The call came from the freeway early Saturday morning. Jan Hecker used one of his few free days to visit his family – and when the kids were sleeping in the backseat again, the free minutes to call back the reporter, who during the week wanted to talk about his work with the new …
The call came from the freeway early Saturday morning. Jan Hecker took advantage of one of his few free days to visit his family – and when the kids were sleeping in the backseat again, the free minutes to call back the reporter, who during the week wanted to talk to the new US president about the time, Joe Biden, had asked. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s foreign policy adviser did not appear stressed. As always, it was the calm itself.
The incident says a lot about civil servant Jan Hecker. About the conscientiousness with which he patiently performed each task and asks without ever looking bored or surly. But also on how he tried to free up time for those who were most important to him, despite the insane workload of the control center of German politics. The world’s problems, he once said, had to wait until they made the children’s sandwiches in the morning.
This “adviser of deep humanity and extraordinary expertise”, as Angela Merkel now calls him, was not authorized and did not want to appear in public. The head of Department 2 of the Federal Chancellery has probably spoken to the press in the capital, which has known him during the Chancellor’s numerous trips, on foreign and security policy issues. But he never wanted to be cited, even though the sentence had only been awarded to “government circles” – on this point he was as loyal and secret as the Chancellor believes. And so what we had learned from him had to be indicated or circumscribed to find its place in the journal.
His word carried weight in the world. It is no exaggeration to say that he was Germany’s secret foreign minister alongside Social Democrat Heiko Maas. For many years, central geostrategic decisions have been taken less and less in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and more and more frequently in the Chancellery – the fact that foreign ministers have been relieved of EU summits with the treaty Lisbon did the rest. The foreign and security policy adviser to the head of the respective German government is therefore playing an increasingly important role. During US President Barack Obama’s farewell visit to Berlin, for example, he got out of the car to say goodbye to Christoph Heusgen, who was followed by Hecker in 2017.
For Merkel, the lawyer was the logical choice at the time. Their intensive cooperation had already started two years earlier, when the then head of the Chancellery, Peter Altmaier, remembered Hecker from old times at the Home Office, working there on migration policy. Merkel appointed him to head the refugee policy coordination team at the Chancellery. In this role, he developed the EU-Turkey agreement and a new African policy. Hecker, who had also been a judge at the Federal Administrative Court, moved to the nearest circle around Merkel.
As a foreign policy adviser, Jan Hecker was in close contact with all major government centers around the world. He sat next to Merkel during phone calls or breakout meetings. She has entrusted him with special missions on several occasions, in particular to probe whether a breakthrough could be successful during possible summits of certain heads of state and government. So it was in the run-up to the Berlin conference in Libya. Hecker has repeatedly tried to advance the Ukrainian conflict. That year, he spent a lot of time mediating between Athens and Ankara to prevent the military rattle from escalating in the Aegean Sea. Its last and final blow was to break open resistance against the German-Russian Nord Stream II pipeline with financial and diplomatic commitments.
Shortly before leaving office, Merkel found a new job for her longtime confidante. It was not until the end of August that Hecker began working as Ambassador of the Federal Republic to the People’s Republic of China. With this, the Chancellor wanted to ensure political continuity in relation to Beijing even after her departure.
Less than two weeks later on Monday, the federal government confirmed his “sudden death” in China, which had nothing to do with his work. The 54-year-old is survived by a wife, three children and a very sad Angela Merkel: “The death of Jan Hecker shakes me deeply.”