“I was curious about the inner workings of regional and national politics in Germany, and the only way to learn more was a hands-on approach. That is why I joined a political party,” says Renata Alt, a Slovak native who defended her seat in the German Bundestag in this year’s election.
She took an early interest in politics during her high school years. “It was mostly due to the strange times we were living in at the time in Czechoslovakia. Even though I was growing up behind the iron curtain, I tried to read between the lines when it came to all the state-controlled media, to find something that was not officially meant to be there at all. Having grown up in Skalice, we were able to tune in to the Austrian ORF TV channel. I started learning German when I was five years old, and I could soon understand it very well. Over time, I noticed that the Czechoslovak broadcasts were rather different from the Austrian ones. I took an interest in international politics because I hoped, same as everybody else, that the iron curtain would fall away one day,” recounts the politician. In 1991, she started a new job at the then Czechoslovak Ministry of International Trade in Prague, and a key turning point in her life was just around the corner.
Love from Munich
“I got a call from one of my former colleagues from Technopol in Bratislava who asked me to help them build and manage a sales department at an embassy. I knew that it would eventually open up some avenues to go abroad, but I had no idea where. I ended up as an attaché in Munich, and fate so willed it that I fell in love with my future husband there. I stayed in Germany and we got married two years later,“ reminisces Renata who later moved to Baden-Wuerttemberg with her husband. Even though it was the 90s then, she felt the impact of outdated, still-valid laws written during the previous communist era. “One such law stated that a person who marries a foreign national is barred from practicing trade in their own country. I basically married an “enemy of the state” and I could not work back home the way I was used to. As crazy as it may sound, this law was still valid at the end of 1993. A year later, I realized that this was not the way I wanted to live and decided to stay in Germany,” explains the MP who went on to work as a self-employed international businesswoman.
Alt was granted German citizenship in 2000, and she says that she was fully integrated into the German way of life by 2005. She still found politics interesting, and so she decided to get into it. Before doing so, however, she kept a close eye on what each political party was doing, coming to the conclusion that the one best aligned with her own views was the Free Democratic Party (Freie Demokratische Partei). “I joined in 2009, a tough time when the FDP was going through internal turmoil. Many members were calling for a complete overhaul of the party to make it more attractive for the younger generation. To be honest, I was a little disappointed by this because the FDP was connected in my mind to the person of its long-standing chairman, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, who would often visit Czechoslovakia prior to the Velvet Revolution. It was Mr. Genscher who played a part in our borders opening up in 1989, and he was a symbol of freedom to me. That was one of the reasons why, between the years 2013 and 2017, when our party was not yet in the Bundestag, I ended up pushing for its modernization,” says Renata Alt.
What does the FDP do differently than other German parties according to Alt? “We are pushing for a complex improvement of conditions throughout the country. During the Coronavirus pandemic, it became evident that Germany is encumbered by bureaucracy that slowed down a number of decisions and solutions that needed to be implemented quickly. Even government officials came to the realization that Germany comes across as an underdeveloped country if there is no digitalized school system or way of communicating. After what we have been through, we are all aware that modernizing, digitalizing, and moving forward are key. And also that we need to invest in educating the populace. At the same time, we cannot raise taxes, though! We can all clearly see how gas and electricity prices have gone up in recent times. On top of all that, there has been an unexpected surge in inflation. There is not a single new government that can afford to increase the financial burden that rests on the shoulders of its people,” says the MP. The new German government, formed by the SPD, Green, and FDP parties, is planning major investments in healthcare, digitalization, and housing, it wants to expand the European Parliament's authority and further integrate with the European Union. Its dealings with Russia and China are to be practical but with a focus on human rights.
One of the key matters on Renata Alt's agenda are the relations between Germany and countries of central Europe. “I bear within me three souls – that of a German, a Czech, and a Slovak – and I am not afraid to show pride in the things that Czechs and Slovaks do better.” And what does this Slovak native miss in Germany? “Halušky! Brynza (Translator's note: Halušky is a special kind of potato dumpling served with Brynza – a soft sheep cheese) is a Slovak national treasure that you just cannot find in Germany. That is why I am always excited to buy some when I visit Slovakia and I make batches and batches of authentic halušky back home.”
Quote sources: CNN Prima News, Hospodářské noviny, SME.sk
Renata Alt (born August 27, 1965, in Skalice, Slovakia) is a member of the German Bundestag for the FDP (Freie Demokratische Partei).
She graduated in Biotechnology and Food Processing from the Slovak University of Technology in Bratislava, with a master's in Chemistry.
Following her studies, she worked at the Technopol international trade company and later at the Czechoslovak Ministry of International Trade.
In 1993, she was appointed as a trade attaché in Munich, going on to marry a German citizen and eventually becoming one herself in 2000.
Alt joined the FDP in 2009, since 2014, she has been a member of its Esslingen Regional Committee, and has been on the FDP Executive Committee for Baden-Wuerttemberg since 2015. She was elected into the German Bundestag in 2017, defending her seat last year.
#She likes to ski, play golf, and go to gallery exhibitions. She enjoys literature and listening to jazz and classical music. She speaks Slovak, English, German, Russian, and a bit of French. She and her husband own a trading company called Consultex, they live in the city of Kirchheim unter Teck, roughly 25km away from Stuttgart.