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Last Updated: Monday, 24 May, 2004, 13:51 GMT 14:51 UK
Profile: German President Horst Koehler
Horst Koehler
Mr Koehler wants Germans to become more self-reliant
The new President of Germany, Horst Koehler, said in his acceptance speech that he had spent the last six years abroad and needed to spend time concentrating on Germany.

His absence has been due to his role as managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which he quit in March to run for office.

Mr Koehler's election was seen as a victory by the conservative opposition Christian Democrats who backed him.

However, he has already said he views the largely ceremonial post as "non-partisan".

Was close ally of German Chancellor Helmut Kohl
Helped finance ministry manage German monetary unification in 1990
1998: Became head of European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
2000: Made head of IMF
The presidency does set him up as a figurehead and gives him influence on national topics and a role representing Germany abroad.

After his election, he said he would encourage Germans to become more self-reliant and called for "a renewal from the bottom up".

Mr Koehler, 61, was born into a German peasant family in Nazi-occupied Poland during World War II. The Koehlers were moved into a vacant house, whose Polish owners had been deported by Nazi troops as part of a project to "Germanise" the area.

The family fled to eastern Germany as the Russian army advanced. They moved to West Germany in 1953 where they lived in refugee housing.

Horst Koehler
Mr Koehler has a wealth of international experience
Mr Koehler was the only one of his seven siblings who went to university.

He is considered someone with a strong international background who can help take Germany forward.

The father-of-two led the IMF in Washington for four years, in a post which only former finance ministers and central bank presidents had traditionally held.

Before the IMF job he was president of the troubled European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

The bank, given the job of boosting economic regeneration in Eastern Europe, had made headlines for the wrong reasons: numerous investments had gone wrong and it seemed to be better at spending on its plush headquarters than any of its clients.


Mr Koehler quickly managed to get the EBRD out of the headlines, out of the red and refocus its efforts on Eastern Europe.

Before the EBRD he was president of Germany's Savings Bank Association, a post he held from 1993 to 1998.

A key strength is his experience in the field of European monetary diplomacy.

As junior finance minister from 1990 to 1993 and helped negotiate German reunification and was instrumental in drafting the Maastricht Treaty.

As an architect of Europe's Economic and Monetary Union, and a former "sherpa" of Chancellor Kohl at various G7 summits, he became well known on the scene of international finance.

He also was Deputy Governor for Germany at the World Bank.

Success has sometimes come at the price of popularity.

Mr Koehler has been described by some as a "tough pragmatist". Others have suggested that he is abrupt, if not blunt.

Mr Koehler himself says he speaks "candidly".

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