Koehler sworn in as German President
TWIG - Horst Koehler was sworn in as Germany’s ninth post-war President at a ceremony in Berlin on Thursday.
In his first speech in the largely ceremonial capacity as head of state, Koehler pledged to help reawaken a sense of optimism among Germans demoralized by years of poor economic news.
Yet he warned that painful reforms were needed to breathe life into the nation’s struggling economy.
Koehler urged lawmakers to stick to the course charted by German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s "Agenda 2010" drive to revive the German economy, saying there was no alternative to the unpopular welfare cutbacks and labor market reforms.
"We can’t afford to lose a single year in this renewal process,’’ said Koehler in his address to a joint session of parliament after taking the oath of office. "Shouldn’t we care whether our country grows and prospers or falls further behind the global competition?’’
"Can we afford not to care if one of the motors of Europe keeps spluttering ever more, as some say? I don’t think so."
Koehler was chosen to replace outgoing President Johannes Rau with the backing of the center-right opposition CDU/CSU and the liberal FDP. Until recently, the 61-year-old was largely unknown to the German public, prompting Germany’s largest newspaper to headline "Horst Who?" after he was nominated.
New dialog with America
The former director of the Washington-based International Monetary Fund, Koehler said that Germany should also work to strengthen the transatlantic ties that have served the country so well.
"A few weeks ago, we were reminded that other nations — in particular, the United States of America — have fought so that we Germans can live in freedom," said Koehler, recalling ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of Europe that turned the tide of World War II.
"To me, freedom is the most important value that forever binds Europe and America. And I continue to view America as a guarantor of freedom.
"We Germans should strive for a good partnership and a new dialogue with America. And we should be able, self-confidently, to express criticism among friends, to whom we are bound by common values and interests," he said. "Common values and common interests — that carries much more weight than mere gratitude."
A member of the conservative CDU, Koehler is the first German to become head of state without serving in a political office.
The 61-year-old was head of eastern Europe’s development bank, president of the German Savings Bank Association and deputy finance minister in the conservative government of Chancellor Helmut Kohl in the 1990s before being nominated for the IMF post in 2000.
Koehler was also one of the chief architects of the 1992 Maastricht Treaty, which set the framework for the EU’s common currency, the euro.
While the German President has no policy-making powers and
is charged mainly with representing the country abroad, the President often
uses his position to set the moral tone in debates on social issues.
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