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This article discusses the Social Democratic German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. For the 1950s/1960s CDU politician with the same name, see Gerhard Schröder (CDU).
Gerhard Schröder
Gerhard Schröder
Order: 33rd Chancellor of Germany
(7th of the Federal Republic)
Term of Office: October 27, 1998
Predecessor: Helmut Kohl
Date of Birth: April 7, 1944
Political Party: SPD
Profession: lawyer

Gerhard Fritz Kurt Schröder [] (born April 7, 1944), a German politician, has been serving as Chancellor of Germany since 1998. His political career has unfolded within the left-of-centre Social Democratic Party of Germany (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands, SPD) — for a time he also served as Party Chairman. He heads a coalition of the SPD and the German Green Party. Before becoming a fulltime politician, he was a successful lawyer.

(His surname often appears spelled Schroeder in English, in accordance with the standard conversion of umlauts.)


Political career

Schröder joined the Social Democratic Party in 1963. In 1978 he became the federal chairman of the Young Socialists, the youth organisation of the SPD. In 1980 he was elected to the German Bundestag, and stood out provocatively as a young parliamentarian who wore a sweater to work instead of the traditional suit-and-tie. He became chairman of the SPD Hanover district. 1986 saw his election to the regional parliament of Lower Saxony as leader of the SPD faction. At the same time, he became a member of the board of the federal SPD. He became Chancellor (Bundeskanzler) on October 27, 1998 after having won elections in Lower Saxony for the third time in March that year and serving as Ministerpräsident there since 1990. In the general elections on September 22, 2002, he secured another four-year term, thanks to the victory of his governing Red-Green coalition.

After the resignation of Oskar Lafontaine from his office as SPD chairman in March, 1999, Schröder held that office as well. In February, 2004, he resigned as chairman of the SPD to concentrate, as Chancellor, on German reform processes. (Franz Müntefering succeeded him as chairman.) Speculation suggests that the SPD's historical low level of popularity in opinion polls provides one reason for his resignation as chairman.On [[May 22]nd], 2005 after the SPD had just taken a devastating election defeat to the Christian Democrats in its former heartland North Rhine-Westphalia, Gerhard Schröder announced he would pave the way for new federal elections in Germany "as soon as possible" (probably September 18, 2005). His chances for re-election are seen as slim.

Political activity

In September 1998 French President Chirac first met with Schröder.
In September 1998 French President Chirac first met with Schröder.

Foreign policy

Prior to Schröder's Chancellorship, no German military troops had served outside NATO territory since the end of the second world war. Schröder sent forces to Kosovo and to Afghanistan.

With Germany having a long experience with terrorism itself, Schröder declared solidarity with the United States of America after that country became the victim of terrorist attacks in September of 2001.

Along with French President Jacques Chirac, Schröder spoke out strongly against the war on Iraq during 2003, and refused any military assistance in that enterprise. His opposition has given rise to political friction between the United States of America and Germany, as Germany has had a reputation as one of the USA's most important and intimate allies since the end of World War II. Schröder's opposition to an invasion of Iraq had multiple reasons; primarily it reflected popular opposition to the war, especially among the SPD voters and supporters of its coalition partner.

In addition to a friendly relationship with Chirac, Schröder has cultivated close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Relations with some European countries have sometimes become strained due to Schröder's alleged "powerplay"; examples are Austria (2000), the Czech Republic and Spain.

Domestic policy

Schröder's Red-Green Alliance government achieved a reputation for some progressive policies — for example, the funding of renewable energies, liberalising homosexual partnerships, and trying to stop the Bundesländer introducing studying fees. Most voters associate Schröder with the Agenda 2010 reform program, which includes cuts in the social welfare system (national health insurance, unemployment payments, pensions), lowering taxes, and reforming regulations on employment and payment (Hartz I — IV). After the 2002 election, Schröder's SPD party steadily lost support in opinion polls. What started as a third way program in line with Tony Blair and Bill Clinton became to many eyes a harsh knock-down of the German welfare state.

Political style

Missing image
Chancellor Schröder walks with U.S. President George W. Bush at the White House on Thursday, March 29, 2001.

In the first years of his government, Schröder became known as the Medienkanzler (chancellor of the media). He also gained a reputation for governing by commissions. After several changes in his cabinet, growing resistance from the now CDU-dominated Bundesrat, and eroding popularity, Schröder's style changed to something based largely on the authoritative power of the chancellor's office.

Personal life

Schröder's career, starting from a working-class background, has spanned a period as a successful lawyer, as well as politics.

Schröder was born in Mossenberg, in the county of Lippe-Detmold (today North Rhine-Westphalia). His father, Fritz Schröder, died fighting in Romania during World War II weeks after young Gerhard's birth. His father's place of death was not known even to him until 2001, when his father's final resting place was revealed to be a cemetery in the village of Ceanu Mare, 375 km northwest of Bucharest. He visited this area on August 12, 2004. His mother Erika worked on farms to feed the family, consisting of herself and her two sons. Later she married again (Paul Vosseler), but continued to work hard — as a cleaning woman — to feed the five children of the family, then living in Bexten.

Schröder initially worked as a sales clerk in Göttingen, meanwhile studying at night school to gain a Mittlere Reife (high school) diploma. Still trying to learn more and to gain the possibility to attend university, in 1966 Schröder passed the Abitur test at Westfalen-Kolleg, Bielefeld. From 1966 to 1971 he studied law at the University of Göttingen. During the summer vacation he worked to earn his living. From 1972 onwards, Schröder served as an assistant at Göttingen University. In 1976 he passed his second law examination; he worked as a lawyer until 1990.

Schröder has been married four times, to:

  • Eva Schubach, married 1968, divorced 1972
  • Anne Taschenmacher, married 1972, divorced 1984
  • Hiltrud Hampel, married 1984, divorced 1997
  • Doris Köpf, married 1997

Doris has a daughter Klara (born 1991), from a previous relationship with a TV journalist (Klara lives with the couple). When not in Berlin, the capital of Germany, he lives in Hannover. In July 2004 he and his wife adopted a child from St. Petersburg in Russia, whose name is Viktoria.

The fact that he served on the Volkswagen board has led to his being nicknamed the "Audi-Chancellor", a reference to the Audi logo and his four marriages.

Schröder identifies himself as a Protestant, but does not appear particularly religious; for example he did not add the optional So wahr mir Gott helfe formula (so help me God) when sworn in as chancellor for his first term in 1998.

Schröder's first cabinet, 27 October 199822 October 2002

Missing image
Gerhard Schröder with George W. Bush


Schröder's second cabinet, 22 October 2002 — present

See also

External links

Preceded by:
Helmut Kohl
Chancellor of Germany
Succeeded by:
ca:Gerhard Schröder

cs:Gerhard Schröder da:Gerhard Schröder de:Gerhard Schröder et:Gerhard Schröder es:Gerhard Schröder fr:Gerhard Schröder ga:Gerhard Schröder gl:Gerhard Schröder id:Gerhard Schröder it:Gerhard Schröder la:Gerardus Schroeder li:Gerhard Schröder hu:Gerhard Schröder nl:Gerhard Schröder nds:Gerhard Schröder ja:ゲアハルト・シュレーダー no:Gerhard Schröder pl:Gerhard Schröder pt:Gerhard Schröder ro:Gerhard Schröder ru:Шрёдер, Герхард simple:Gerhard Schröder fi:Gerhard Schröder sv:Gerhard Schröder zh:格哈特·施羅德


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