Frank-Walter Steinmeier

Germany’s New President Takes Office

Incoming President Steinmeier and wife Buedenbender wave before they enter the presidential Bellevue Palace in Berlin
Germany’s new president and First Lady at Bellevue Palace on Sunday. Source: Reuters.

Six weeks after being elected president by Germany’s parliament, Frank-Walter Steinmeier has taken office in a symbolic transfer of power from his predecessor, Joachim Gauck.

Mr. Steinmeier and his wife, Elke Büdenbender, were greeted Sunday by Mr. Gauck and his partner Daniela Schadt on the steps of Berlin’s Bellevue Palace, the presidential residence. The departing head of state then had a private conversation with his successor inside the residence. An hour later, Mr. Gauck and Ms. Schadt left.

The German presidency is a largely ceremonial and nonpartisan post. In contrast to Mr. Gauck, a former pastor, Mr. Steinmeier is a career civil servant and a former SPD leader involved in politics since the early 1990s. Mr. Gauck, 77, announced late last year he would not stand for reelection.

Mr. Steinmeier will be officially inaugurated as Germany’s 12th president before both houses of parliament on Wednesday. Plans for the first weeks of his five-year term have not been made public yet, though his agenda is likely to include a trip to Paris ahead of the French presidential election at the end of April.

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