Horst Köhler

Horst Köhler

name = Horst Köhler

order = President of Germany
chancellor = Angela Merkel
term_start = 01 July 2004
predecessor = Johannes Rau
order2 = Chairman of the International Monetary Fund
term_start2 = 01 May 2000
term_end2 = 04 March 2004
predecessor2 = Michel Camdessus
successor2 = Rodrigo Rato
birth_date = birth date and age|1943|02|22|df=y
birth_place = Heidenstein, Poland under German occupation
party = CDU
alma_mater = University of Tübingen
spouse = Eva Bohnet
profession = Economist
religion = Lutheran|

Horst Köhler (Audio|De-Horst Köhler.ogg|listen, born 22 February 1943) is a German politician (CDU) and economist who serves as 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).


Horst Köhler was born in Skierbieszów in German-occupied Poland, as the seventh child of Elisabeth and Eduard Köhler, into a family of Bessarabian Germans from Riscani in Romanian Bessarabia (near Bălţi, present-day 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 Zamość, 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.

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 helper 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. From 2004 until early 2006, Charlottenburg Palace was the seat of the President of Germany, whilst Schloss Bellevue was being renovated.

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 compete for its place in the 21st century.

In July 2005, he suspended the German Bundestag which led to early elections.

In October 2006, he made a major decision by not signing the law of transferring the Deutsche Flugsicherung into private ownership. The Bundestag passed this law but Köhler has the power as the President not to sign it if, in his opinion, it contravenes the constitution. In December 2006 he did not sign the Consumer Information Law (which intended to make information collected by public food safety agencies available to consumers), because the constitution does not allow the federal government to instruct communal authorities. This can only be done by the German states. Such non-signings had only happened six times previously, but with mostly minor laws. These were the first major examples in modern German history.

In his 2007 Christmas address to the nation, Köhler urged the German government to push ahead more quickly with reforms. He was also critical of the introduction of the minimum wage in the postal sector (which had led to the loss of 1000 jobs at Deutsche Post rival PIN Group), stating that "a minimum wage that can not be paid by competitive employers destroys jobs"Stuttgarter Zeitung, 29 December 2007 (German)] .

On May 22 2008, Köhler announced his candidacy for a second term as president. The Federal Assembly's next presidential election is scheduled for May 23 2009.

Personal life

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 of Protestant faith.


External links

* [http://www.bundespraesident.de/en Official page of the German President]
* [http://www.imf.org/external/np/omd/bios/hk.htm Biographical information] (from the IMF)
* [http://www.cducsu.de/aktuelles/audio/koehler040523.mp3 Horst Köhler's speech in Berlin upon his election as president (MP3)]

NAME= Köhler, Horst
SHORT DESCRIPTION=President of Germany
DATE OF BIRTH=February 22, 1943
PLACE OF BIRTH=Skierbieszów, Poland

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