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CORRUPTION

Merkel’s presidential problem

The resignation of German President Christian Wulff amid allegations of corruption may be quickly forgotten, but Chancellor Angela Merkel’s poor judgement will remain, writes The Local’s Marc Young.

Merkel’s presidential problem
Photo: DPA

Remaining true to his reputation for blandness, Christian Wulff ended his short presidency with a whimper on Friday.

Confronted with demands that his immunity from prosecution be lifted, he stepped down after a stream of revelations about his alleged impropriety. From a sweetheart loan from a rich acquaintance to weekend getaways with someone else picking up the tab, it was a million pin pricks rather than a single transgression that left the 52-year-old’s political career in tatters.

His only notable act during his two-year tenure as Germany’s largely ceremonial head of state was to declare Islam had become an integral part of the country’s society. Unfortunately his attempt to further the integration of Germany’s Muslims will now become a mere footnote in an otherwise unnecessary presidency.

Handpicked by Merkel as a supposedly safe set of hands following the unexpected resignation of his temperamental predecessor Horst Köhler in 2010, Wulff failed to inspire from the start.

His nomination made plenty of people queasy, because there are good reasons someone shouldn’t go directly from active politics into the highest office of the land. Wulff had been state premier of Lower Saxony, not the usual elder statesman chosen to be German president.

But Merkel ignored such concerns and rejected the opposition’s efforts to find a joint candidate for the presidency, such as Joachim Gauck, a former pastor and respected East German civil rights activist.

Her stubborn insistence led to the humiliation of Wulff only being elected after three rounds of voting – an omen, perhaps, of the troubled presidency that was to come.

Now the chancellor is left looking for her third head of state in just two years. In an embarrassing climb down, she acknowledged on Friday she would seek a broad parliamentary consensus for the next president.

After personally choosing Köhler – who fled from office – and Wulff – who was chased from it – she call ill afford another presidential crisis of her own making.

Marc Young

[email protected]

twitter.com/marcyoung

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ROYALS

How a German castle has sparked civil war in Monaco’s royal family

Prince Ernst August of Hanover, the husband of Princess Caroline of Monaco, is suing his son to win back control of a German castle and prevent it from falling into public hands, a court has said.

How a German castle has sparked civil war in Monaco's royal family
Marienburg Castle in Lower Saxony pictured during the recent snow. Photo: DPA

Ernst August, 66, gave his son the fairytale-like Marienburg castle and several other properties between 2004 and 2007, but now wants them back citing  “gross ingratitude”, the district court of Hanover said in a statement on Tuesday.

It is the latest public spat to hit the aristocratic family, whosepatriarch has over the years been nicknamed “the party prince” and even “the brawling prince” over his jetset lifestyle and drunken escapades.

According to the court statement, Ernst August filed a lawsuit at the end of last year seeking to revoke the gifts of Marienburg Castle, the Calenburg manor house and a royal property in Herrenhausen.

He accuses his son, Ernst August junior, of acting against his wishes and going behind his back by offering Marienburg Castle to the state of Lower Saxony as public property – partly because of the huge costs of maintaining the mid-19th century Gothic-style building.

READ ALSO: Just one sixth of Germans want own monarchy back

The plaintiff, who lives in Austria, also accuses his son of improperly appropriating artworks and antiques owned by the family.

Ernst August senior estimates the total value of the disputed properties and items at some five million euros, the court said.

Ernst August junior, 37, told German news agency DPA that the case had no merit, saying all the arguments raised “have already been invalidated out-of-court in the past”.

He said the deal struck to transfer ownership of Marienburg Castle to the regional authorities of Lower Saxony was “legally secure”.

“There's nothing that stands in the way of the long-term preservation of Marienburg as a central cultural monument of Lower Saxony, open to all,” he said.

The court has not yet set a date for a hearing.

Ernst August senior has been feuding for years with his son over the family's royal properties.

So severe was the spat that he declined his official consent to his son's 2017 marriage to Russian-born fashion designer Ekaterina Malysheva and stayed away from the wedding.

Princess Caroline, who has been separated from her husband since 2009, did attend the nuptials.

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