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Horst Köhler resigns as federal president of Germany

former German president Horst Köhler

Horst Köhler, now former president of Germany

At a press conference today around noon the president of Germany surprisingly announced the resignation from his office, effective immediately.

The reason he gave for his resignation was a statement he made 10 days ago. After a visit of the German Bundeswehr troops in Afghanistan, he gave a radio interview on his flight back to Germany. In this interview he allegedly connected German military intervention with the economic interests of Germany as a country.

More precisely he said that as a nation with major exports, it is in Germany’s interest to maintain free trade routes and prevent regional instabilities around the world. If necessary those interests should be defended with military force.

He later rectified that he was not talking about military involvement in Afghanistan but about missions such as Operation Atalanta, which deployed EU naval forces to the coast of Somalia to secure passage for trading ships through the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea from pirates.

Although Köhler was harshly criticized for his statement and connecting economic with military actions, his resignation came as a big surprise today. At the press conference he said that in connection with the criticism of his statement over the past few days he no longer felt respected in his office and therefore could no longer fulfil his duties. He seemed to be fighting tears saying this and also said it had been an honor serving his country.

Horst Köhler was elected into office in 2004 for a five-year period and re-elected in 2009. He is the first president to resign from Germany’s highest office.

Until a new federal president is elected, the office will be held by Jens Böhrnsen, head of the Bundesrat, who according to German law is given authority as acting president. A new president must be elected within 30 days.

Background on the President of Germany

Unlike the president of the Unites States for example, the German federal president is not the head of the government (head of the government is the chancellor). The president’s office is a rather ceremonial one in Germany, but nevertheless it is the highest. All laws passed by Bundesrat and Bundestag, Germany’s two chambers, must be signed by the president to become effective.


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  1. The President of Germany - his role and functions | GermanGlobe linked to this post on October 29, 2011

    […] symbolic, social and cultural, because he cannot independently sign treaties for Germany. President Horst Köhler for example was known for his commitment for developing countries in Africa while in office between […]

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