German chancellor defends education minister over plagiarism allegations
Monday, 15 October 2012 16:53

Angela Merkel faces losing second minister after magazine says parts of Annette Schavan's PhD thesis found to be plagiarised

The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has given guarded support to a close cabinet ally facing calls to resign over allegations of plagiarism.

Merkel said she had confidence in the education minister, Annette Schavan, after Der Spiegel magazine reported that a University of Duesseldorf examination of her 1980 doctoral thesis concluded parts were plagiarised and recommended taking away her PhD.

Schavan, a member of Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), has denied the charges. Last year she was among the first to condemn the then defence minister, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, for plagiarising his PhD thesis. He later resigned in disgrace, a mid-term setback to Merkel's government.

The charges against Schavan, 57, are more troublesome for Merkel as they come a year before the next election and, as education minister, Schavan's credibility would be more on the line.

"I have full confidence in the minister," Merkel told a news conference, using language sounding less robust than she used to defend Guttenberg. "She has said she'll have a statement for the university. The university will then have to decide what to do."

The allegations of plagiarism in her 351-page thesis, entitled People and Conscience – studies for conditions, needs and requirements for forming a conscience nowadays, have dogged Schavan since May.

She asked her alma mata to examine the accusations. A report conducted by the university's philosophy faculty found indications of a "plagiaristic approach" on 60 pages, Der Spiegel reported.

Schavan denied the allegations in an interview on Monday with the Rheinische Post newspaper, saying she would respond to the accusations as soon as she has seen the report.

"I completely reject the charges," she told the Südwest Presse newspaper, adding she was alarmed that the report had been leaked before she had seen it. "I won't stand for this. I will stand up to these accusations."

The opposition Social Democrats (SPD) and Green party have called on her to resign, while newspaper editorials have also been critical.

"She has already lost the credibility needed for this ministry," said Renate Kuenast, a leader of the Greens party in parliament. "It's shameful to see her clinging to her job." © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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