Guido Westerwelle, Germany’s former foreign minister and first openly gay leader of a mainstream political party, has died aged 54, just months after presenting ‘Between Two Lives’, the book he had written on battling leukaemia.
Westerwelle led German diplomacy from 2009-2013, when his business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP) were in government with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives.
He became party leader in 2001 and also went on to serve as German Vice Chancellor after the FDP’s best ever election result in 2009 when it won nearly 15 percent of the vote.
In March 2011, Westerwelle came under fire for siding with China and Russia and abstaining in a vote in the United Nations Security Council authorising a no-fly zone over Libya, a mission that later led to the toppling of dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
His decision looks better with hindsight, given the turmoil that has swept Libya since Gaddafi’s fall.
But at the time, Westerwelle was criticised for ignoring decades of German policy in breaking with Western allies like the United States, Britain and France.
Later that year, following heavy losses in regional elections, Westerwelle was forced to give up the leadership of the FDP.
In 2013 the party failed for the first time in the post-war era to make it into the German parliament.
Paying tribute to his predecessor, current German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier hailed Westerwelle as a ‘true patriot’.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel described Westerwelle as one of the best speakers the Bundestag lower house of parliament had ever heard.
“I found him to be a sensitive and thoughtful person. A man who kept his word when he gave it,” she said in Brussels.