multiple death threats.
Legalization of cannabis
Özdemir advocates legalizing cannabis. In December 2014, his
parliamentary immunity from prosecution was lifted when Berlin
prosecutors opened an investigation into suspected growing of drugs
Ice Bucket Challenge
Ice Bucket Challenge video showed him with a cannabis plant
in the background. In a subsequent interview with Westdeutsche
Allgemeine Zeitung, Özdemir stated that "in a free society it should
be up to each individual person to decide whether they want to consume
cannabis and take the associated risks."
The United Nations
Özdemir is a supporter of the Campaign for the Establishment of a
United Nations Parliamentary Assembly, an organisation which campaigns
for democratic reformation of the United Nations. He believes it is
necessary "to give voice to every citizen, woman and man, all over the
world; to create legitimacy by true representation, and to enhance
political responsibility of the states' leaders."
Relations with the African continent
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Özdemir has in the past voted in favor of German participation in
United Nations peacekeeping
United Nations peacekeeping missions as well as in United
Nations-mandated European Union peacekeeping missions on the African
continent, such as in Darfur/Sudan (2013, 2015 and 2016), South Sudan
(2013, 2015 and 2016), Mali (2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017), the Central
African Republic (2014) and Liberia (2015).
On Somalia, Özdemir has a mixed voting record. He has at times voted
in favor of
Operation Atalanta (2016 and 2017) but also abstained from
votes on extending the mandate for the mission (2014 and 2015). He
also voted against German participation in EUTM Somalia (2014) or
abstained (2015, 2016 and 2017).
Berlin office of the
American Jewish Committee
American Jewish Committee (AJC), Member of the
Think-Tank Das Progressive Zentrum, Member of the Circle of
Deutsche Telekom, Yes, I can! Initiative for Children and Young
People, Member of the Board of Trustees
European Council on Foreign Relations
European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), Founding Member
German Association for Small and Medium-Sized Businesses (BVMW),
Member of the Political Advisory Board
German-Turkish Forum of Stuttgart, Member of the Board of Trustees
Stiftung neue verantwortung, Member of the Presidium
Theodor Heuss Foundation, Member of the Board of Trustees
Amadeu Antonio Foundation, Founding Member
Berlin Center for Torture Victims, Member of the Advisory Board
ZDF, Member of the Television Board (2009–2013)
Foreign Policy magazine's 2011 List of Top Global Thinkers
Honorary doctorate of the
Tunceli University (2009)
Theodor Heuss Medal (1996)
Currywurst und Döner – Integration in Deutschland
Ich bin Inländer (autobiography) ISBN 3423361506
Die Türkei: Politik, Religion, Kultur ISBN 3407753438
^ a b c "Biography". Oezdemir.de. 13 October 2011. Retrieved 20
^ "Grüne Urwahl: Die Mitglieder entscheiden" [Green Primary: The
Alliance '90/The Greens
Alliance '90/The Greens (in German). Berlin, Germany.
Retrieved 16 October 2016.
^ Dempsey, Judy (16 November 2008). "Greens in Germany pick son of
Turks as leader". New York Times. Retrieved 20 October 2011.
^ Spiegel online, 15 October 2008: A Turk at the Top.
Cem Özdemir zum zweiten Mal Vater".
Spiegel Online (in
German). 5 December 2009.
^ a b Arena Profile:
Cem Özdemir Politico.
^ Tony Czuczka (30 September 2010), Turks in Germany Bridge Two Worlds
as Anti-Immigrant Voices Spark Debate Bloomberg News.
^ a b
Cem Özdemir Heinrich Böll Stiftung North America, press
release of 25 January 2013.
^ Edmund L. Andrews (7 July 1999), Old Greens In Germany Challenged By
Upstarts New York Times.
^ Desmond Butler (2 August 2002), Scandal Over Frequent-Flier Miles
Shakes Up German Politics New York Times.
^ "Bundestag: Bonusmeilen werden noch weiteren Abgeordneten um die
Ohren fliegen - SPIEGEL ONLINE - Nachrichten - Politik". Spiegel.de.
30 July 2002. Retrieved 20 October 2011.
^ "Hunzinger-Affäre: Özdemir erhielt Darlehen und PR-Honorar -
SPIEGEL ONLINE". Spiegel.de. 21 July 2002. Retrieved 25 January
^ Stephen Brown (25 September 2011), German opposition wants citizen
vote on EU issues Reuters.
^ a b Stephen Brown (20 March 2013), German Greens see risks in Cyprus
seeking Russian aid Reuters.
Nicholas Kulish (16 July 2011), German Group That Cited Putin as
‘Role Model’ Cancels Prize After Outcry New York Times.
Cem Özdemir [@cem_oezdemir] (14 March 2015). "After 2 days in
#Armenia: The closer
Yerevan moves twds #Putin's #Russia, the less
freedom f media, NGOs, #LGBT. People want open society" (Tweet) –
^ Selcuk Gultasli (13 June 2014), Erdogan’s new Turkey full of
'spies' and 'traitors' EUobserver.
^ Emre Peker and Harriet Torry (18 August 2014), Turkey Summons German
Ambassador Over Spying Claims Wall Street Journal.
^ "Özdemir'den 'soykırımı tanıma' çağrısı" (in Turkish).
Deutsche Welle. 12 March 2015. Archived from the original on 15 March
^ "Cem Özdemir'den 'soykırımı tanıma' çağrısı".
Turkish). 12 March 2015.
Cem Özdemir öyle bir çağrı yaptı ki…AKP çılgına
Taraf (in Turkish). 12 March 2015. Archived from the
original on 15 March 2015.
^ "Turkish-German Lawmaker Calls on Turkey to 'Face History'".
Asbarez. 13 March 2015.
Cem Özdemir speaks to DW about Armenia vote". Deutsche Welle. 2
^ Smale, Alison; Eddy, Melissa (2 June 2016). "German Parliament
Recognizes Armenian Genocide, Angering Turkey". The New York
Bundestag passes Armenia 'genocide' resolution unanimously, Turkey
recalls ambassador". Deutsche Welle. 2 June 2016.
^ Rick Noack (2 June 2016), Turkey protests Germany’s recognition of
Armenian ‘genocide’ Washington Post.
^ "Germany and the Armenian genocide: Name and shame". The Economist.
2 June 2016.
^ Porter, Tom (6 June 2016). "German MP under police guard after
Armenian genocide resolution". International Business Times.
^ "Personal police guard given to Turkish-origin German MP after
'Armenian genocide' bill".
Hürriyet Daily News. 6 June 2016.
^ Opposition Leader Faces
Cannabis Plant Investigation[dead link] New
York Times, 18 January 2015.
^ Bethan John (28 August 2014), German Green's ice bucket challenge
lights up dope debate Reuters.
^ "Statements". Campaign for a UN Parliamentary Assembly. Retrieved 28
^ Circle of Friends Das Progressive Zentrum.
^ Board of Trustees Theodor Heuss Foundation, Stuttgart.
^ "The FP Top 100 Global Thinkers". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 4
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