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New German president praises EU in maiden Brussels visit

Fresh from being elected Germany's new president, Christian Wulff, has made his first visit to Brussels, the bureaucratic heart of the European Union, where he championed the role of the EU's key institutions.

German President Christian Wulff, left, shares a lighter moment with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso

Wulff, left, met with Barroso for the first time since taking office

Germany's new president, Christian Wulff, has presented a strong pro-European image during his inaugural visit to Brussels, the capital of the European Union.

Wulff met with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and said that the work done by the EU parliament and the EU commission should receive greater recognition than it was currently getting.

He said changing the image of the two institutions would be "my contribution to Europe," adding that unity in the 27-nation EU was integral to Europe having a stronger voice on the world stage.

"Europe is of fundamental importance for Germany ... if Europe can speak with one voice on the great international questions, then we will have more influence," Wulff said after the talks with Barroso.

During their meeting, both politicians also supported fresh moves to intensify supervision of financial institutions in Europe and implement sharper rules against countries with soaring budget deficits.

Wulff assumed the largely ceremonial position of president on June 30 after three rounds of voting. He was nominated for the post by Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Question dodger

NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen

Rasmussen was to supply Wulff with his Afghan assessment

Wulff also met with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen for his assessment of the Afghan situation, including the timelines for boosting and reducing NATO troop numbers.

Prior to meeting the NATO chief, Wulff dodged questions on Germany's troop deployment in Afghanistan.

"I think that one would be well advised as federal president to be cautious of engaging such questions,” he said earlier on Thursday.

The new president's predecessor, Horst Koehler, stepped down from the post after he was sharply criticized over controversial comments he made about Germany's mission in Afghanistan. Koehler had said that Germany had partly joined the NATO mission to defend its economic interests.

Wulff began his first trip abroad as president in France on Wednesday, where he met French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris and paid a visit to the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

Author: Darren Mara (dpa/AFP)
Editor: Martin Kuebler

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