Kurt Beck

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Kurt Beck
Kurt Beck - Deutschlandfest Bonn 2011-3237.jpg
Kurt Beck in 2011
Chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Germany
In office
10 April 2006 – 7 September 2008
Preceded by Matthias Platzeck
Succeeded by Frank-Walter Steinmeier (Acting)
Minister President of Rhineland-Palatinate
In office
26 October 1994 – 15 January 2013
Preceded by Rudolf Scharping
Succeeded by Malu Dreyer
Personal details
Born (1949-02-05) 5 February 1949 (age 65)
Bad Bergzabern, Germany
Nationality German Germany
Political party SPD
Religion Roman Catholic

Kurt Beck (born 5 February 1949) is a German politician (SPD), serving as the Minister-President of Rhineland-Palatinate from 1994 to 2013 and as President of the Bundesrat in 2000/01. On 14 May 2006 he succeeded Matthias Platzeck as Chairman of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD). He resigned from that post on 7 September 2008.

On 28 September 2012 he announced his resignation from the post of minister-president. He was succeeded by social minister Malu Dreyer.[1][2]

Following Peter Struck's death in 2012, Kurt Beck together with Dieter Schulte took chair of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation.

Biography[edit]

Beck was born in Bad Bergzabern, Rhineland-Palatinate, to the bricklayer Oskar Beck and his wife Johanna. Both his parents had their roots in the town Kapsweyer in southern Rhenish Palatinate. He grew up in Steinfeld.

From 1963 to 1968, he became an electrician. After military duty in 1968 and 1969, he graduated from an evening school in 1972. Since then, he served as an employee representative on works councils.

Beck is Catholic. He lives with his wife, Roswitha, whom he married in 1968 in Steinfeld, Rhineland-Palatinate. They have one son (Stefan Beck).

Political career[edit]

Kurt Beck and Johannes Rau at the East Asia Institute in 2000.
Merkel and Beck (2007)

After joining the SPD in 1972, mainly because of the Party's programme as well as the personality of Willy Brandt, Beck became chairman of the SPD of Rhineland Palatinate in 1993 and deputy chairman of the federal party in 2003. He served in this function until 14 May 2006, when Matthias Platzeck had to resign for medical reasons and Beck was officially elected as chairman of the SPD with the approval of 95% of the delegates.[3] According to public opinion polls during his time as party chairman, Beck's possibilities of becoming Bundeskanzler, if he had run for this office in the 2009 election, had been very limited. According to Süddeutsche Zeitung,[4] only 16% of Germans would have elected him in the hypothetical case of a direct vote against Angela Merkel. On 7 September 2008, Beck resigned as Chairman at a party meeting in Werder and Steinmeier was chosen as the SPD candidate for Chancellor in the 2009 election, while Franz Müntefering replaced Beck as Chairman after an interim of Steinmeier.[5] Beck said that he was a victim of intrigue inside the SPD.[6]

Beck has been active in local affairs since 1974, when he was first elected a member of the Kreistag. From 1989 to 1994, he was mayor of his hometown Steinfeld. Since 1979, he has been a directly elected member of the Landtag of Rhineland-Palatinate, in which he has served as the speaker for social affairs of the Parliamentary group of the SPD (from 1982 to 1985) and as a member of the governing body of the group from 1985 to 1991, when he was elected chairman.

On 26 October 1994 Kurt Beck was elected Minister President of Rhineland-Palatinate, succeeding Rudolf Scharping. He was re-elected three times, in 1996, 2001 and 2006. As prime minister he is known for his centrist approach, which is also apparent from the choice of his coalition partner (the liberal FDP instead of the left-wing Green Party, with which the SPD has recently allied itself). In this respect, he follows the policy of Scharping. In March 2006, Beck's SPD gained an absolute majority in the state elections; Beck offered to continue the coalition but since the FDP declined, the SPD formed a government without a partner. After Edmund Stoiber resigned in 2007, Beck was the senior Minister President in Germany.

In 2000 and 2001, Beck was President of the Bundesrat, one of his duties as Minister President.

Controversies[edit]

Henrico Frank[edit]

Near the end of 2006, Beck recommended to Henrico Frank, an unemployed construction worker from Wiesbaden, to wash himself and shave so he could get a job.[7] Following a media controversy about Beck's behaviour, Frank declined all jobs offered to him by the state chamber. Later, he was hired as a punk rock expert for iMusic TV.[8]

Afghanistan[edit]

In April 2007, Beck proposed a peace conference in Afghanistan with the inclusion of "moderate Taliban".[9] The Foreign Minister of Afghanistan, Rangin Dadfar Spanta, thus accused him of being naïve. He compared the idea of "moderate Taliban" to distinguishing between moderate and radical right-wing extremists in Rhineland-Palatinate.[10] The German public mostly ignored the affair.

Honours and awards[edit]

1983: Grand Cross Special Class of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany
2001: Grand Cross of the Order of the Star of Romania
2004 Grand Cross of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany
Grand Officer of the Legion of Honour
Grand Cross of the Order Pro Merito Melitensi of the Sovereign Order of Malta
Commander of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres of the French Republic
1997: Honorary Master of the Palatine Crafts
2005: Business Award of the Union of medium-sized enterprises
Order of Merit of the Senate of the Republic of Chile
Honorary Citizen of Opole, Poland
Honorary doctorate from Francis Marion University (USA)
Honorary Citizen of the southern Chinese province of Fujian
Commandeur of the wine fraternity Chevaliers du Tastevin, France

Notes[edit]

This article incorporates information from the revision as of 11 February 2008 of the equivalent article on the German Wikipedia.

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Rudolf Scharping
Minister-President of Rhineland-Palatinate
1994–2013
Succeeded by
Malu Dreyer
Party political offices
Preceded by
Matthias Platzeck
Chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Germany
2006–2008
Succeeded by
Frank-Walter Steinmeier (interim)