German President

Steinmeier, the Anti-Trump

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany’s next president, was not Chancellor Angela Merkel’s choice. The former foreign minister may politicize his new office, traditionally a largely ceremonial role.

  • Facts


    • Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany’s former foreign minister, was elected as president on Sunday, Germany’s highest office, by the Federal Assembly, a joint meeting of the German lower and upper house.
    • Mr. Steinmeier, a Social Democrat, plans to use his popularity to fight for Europe and against populism.
    • Mr. Steinmeier risks conflicts in his new role, which requires political restraint.
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Außenminister Steinmeier in Polen
Frank-Walter Steinmeier flew 400,000 kilometers a year as foreign minister, crisscrossing the globe. Source: DPA

On the sidelines of a Dutch-German forum in Berlin, students are lining up to take pictures of Mr. Steinmeier. Even the former Bundestag president, Rita Süssmuth, is full of praise, thanking Mr. Steinmeier for his candidacy. The white-haired Mr. Steinmeier embodies like no other the “spirit of keeping doors open,” according to the Christian Democrat politician.

Mr. Steinmeier, a Social Democrat, was elected as Germany’s 12th post-war president on Sunday, despite the fact that Chancellor Angela Merkel did not want him in the country’s highest, albeit mostly ceremonial office.

Mr. Steinmeier has already achieved what many before him have needed years serving as president to do: become Germany’s most popular politician. He wants to use his popularity to achieve two main goals: “To fight and to argue for this Europe,” Mr. Steinmeier said in a surprisingly emotional and unscripted speech to the German and Dutch young people. “We need this Europe more urgently than ever,” but it is stuck in its “deepest crisis ever, which might threaten its existence,” Mr. Steinmeier said.

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