Horst Köhler

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Horst Köhler
Image:Horst Köhler.jpg

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Incumbent
Assumed office 
July 1, 2004
Preceded by Johannes Rau

Born 22 February 1943
Skierbieszów, Poland
Spouse Eva Köhler
Profession Economist
Religion Protestant

Horst Köhler (listen , born 22 February 1943) is the current President of Germany. Köhler was narrowly elected by the Bundesversammlung (Federal Assembly) on May 23, 2004, and was subsequently inaugurated on July 1, 2004. Prior to his election, Köhler had had a distinguished career in politics and the civil service, and had most recently been head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

[edit] Biography

Köhler was born in Skierbieszów in German-occupied Poland, as the seventh of eight children into a family of Bessarabian Germans from Ryschkanowka in Romanian Bessarabia (now mainly part of Moldova). His parents, ethnic Germans and Romanian citizens, had to leave their home in Bessarabia in 1940 during the Nazi-Soviet population transfers that followed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which awarded Bessarabia to the Soviet Union. As part of the Generalplan Ost, they were resettled in 1942 at Skierbieszów, a village near Zamosc, Poland (then part of the General Government). As the Wehrmacht was pushed back and first parts of Poland had to be abandoned in 1944, the Köhler family fled to Leipzig. In 1953 they left the Soviet Zone for Ludwigsburg to escape from the communist regime.

Köhler took his Abitur in 1963, and after a two-year military service he left the Bundeswehr as "Leutnant der Reserve" (reserve officer). He studied and finally earned a doctorate in economics and political sciences from Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen, where he was a scientific research assistant at the Institute for Applied Economic Research from 1969 to 1976.

Köhler was appointed Managing Director and Chairman of the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2000. The German government nominated him after their first nominee, Caio Koch-Weser, was rejected by the United States due to his low political weight.

Prior to joining the IMF, he had held positions in both the public and private sectors. He was under-secretary of state in the finance ministry from 1990 to 1993, and he served as sherpa for Chancellor Helmut Kohl, preparing G7 summits and other international economic conferences. Between 1993 and 1998 he served as chairman of the association of savings banks in Germany (Deutscher Sparkassen- und Giroverband). In 1998 he was appointed president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

On 4 March 2004, Köhler resigned his post with the IMF after being nominated by Germany's conservative and liberal opposition parties as their presidential candidate. As these parties controlled a majority of votes in the Bundesversammlung (an electoral college consisting of the membership of the Bundestag and an equal number of delegates from the legislatures of each state), the result of the vote was virtually a foregone conclusion, but was closer than expected. Köhler defeated Gesine Schwan on the first ballot by 604 votes to 580; 20 votes were cast for minor candidates, while one elector was absent because of a heart attack.

Köhler succeeded Johannes Rau as President on 1 July 2004, for a five-year term. Germany's presidency is a mostly ceremonial office, but carries considerable moral authority and gives the President a platform from which to represent his country internationally. While the president's regular residence Schloss Bellevue is under reconstruction he has taken his office at Schloss Charlottenburg (Charlottenburg Palace) in Berlin.

Upon his election, Köhler, a conservative German patriot, said that "Patriotism and being cosmopolitan are not opposites". "He appeared an enlightened patriot who genuinely loves his country and is not afraid to say so", the newspaper Die Welt wrote. Presenting his visions for Germany, Köhler also said that "Germany should become a land of ideas", and emphasized the importance of globalization, and that Germany would have to fight for its place in the 21st century.

In October 2006, he made a major decision by not signing the law of transferring the "German flight security" into private ownership. The German government passed this law but Köhler has the power as the President to withdraw this law if, in his opinion, it contravenes the constitution. It only happened 6 times before, but just with mostly nonrelevant laws. This is the first major "non-signing" in the German history.

He is married to Eva Köhler, born Eva Luise Bohnet, a teacher of German, and they have two children, a daughter Ulrike (born 1972) and a son Jochen (born 1977). Horst Köhler is Protestant.

[edit] External links

Preceded by:
Johannes Rau
President of Germany
2004 – present
Incumbent


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Horst Köhler

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