She was born in 1951 in Cologne and studied economic sciences and sociology at Cologne University and went on to receive her Dr. rer. pol. in 1983. Following that, she became senator for urban development and environmental protection for the Federal State Berlin. From 1991 to 1999 she was a member of Berlin’s regional parliament for Bündnis 90/Die Grünen (German Green Party) and was head of the parliamentary group from 1998. From 1999 to 2004, she was a member of the European Commission responsible for EU Budget and fighting corruption. She has been an honorary professor at the Free University Berlin since 2011 and, among other things, Vice-Chairwoman of the Foundation Council of Göttingen University, member of the board of the Schwarzkopf Foundation, Chairwoman of the Supervisory Board of the Heinrich Böll Foundation.