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Europe

European Press Review: Considering a Köhler Presidency?

Many European papers on Thursday commented on the resignation of IMF chief Horst Köhler to enable him to run for president of Germany.

On its front page The Handelsblatt from Düsseldorf carried a big photo of Horst Köhler, depicting as a strong and forceful character the man who will in all likelihood become Germany's next president. The business daily was convinced that the IMF chief could turn out to be a fortunate choice. It argued that his international experience had equipped him with important qualities. First and foremost ,a broad understanding of economics. Which led the paper to predict that, as the country’s next head of state Koehler, would be able to promote an understanding of globalization and necessary social reforms among Germans.

It’s a German civil servant’s dream come true, wrote Vienna’s Der Standard. The Austrian daily reminded its readers that, at the beginning of his career, Köhler had served for many years as the loyal civil servant in the second row, writing speeches for German chancellors and ministers and assisting them in difficult international negotiations. Koehler was known to be a correct, rather dry character, the paper noted but added that back in the eighties no one would have foreseen a political career for him.

The Neue Zürcher Zeitung from Switzerland argued that veteran Christian Democratic politician Wolfgang Schäuble would have been the better choice. However, revenge and wrangling were the themes which had dominated the search for an acceptable candidate, the daily criticized. In its view, by not nominating Wolfgang Schäuble, Germany’s opposition had wasted not only a political, but also a great intellectual talent.

"Perhaps Germany will gain, if Mr. Köhler makes his new post a pulpit for economic reforms", speculated the Financial Times from London. But certainly, the paper continued, "the world will lose if the new head of its most important international economic institution is chosen in a repeat of the traditional horse trading that put Mr. Köhler in his post". The paper insisted that it was time to end the 55 year old tradition that allots the post of head of the IMF to a European. Instead it called for demands a global executive search to be launched, to find candidates based on merit, rather than nationality.

The French daily Les Echos was also worried about who might follow Koehler as the head of the International Monetary Fund. Usually nominations for such a post followed long and detailed negotiations, the paper pointed out, but with Köhler’s sudden resignation time is running out: There are only a few weeks left to find someone to take over one of the most influential positions on the international scene.