Steinmeier takes over from Gauck as Germany’s President

It was no presidential weather in Berlin, but grey and wet. However the old and new Heads of State were in good spirits as the German Presidency was officially handed over on Sunday.

Steinmeier takes over from Gauck as Germany's President
Photo: DPA

The new President of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, has taken over the office from Joachim Gauck.

The outgoing President and his partner Daniela Schadt welcomed Steinmeier and his wife Elke Büdenbender on Sunday on the steps at the front of Bellevue Palace in Berlin and withdrew for a discussion inside. A good hour later, Gauck and Mrs Schadt left the residence.

Gauck was clearly relaxed and in good humour when he arrived at the President's official residence.

“Good morning to you all. Today we have something very nice planned,” he told reporters.

A few minutes later, Steinmeier arrived in the official Presidential limousine with the number plate 0-1 and the pennant with the state eagle on the bonnet. “Welcome,” said Gauck in the drizzle. There were kisses on the cheeks for the old and the new First Ladies. 

Little is known about the topics of conversation that followed over coffee, tea, and pastries. They supposedly spoke about Gauck’s previous five years in office. At a small reception there was one more opportunity for the staff to say their goodbyes. According to insiders, some tears were also shed. 

The meeting of the old and new Presidents ended with a strong embrace.

“I had a nice time with you all,” called out Gauck to the photographers waiting in the rain, before getting into the car as a retired President. A church service was planned for the afternoon, and at a reception the evening before, Gauck was able to say his goodbyes to Chancellor Angela Merkel and other politicians. 

Andreas Scheuer, Secretary General of the Christian Social Union (CSU), praised the achievements of Gauck as Head of State.

“Frank-Walter Steinmeier has some large shoes to fill,” he told the Heilbronner Stimme on Monday. The CSU voted for Steinmeier “not as a Social Democrat, but as a person,” and expect that he will be the President for all Germans.

Steinmeier is a leading member of the Social Democrats and was up until January the German Foreign Minister.

Gauck, 77, decided not to nominate himself for a second five-year term as President due to his age.

Steinmeier was voted in as his successor in February, becoming the twelfth President of Germany. Steinmeier has brought with him many officials from the foreign office, along with State Secretary Stephan Steinlein, who will be the new head of the presidential office. Steinlein received his letter of appointment on Sunday. 

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Day-to-day life in his new Presidential position began for Steinmeier on Monday.

On Wednesday the former foreign minister will be sworn in before the Bundestag (Germany Parliament) and the Federal Assembly. It is expected that in his speech before parliamentarians, Steinmeier will set out the focal points and aims of his time in office. Nothing is known about his first trips abroad, but according to briefings, a visit to Paris is at the top of the list for his inaugural visit.