Katarina Barley

Katarina Barley (born 19 November 1968) is a German politician and lawyer who has been a Member of the European Parliament since 2019. She served as Federal Minister of Justice and Consumer Protection and as Federal Minister of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth in the fourth Cabinet of Angela Merkel.[1] Prior to that, she had served as acting Federal Minister of Labour and Social Affairs from 28 September 2017, both until 14 March 2018.[2]

Katarina Barley
Katarina Barley-4934.jpg
Barley in 2018
Fourth Vice President of the European Parliament
Assumed office
3 July 2019
PresidentDavid Sassoli
Preceded byRainer Wieland
Member of the European Parliament
Assumed office
2 July 2019
Minister of Justice and Consumer Protection
In office
14 March 2018 – 27 June 2019
ChancellorAngela Merkel
Preceded byHeiko Maas
Succeeded byChristine Lambrecht
Minister of Labour and Social Affairs
In office
28 September 2017 – 14 March 2018
ChancellorAngela Merkel
Preceded byAndrea Nahles
Succeeded byHubertus Heil
Minister of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth
In office
2 June 2017 – 14 March 2018
ChancellorAngela Merkel
Preceded byManuela Schwesig
Succeeded byFranziska Giffey
Secretary General of the Social Democratic Party
In office
11 December 2015 – 2 June 2017
LeaderSigmar Gabriel
Martin Schulz
Preceded byYasmin Fahimi
Succeeded byHubertus Heil
Member of the Bundestag
for Trier and Trier-Saarburg
In office
22 September 2013 – 2019
Succeeded byIsabel Mackensen
Personal details
Born (1968-11-19) 19 November 1968 (age 52)
Cologne, West Germany (now Germany)
Political partySocial Democratic Party
Alma materUniversity of Marburg
University of South Paris
University of Münster

A member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, Barley served as a member of the Bundestag from 2013 until 2019 and was Secretary-General of her party from 2015 to 2017. She holds law degrees from France and Germany and a doctorate in European law, and formerly worked as a corporate lawyer with the law firm Wessing & Berenberg-Gossler in Hamburg, as a judge and as a governmental legal adviser. Barley holds citizenship of both Germany and Britain.[3]


Barley grew up in Cologne; her father was an English-born journalist who worked with the English-language service of Germany's international broadcaster, the Deutsche Welle, and her mother was a German physician.[4] From birth she only held British citizenship and acquired German citizenship some years later.[5] She is fluent in German, English and French.[6]

Her father (born 1935) was originally from Lincolnshire.[7][8] She has said her father grew up in a working-class family on a very small and simple farm that lacked electricity, and that he was awarded a scholarship to attend university after being discovered as a talented pupil by his teacher; however after being turned down by the University of Cambridge, he decided as a matter of principle to turn his back on British universities and move to West Germany to attend university instead; he first moved to Hanover and later to West Berlin, where he found society to be more egalitarian and progressive. In Germany he met Barley's mother and was employed as a journalist with Deutsche Welle's English service in Cologne after graduating. Her mother (born 1940) belonged to an upper-middle-class family from eastern Germany and was the daughter of an engineer in the automotive industry; her family fled the Red Army in 1945 and came as refugees from Stalinism to western Germany.[7] Barley has said that she had a happy childhood, but that she grew up with a strong sense of social justice, influenced by her parents' experiences. Although neither of her parents were born in that part of Europe, she identifies culturally as a Rhinelander.[5][9]

Education and early careerEdit

Barley studied at the University of Marburg and the University of Paris-Sud. She graduated with a French law degree (Diplôme de droit français) in 1990 and a German law degree in 1993. In 1998 she earned a doctoral degree in European law at the University of Münster. Supervised by Bodo Pieroth, her thesis was on the constitutional right of citizens of the European Union to vote in municipal elections.

She was called to the bar in 1998 and worked as a lawyer with the major Hamburg corporate law firm Wessing & Berenberg-Gossler (now Taylor Wessing, following the merger with a British law firm) until 1999. She then worked as a legal adviser for the state government of Rhineland-Palatinate until 2001, when she became an assistant to constitutional judge Renate Jaeger in Karlsruhe.[10] She worked in Luxembourg as a German representative to the Maison de la Grande Région/Haus der Großregion, a cooperation forum for Luxembourg and neighbouring German, French and Belgian regions, from 2005 to 2006.

From 2007 to 2008 she was a judge of the Trier district court and at the Wittlich local court. From 2008 to 2013 she was an adviser on bioethics to the Rhineland-Palatinate State Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection. She left this position when she was elected to Parliament in 2013.[11]

Political careerEdit

Katarina Barley

Barley joined the Social Democratic Party of Germany in 1994.[8]

In her parliamentary work, Barley represents the constituency of Trier for the Social Democratic Party of Germany.

Barley served as a member of the parliament's Council of Elders, which – among other duties – determines daily legislative agenda items and assigning committee chairpersons based on party representation. She was also a member of the parliamentary body in charge of appointing judges to the Highest Courts of Justice, namely the Federal Court of Justice (BGH), the Federal Administrative Court (BVerwG), the Federal Fiscal Court (BFH), the Federal Labour Court (BAG), and the Federal Social Court (BSG). In 2014, she was appointed to serve on the Committee on the Election of Judges (Wahlausschuss), which is in charge of appointing judges to the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany. On the Committee on Legal Affairs and Consumer Protection, she served as her parliamentary group's rapporteur on voluntary euthanasia.

In 2014, Barley briefly served as a member of the Committee on the Affairs of the European Union. In addition to her committee assignments, she is a member of the German-British Parliamentary Friendship Group.

Within the SPD parliamentary group, Barley belongs to the Parliamentary Left, a left-wing movement.[12]

In 2015, Barley was proposed by party chairman Sigmar Gabriel to succeed Yasmin Fahimi in the role of general secretary of the SPD, one of the party's most senior positions.[13] From March 2017, she served under the leadership of Martin Schulz and managed the launch of the party's campaign for the national elections.

Federal Minister, 2017–2019Edit

In May 2017, Schulz announced that Barley would succeed Manuela Schwesig as Federal Minister of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth for the remainder of the legislative term until the elections.[14] She was appointed on 2 June. She additionally became acting Federal Minister of Labour and Social Affairs on 28 September 2017, when Andrea Nahles stepped down to become the parliamentary leader of the SPD.[15]

On 9 March 2018, Barley was named by Andrea Nahles and Olaf Scholz to succeed Heiko Maas as Minister of Justice and Consumer Protection in the fourth coalition government under the leadership of Chancellor Angela Merkel, sworn in on 14 March 2018.[16]

Member of the European Parliament, 2019–presentEdit

In October 2018, the SPD announced that Barley would be the party's lead candidate for the 2019 European elections.[17]

Since becoming a Member of the European Parliament, Barley has been serving as one of its Vice-Presidents; in this capacity, she is part of the Parliament's leadership under President David Sassoli.[18] She also joined the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs. In addition to her committee assignments, she is a member of the European Parliament Intergroup on LGBT Rights[19]

Political positionsEdit

Barley is a member of the Europa-Union Deutschland.[20] In October 2018, she demanded to end the border controls at the German-Austrian border that Germany introduced as a reaction to the European migrant crisis "soon" to ensure a "working European Single Market". She called for a "European solution" and protection of the European external borders instead.[21]

In a joint letter initiated by Norbert Röttgen and Anthony Gonzalez ahead of the 47th G7 summit in 2021, Barley joined some 70 legislators from Europe and the US in calling upon their leaders to take a tough stance on China and to "avoid becoming dependent" on the country for technology including artificial intelligence and 5G.[22]


During an interview for the Deutschlandfunk Radio, Barley has called for the "financial starvation" of Poland and Hungary in the response to not respecting the rule of law in Poland. The comments were highly controversial especially in Poland and the Polish prime minister's chief of staff Michał Dworczyk said that the vice president of the European Parliament, Katarina Barley's statement about Poland and Hungary was “shameful” and evoked "the worst possible historical associations.” He went on to quip, "Germans indeed have experience in starving and persecution". Mateusz Morawiecki, prime minister of Poland, said on the words of Barley: "A diplomatic scandal. Germans should remember starvations and genocides [caused by them]".[23][24][25][26]

Other activitiesEdit

Personal lifeEdit

Barley's former husband Antonio, a lawyer, is a dual Spanish and Dutch citizen with a Spanish father and a Dutch mother; they met when they both studied in Paris and have two sons.[34][8][35][9] Since 2018, Barley has been in a relationship with Marco van den Berg.[36]


  1. ^ Seibert, Evi (2 June 2017). "Passt schon" [It's okay]. Tagesschau (online) (in German). Hamburg. Retrieved 2 June 2017.
  2. ^ "Katarina Barley: Bundesministerin für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend / Bundesministerin für Arbeit und Soziales" [... Federal Minister for Family, Old People, Women and Young People / Federal Minister for Work and Social Affairs] (in German). Presse- und Informationsamt der Bundesregierung, Berlin. Retrieved 10 March 2018.[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ "Germany disappointed by May's Brexit plan, suggests second referendum". Reuters. Retrieved 22 January 2019.
  4. ^ Ravensburg, Munzinger-Archiv GmbH. "Katarina Barley - Munzinger Biographie". www.munzinger.de. Retrieved 7 July 2017.
  5. ^ a b Europa ist unsere Zukunft, The European
  6. ^ Barley zum Brexit: Jetzt ist nichts mehr wie vorher, Berliner Morgenpost
  7. ^ a b "Katarina Barley".
  8. ^ a b c Krupa, Matthias; Phạm, Khuê (21 November 2017). "Brexit: Und was, wenn es keinen Deal gibt?" – via Die Zeit.
  9. ^ a b Özcan Mutlu (ed.), Politik ohne Grenzen. Migrationsgeschichten aus dem Bundestag. B&S Siebenhaar Verlag
  10. ^ Tobias Buck and Guy Chazan (14 March 2018), Germany’s new government: who’s who in Angela Merkel’s cabinet Financial Times.
  11. ^ "Deutscher Bundestag - Barley, Katarina". Archived from the original on 2 October 2016. Retrieved 7 July 2017.
  12. ^ Members Parlamentarische Linke.
  13. ^ Gabriels Kandidatin: Katarina Barley soll neue SPD-Generalsekretärin werden, in: spiegel.de (1. November 2015).
  14. ^ German governor is ill, prompting change to Merkel's Cabinet Yahoo!, 30 May 2017.
  15. ^ "Katarina Barley". Startseite. Archived from the original on 7 February 2019. Retrieved 10 July 2019.
  16. ^ "Bundestag wählt die Kanzlerin am 14. März" [Bundestag elects the Chancellor on 14 March] (in German). Deutscher Bundestag. Retrieved 9 March 2018.
  17. ^ Judith Mischke (16 October 2018), German justice minister to lead SPD list in EU election Politico Europe.
  18. ^ The new European Parliament Vice-Presidents European Parliament, press release of 3 July 2019.
  19. ^ Members European Parliament Intergroup on LGBTI Rights.
  20. ^ Europa-Union-Parlamentariergruppe im Deutschen Bundestag, Landesverband Rheinland-Pfalz, Katharina Barley
  21. ^ Barley will Grenzkontrollen zu Österreich beenden, Die Welt, 21 October 2018
  22. ^ Stuart Lau (January 25, 2021), G7 lawmakers tell leaders to ‘stand up’ to China Politico Europe.
  23. ^ https://www.deutschlandfunk.de/rechtsstaatsbericht-eu-vizepraesidentin-barley-orban.1939.de.html?drn:news_id=1178229
  24. ^ https://polandin.com/50150185/ep-vp-comments-on-poland-hungary-were-shameful-pm-aide
  25. ^ https://www.tvp.info/50167436/premier-o-slowach-barley-dyplomatyczny-skandal-niemcy-powinni-pamietac-glod-i-ludobojstwo
  26. ^ https://www.tvp.info/50144239/skandaliczne-slowa-barley-dworczyk-szczegolnie-w-ustach-niemieckiego-polityka
  27. ^ Bernd Westphal und Anke Rehlinger koordinieren neu konstituierten Politischen Beirat des SPD-Wirtschaftsforums Business Forum of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, press release of 1 July 2020.
  28. ^ Governing Board Academy of European Law (ERA).
  29. ^ Board of Trustees Magnus Hirschfeld Foundation.
  30. ^ Members of the Program Committee ZDF.
  31. ^ Board of Trustees Stiftung Lesen.
  32. ^ Board of Trustees Archived 7 April 2018 at the Wayback Machine Trier University of Applied Sciences.
  33. ^ Board of Trustees German Forum for Crime Prevention (DFK).
  34. ^ Sturm, Daniel Friedrich (16 February 2016). "Katarina Barley: Was Gabriels neue SPD-Generalin vorhat" – via www.welt.de.
  35. ^ "Der SPD fehlte der Schwung. Das ist jetzt anders". www.bz-berlin.de.
  36. ^ Marek Fritzen (27 July 2018), Love, Love, Love: Was Katarina Barley und Marco van den Berg verbindet Trierischer Volksfreund.

External linksEdit

Political offices
Preceded by
Heiko Maas
Minister of Justice and Consumer Protection
Succeeded by
Christine Lambrecht