Tue, Feb 10, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Germany gets new economy minister, just 37

AP AND AFP , BERLIN

Germany’s conservative Christian Social Union (CSU) said yesterday that its 37-year-old general secretary would become the country’s new economy minister.

Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg will replace Michael Glos, whose shock resignation with a general election only seven months away stunned many.

The CSU is the Bavarian sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats and has two Cabinet seats in her “grand coalition,” the economy and agriculture ministers.

Guttenberg is a rising star in the CSU. He became its general secretary last November when the party shook up its leadership after a poor performance in a Bavarian state election.

Elected to parliament at the age of 30, the media-savvy zu Guttenberg — full name Baron Karl-Theodor von und zu Guttenberg — is poised to be the youngest economy minister in modern German history.

The 64-year-old Glos said he was stepping down due to his age and the need for an injection of fresh blood within the conservative CSU. He has been widely criticized for his inactivity during the financial crisis and has often been a thorn in Merkel’s side. The front-page of the Financial Times Deutschland describes Glos’s resignation as “his first achievement.”

However, it is not clear how well-qualified zu Guttenberg is to tackle the economic woes facing Germany as he is considered a foreign policy expert.

The resignation is a major political headache for Merkel, who has seen her popularity dip in recent months as Germans give the thumbs-down to her handling of the economic crisis. Although campaigning is not meant to start officially for several months, Merkel’s Social Democrat challenger for power in September, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, wasted no time in scoring political points from the crisis.

Steinmeier said on Sunday he was “more than unhappy that the future of the economy minister is being debated in the middle of an economic crisis.”

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