Expatica news

Koehler warns Germans of problems

8 March 2004

BERLIN – Horst Koehler, 61, who is likely to be elected German president in May, warned Germans in a first public appearance Sunday that their nation has serious economic problems.

Koehler, who resigned Thursday after six years as managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington, flew into Berlin to brief the leaders of the three German opposition parties who are nominating him for the post.

The three parties have sufficient votes in the electoral assembly to prevail over parties loyal to Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

Signalling that he would use the largely ceremonial position to wake Germans up to the need for economic reform, Koehler praised Schroeder’s deeply unpopular reform policies as “the right approach” but said they did not go far enough.

At a televised Berlin news conference after meeting leaders of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Christian Social Union (CSU), he said, “We have serious economic problems. We are going to tackle them.”

Unknown to most Germans when the CDU, CSU and Free Democrat Party picked him, Koehler was dubbed “Horst Who?” in many newspapers Friday. A German president is expected to be an elder statesman who stays above the fray of party politics and appeals for reason.

Koehler said Sunday the many moves in his life, including his six years at the IMF, gave him confidence he could be president too.

“My parents are from Bessarabia (in modern Moldova) and were relocated in 1941. I was born in Poland. I spent the first nine years of my life near Leipzig. In 1953 we moved to West Germany,” he said.

The vote on a successor to incumbent Johannes Rau is to be taken in Berlin on 23 May.

Subject: German news