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News and views from the German-language region of Europe

April 7, 2008

A 60 year old reformed reformer

Filed under Life in Europe

This week Germany’s former foreign minister Joschka Fischer turns 60. Like other prominent people who had problems completing school (among them Albert Einstein, Bill Gates and Adolf Hitler), Fischer never finished school. Not bad for a fellow who has lectured at Princeton.

Fischer is part of what is called the "68 generation" in Germany, roughly analogous to America’s Vietnam generation. One of the early leaders of Germany "Green" party, street fighter Fischer Fischer was part of a group that embarked on a course to effect change by its "march through the institutions", referring to putting Green politicians in key positions. As the junior partner for seven years in a coalition government, I guess the Greens did that to some extent. On his 60th birthday Joschka can think about how far he has come. For someone who never finished school and who was known for fighting on the streets of Frankfurt against tenant evictions resulting from real estate sales, Fischer will enjoy a generous government pension afforded top officials. He also speaks for pocket change like the 24,000 € he earned recently for a lecture given at a leading Swiss bank in Zürich. Today the former occasional taxi driver is chauffeured to his appointments. The fellow known for disrupting proceedings in his wilder days now asks for quiet when he speaks. Some 38 years ago or so public officials were wary of his stunts. Today he sometimes has police protection himself. The guy who years ago never had anything positive to say about the United States is asked today to decipher American foreign policy in a plausible manner. How’s that for "marching through the institutions"? I guess I should have dropped out of school. :-)

Paul Kieffer's blog with personal insights and news from the German-language region in Europe.


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