Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany’s former foreign minister, has been elected to the largely ceremonial position of president.
Germany’s president is not directly elected by the people, but by an assembly of 1,260 people – members of the federal parliament and special delegates from 16 regional parliaments.
The president as head of state represents Germany abroad, which might lead to tension in Berlin’s relation with the United States.
Steinmeier, a 61-year old Social Democrat, was an outspoken critic of Donald Trump during the US election calling him a “preacher of hate”.
Last month he warned Trump against dismantling the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran.
Steinmeier has pushed hard to end fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, and condemned Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.
The outgoing president is 77-year-old Joachim Gauck, a Lutheran pastor who made his mark as an anti-communist leader in the former East Germany.
Germany’s new foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel takes on that job at a critical time as his country tries to unite a divided post-Brexit European Union, contain an assertive Russia and work out a new relationship with Washington under Trump.
Gabriel in a speech to diplomats after he took office said: “Whatever noises we’re hearing from the United States, transatlantic ties must remain a key orientation.”
“Our hand should remain outstretched for respectful cooperation based on … openness, honesty and what our constitutions stand for – freedom, democracy and the rule of law, as well as mutual responsibility.”
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