Guido Westerwelle

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Guido Westerwelle
Guido westerwelle.jpg
Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
28 October 2009 – 17 December 2013
Chancellor Angela Merkel
Preceded by Frank-Walter Steinmeier
Succeeded by Frank-Walter Steinmeier
Vice-Chancellor of Germany
In office
28 October 2009 – 16 May 2011
Chancellor Angela Merkel
Preceded by Frank-Walter Steinmeier
Succeeded by Philipp Rösler
Leader of the Free Democratic Party
In office
4 May 2001 – 13 May 2011
Preceded by Wolfgang Gerhardt
Succeeded by Philipp Rösler
Personal details
Born (1961-12-27) 27 December 1961 (age 52)
Bad Honnef, West Germany
(now Germany)
Political party Free Democratic Party
Domestic partner Michael Mronz
Alma mater University of Bonn
Distance University of Hagen
Website Official website

Guido Westerwelle (German: [ˈɡiːdo ˈvɛstɐˌvɛlə]; born 27 December 1961) is a German politician who served as the Foreign Minister in the second cabinet of Chancellor Angela Merkel and was Vice Chancellor of Germany from 2009 to 2011. He is the first openly gay person to hold either of those positions. He had been the chairman of the Free Democratic Party of Germany (FDP) since May 2001, but stepped down in 2011.[1] A lawyer by profession, he was member of the Bundestag from 1996 to 2013.

Early life and education[edit]

Guido Westerwelle was born in Bad Honnef in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. He graduated from Ernst Moritz Arndt Gymnasium in 1980 after academic struggles resulted in his departure from previous institutions where he was considered an average student at best, but substandard otherwise.[2] He studied law at the University of Bonn from 1980 to 1987. Following the First and Second State Law Examinations in 1987 and 1991 respectively, he began practising as an attorney in Bonn in 1991. In 1994, he earned a doctoral degree in law from FernUniversität Hagen.

Career in the FDP[edit]

Westerwelle joined the FDP in 1980. He was a founding member of the Junge Liberale, the youth organization of that party, and was its chairman from 1983 to 1988.

Having been a member of the Executive Board of the FDP since 1988, he first gained national prominence in 1994, when he was appointed Secretary General of the party. As such, he was a notable proponent of an unlimited free market economy and took a leading part in drafting a new party programme.

In 1996, Westerwelle was first elected a member of the Bundestag, filling in for Heinz Lanfermann, who had resigned from his seat after entering the Ministry of Justice. In 1998, he was re-elected to parliament.

In 2001, Westerwelle succeeded Wolfgang Gerhardt as party chairman. Gerhardt, however, remained chairman of the FDP's parliamentary group. Westerwelle, the youngest party chairman at the time, emphasized economics and education, and espoused a strategy initiated by his deputy Jürgen Möllemann, who, as chairman of the North Rhine-Westphalia branch of party, had led his party back into the state parliament, gaining 9.8% of the vote. This strategy, transferred to the federal level, was dubbed Project 18, referring both to the envisioned percentage and the German age of majority. Leading up to the 2002 elections, he positioned his party in equidistance to the major parties and refused to commit his party to a coalition with either the Christian Democrats or the Social Democrats. He was also declared the FDP's candidate for the office of chancellor. Since the FDP had never claimed such a candidacy (and hasn't done since) and had no chance of attaining it against the two major parties, this move was widely seen as flippant political marketing alongside other moves, such as driving around in a campaign van dubbed the Guidomobile, wearing the figure 18 on the soles of his shoes or appearance in the Big Brother TV show.[3] Eventually, the federal elections yielded a slight increase of the FDP's vote from 6.2% to 7.4%. Despite this setback, he was reelected as party chairman in 2003.

Westerwelle speaking at an election rally in Hamm

In the federal elections of 2005, Westerwelle was his party's frontrunner. When neither Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's Social Democrats and Greens nor a coalition of Christian and Free Democrats, favored by Angela Merkel and Westerwelle, managed to gain a majority of seats, Westerwelle rejected overtures by Chancellor Schröder to save his chancellorship by entering his coalition, preferring to become one of the leaders of the disparate opposition of the subsequently formed "Grand Coalition" of Christian and Social Democrats, with Merkel as Chancellor. Westerwelle became a vocal critic of the new government. In 2006, according to an internal agreement, Westerwelle succeeded Wolfgang Gerhardt as chairman of the parliamentary group.

Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor of Germany[edit]

In the federal elections of 2009, Westerwelle committed his party to a coalition with Merkel's CDU/CSU, ruling out a coalition with Social Democrats and Greens, and led his party to unprecedented 14.6% share of the vote.[4] In accordance with earlier announcements, he formed a coalition government with CDU/CSU.[5]

On 28 October, he was sworn in as Foreign Minister and Vice-Chancellor, becoming the head of the Foreign Office.[6][7][8] His deputies at the Foreign Office were his close political ally Cornelia Pieper and foreign policy expert Werner Hoyer as Ministers of State. Hoyer had previously held the same office in the Cabinet Kohl V.

WikiLeaks controversy and election defeats[edit]

In late November 2010, leaked U.S. diplomatic cables revealed that American diplomats considered Westerwelle an obstacle to deeper transatlantic relations and were sceptical of his abilities, with one cable comparing him unfavorably to former German foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher.[9] On 3 December 2010, Westerwelle dismissed his personal assistant Helmut Metzner following a Wikileaks diplomatic cables release which led to Metzner admitting that he regularly spied for the Americans.[10] By May 2011, opinion polls ranked Westerwelle as one of the most unpopular and ineffective foreign ministers since the late 1940s.[11] At the time, his party had collapsed in several states, including Rhineland-Palatinate and Bremen where they failed to secure the 5% threshold necessary for a seat in parliament.[12] Analysts said one of the main reasons Westerwelle had become so unpopular was that he had been unable to fulfill the expectations of his voters, the majority of whom were middle-class professionals or entrepreneurs.[13] Westerwelle subsequently stepped down as party leader. By July the party was only receiving 3% support in opinion polls, a record low,[14] reflecting what political insiders had called his "last stand" in January, comparing Westerwelle and his party to Captain Ahab and the Pequod.[15]

International crises[edit]

Amid efforts by the United States and European nations to isolate Iran’s then-president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Westerwelle traveled to Tehran in February 2011 to bring home two journalists for the weekly newspaper Bild am Sonntag who were released after being arrested in October 2013. After weeks of negotiations, the Iranians reached out last week to discuss the release of the pair, the reporter Marcus Hellwig and the photographer Jens Koch. A condition of their release was that Westerwelle meet with Ahmadinejad, causing Iranian exile groups in Europe to condemn the visit and to argue that Germany was bowing to the Tehran government at a time when security forces were cracking down on pro-democracy demonstrators.[16]

During July 2011, Westerwelle was the President of the United Nations Security Council as he headed the German delegation to the United Nations.[17]

When the insurgency against Libya’s dictator Muammar Gaddafi broke out in early 2011, Westerwelle promptly stated his support for the repressed opposition. Earlier, he had initially been cautious before making any pronouncements about Tunisia and Egypt, but in the case of Libya, he quickly called out Gaddafi as a dictator, and argued in favour of EU-level sanctions against the regime in Tripoli.[18] Strongly motivated by a widespread aversion in Germany to the use of military force, he shared with Chancellor Merkel a deep scepticism about a no-fly zone as it was suggested by France and the United Kingdom.[19] At a UN Security Council decision on Libya March 2011, Westerwelle abstained in the vote to establish a no-fly zone, along with veto powers Russia and China.[20]

Nonproliferation[edit]

During his time in office, Westerwelle campaigned for the removal of B61 nuclear bombs at US air bases in Europe, arguing that a planned missile shield protecting Europe against ballistic rocket attack also meant that the tactical nuclear bombs are not needed. Against resistance from France, Westerwelle and German defence minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg demanded greater NATO commitment to nuclear disarmament at a meeting of the organization’s foreign and defence ministers in October 2010.[21] After the U.S. midterm elections in 2010, Westerwelle called on newly empowered Republicans in the U.S. Congress to stand by President Barack Obama’s goals of non- proliferation and the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons.[22]

Vergangenheitsbewältigung of German Nazi past[edit]

Under Westerwelle’s leadership, the Foreign Ministry released a report in 2011 called "The Ministry and the Past", which alleged the ministry's collusion with the Nazis. Westerwelle said the report "shamed" the institution.[23] Following the controversial 2012 Munich artworks discovery, Westerwelle called for greater transparency in dealing with the find, which he warned could have lasting damage to Germany’s international friendships.[24]

Positions[edit]

On economic policy[edit]

Westerwelle is a staunch supporter of the free market and has proposed reforms to curtail the German welfare state and deregulate German labour law. In an interview in February 2003, Westerwelle described labor unions as a "plague on our country" and said union officials were "the pall bearers of the welfare state and of the prosperity in our country".[25] He has called for substantial tax cuts and smaller government, in line with the general direction of his party.

On sexual equality[edit]

Westerwelle has been a staunch campaigner for sexual equality.[26] In 2012, he and finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble were at loggerheads after a high-court ruling demanded the government provides equal tax treatment to gay civil servants and armed forces members. In German daily Bild, Westerwelle claimed that "[if] registered partnerships have the same responsibilities as married couples then they should have the same rights. It is not weakening marriage but ending discrimination. We do not live in the 1950s."[26]

On data protection[edit]

In 2001, Westerwelle was one of the first politicians to push for a biometric passport.[27] He opposed Google Street View and stated "I will do all I can to prevent it."[28]

Controversy[edit]

Westerwelle’s party chairmanship has also seen considerable controversy. Critics inside and outside the FDP have accused him of focusing on public relations, as opposed to developing and promoting sound public policy, especially in the election campaign of 2002. Westerwelle himself, who was made party chairman particularly because his predecessor Wolfgang Gerhardt had been viewed by many as dull and stiff, has labelled his approach as Spaßpolitik (fun politics) in the past.[29]

In 2006, former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder won a court order against Westerwelle who had criticized Schröder for accepting a lucrative job at Gazprom, the Russian state-owned gas company, soon after losing the parliamentary election to Angela Merkel. Despite losing, Westerwelle said he would stick to his original assessment that Schröder's appointment as chairman of the North European Gas Pipeline Company was "problematic."[30]

On 27 September 2009, at a press conference after the election, Westerwelle refused to answer a question in English from a BBC reporter, stating that "it is normal to speak German in Germany".[31][32]

He made public statements in 2010 about the "welfare state",[33] claiming that promising the people effortless prosperity may lead to "late Roman decadence", in reference to a verdict in the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany regarding Hartz IV. This caused quite a stir in Germany.

In 2010 Westerwelle announced he would not be taking his partner Michael Mronz to anti-gay countries.[34][35] His official trips as foreign minister have included Mronz, an event manager, and Ralf Marohn, a partner in his brother's company,[36] also causing controversy. Westerwelle and the FDP defended this by saying that it is normal for foreign ministers to take industry representatives on their trips, ignoring the fact that these particular representatives had a personal relationship with him.

Personal life[edit]

Westerwelle (right) and his partner Michael Mronz (2009)

On 20 July 2004, Westerwelle attended Angela Merkel's 50th birthday party accompanied by his partner, Michael Mronz. It was the first time he had attended an official event with his partner.[37] The couple registered their partnership on 17 September 2010 in a private ceremony in Bonn.[38][39]

On 20 June 2014, it was reported that Westerwelle suffers from acute leukemia.[40]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Westerwelle gibt den FDP-Vorsitz ab" Die Zeit (3 April 2011) (German)
  2. ^ [Vgl. Setzen, Sechs! – Schulgeschichten aus Deutschland (3/3). Experiment Schule. Dokumentarfilm von Susanne Bausch im Auftrag des SWR. Deutsche Erstausstrahlung am 22. Dezember 2005
  3. ^ sueddeutsche.de GmbH, Munich, Germany. "FDP-Kanzlerkandidat – "Eher wird Pieper Päpstin als Westerwelle Kanzler" – Deutschland". sueddeutsche.de. Retrieved 25 April 2010. 
  4. ^ "Übersicht". Bundeswahlleiter.de. Retrieved 25 April 2010. 
  5. ^ Bettina Marx (August 16, 2013), The difficult path of Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle Deutsche Welle.
  6. ^ Handelsblatt, Düsseldorf, Germany (16 October 2009). "Der schwarz-gelbe Showdown beginnt – Politik – Deutschland". Handelsblatt.com. Retrieved 25 April 2010. 
  7. ^ "German elections seen triggering brief stocks rally". Reuters. 27 September 2009. Retrieved 25 April 2010. 
  8. ^ [1][dead link]
  9. ^ "How America Views the Germans". Der Spiegel. 30 November 2010. Retrieved 30 November 2010. 
  10. ^ "Heads start rolling in WikiLeaks affair". EU Observer. 3 December 2010. Retrieved 3 December 2010. 
  11. ^ Judy Dempsey (May 9, 2011), A Fine Time for Germany to Speak Up International Herald Tribune.
  12. ^ "Germany's liberal collapse parallels Clegg's fate", Hans Kundnani. The Guardian. 25 May 2011. Accessed 13 June 2011
  13. ^ Judy Dempsey (January 6, 2011), German Foreign Minister Defends Governing Coalition New York Times.
  14. ^ "GERMAN LIBERALS COLLAPSE TO 3 PERCENT", AGI. 27 July 2011. Retrieved 7 Aug 2011
  15. ^ "Guido Westerwelle's Last Stand", Rolland Nelles. Der Spiegel. 6 January 2011. Retrieved 7 Aug 2011
  16. ^ Judy Dempsey (February 21, 2011), Germany Says Iran Meeting Necessary to Free Journalists New York Times.
  17. ^ "Security Council Press Statement on Attacks in Mumbai, India". Un.org. 13 July 2011. Retrieved 15 August 2012. 
  18. ^ Severin Weiland and Roland Nelles (March 18, 2011), Germany has marginalised itself over Libya The Guardian.
  19. ^ Henry Chu (April 1, 2011), Some in Germany critical of decision to sit out Libya operation Los Angeles Times.
  20. ^ Bettina Marx (August 16, 2013), The difficult path of Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle Deutsche Welle.
  21. ^ Bettina Marx (August 16, 2013), The difficult path of Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle Deutsche Welle.
  22. ^ Patrich Donahue (November 3, 2010), Westerwelle Urges Republicans to Back Obama's Nuclear Disarmament Policy Bloomberg.
  23. ^ "German FM 'shamed' by ministry's collaboration with Hitler", Haaretz. 28 May 2010. Accessed 13 June 2011
  24. ^ Josie Le Blond and Damien McElroy (November 12, 2013), German task force to probe lost Nazi art find Daily Telegraph.
  25. ^ Brinkmann, Hans (22 February 2003). "WESTERWELLE-Interview für die "Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung"" [Interview with Westerwelle for the "Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung"] (in German). Archived from the original on 13 December 2009. 
  26. ^ a b Matthew Day (August 16, 2012), German foreign and finance ministers in gay couple tax row The Daily Telegraph.
  27. ^ Zeh, Juli (21 August 2009). "Angriff auf die Freiheit" [Book Introduction] (in German). 
  28. ^ German Foreign Minister joins criticism of Google's mapping program
  29. ^ "Guido Westerwelle, Germany's Mittelman". TIME. 7 September 2009. Retrieved 25 June 2010. 
  30. ^ Judy Dempsey (April 3, 2006), Gag order on Schröder foe is upheld International Herald Tribune.
  31. ^ "Future foreign minister Westerwelle refuses to answer English question". thelocal.de. Retrieved 25 April 2010. 
  32. ^ Off to the Auswärtiges Amt The Economist 1 October 2009
  33. ^ "Dekadenz-Sprüche: Westerwelles explosives Oppositions-Recycling – SPIEGEL ONLINE – Nachrichten – Politik". Spiegel.de. Retrieved 25 April 2010. 
  34. ^ "Westerwelle won't take partner to anti-gay lands", The Local. 11 August 2010. Accessed 13 June 2011
  35. ^ Daniel Schwammenthal (August 19, 2010), Mr. Westerwelle and Saudi Homophobia Wall Street Journal.
  36. ^ "Liberaler Klüngel: FDP-Reiseaffäre". Spiegel.de. Retrieved 25 April 2010. 
  37. ^ "Out is in Among German Politicians". Deutsche Welle. 23 July 2004. Retrieved 27 June 2007. 
  38. ^ "Bild article (in German)". 17 September 2010. 
  39. ^ "Germany’s Westerwelle Enters Civil Partnership, Bild Says" BusinessWeek (17 September 2010)
  40. ^ "Genesungswünsche der Kanzlerin: 'Ich kenne Guido Westerwelle als großen Kämpfer'" [Good wishes from the chancellor: 'I know Guido Westerwelle as a great fighter']. Spiegel Online (in German). 20 June 2014. 

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
Wolfgang Gerhardt
Leader of the Free Democratic Party
2001–2011
Succeeded by
Philipp Rösler
Political offices
Preceded by
Frank-Walter Steinmeier
Minister for Foreign Affairs
2009–2013
Succeeded by
Frank-Walter Steinmeier
Vice-Chancellor of Germany
2009–2011
Succeeded by
Philipp Rösler