Bloomberg News

Merkel Has ‘Full Confidence’ President to Answer Loan Questions

January 04, 2012

Jan. 4 (Bloomberg) -- Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed “full confidence” that German President Christian Wulff will answer outstanding questions as she questioned his attempt to block a newspaper from reporting on a home loan.

Wulff will make a statement to be broadcast at 8:15 p.m. Berlin time on ZDF and ARD. Wulff has been pilloried by politicians this week after reports emerged that he called a newspaper editor last month in an effort to block a story revealing that he had taken out a home loan from a wealthy friend.

“Anybody who holds high office must also know that he or she will become the subject of reporting -- and not only on issues that have to do with politics,” Merkel spokesman Georg Streiter told reporters today in Berlin.

Merkel, who handpicked Wulff to run for the largely ceremonial position in 2010, would confront a fresh political crisis if he were to step down as the clamor about the president’s conduct distracts her from the European debt crisis.

Bild, Germany’s most-read newspaper, said this week that the president called its editor, Kai Diekmann, on Dec. 12 and left a voice message expressing anger at the forthcoming story and threatening legal action. The next day, Bild reported that Wulff had negotiated a 500,000 euro ($648,000) loan from the wife of businessman Egon Geerkens to pay for a new home when he was the state premier of Lower Saxony in 2008.

Wulff called Diekmann back two days later and apologized for the tone and substance of the previous call, Bild said.

Details of the private credit swirled last month, forcing the president to apologize for failing to reveal the transaction. He told reporters on Dec. 22 that he realized his actions surrounding the loan were “irritating.”

Wulff was elected in June 2010 with the backing of Merkel’s coalition after his predecessor, Horst Koehler, unexpectedly quit. Wulff, a one-time vice chairman of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, was elected only after three rounds of voting in the Federal Assembly.

The leader of the opposition Social Democrats, Sigmar Gabriel, reiterated that two presidential resignations in as many years would be undesirable.

Still, “nobody would wish for a president who gives the impression that he’s not suitable for the office politically or stylistically,” Gabriel wrote on his Facebook page.

--Editors: Simone Meier, Andrew Atkinson

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Donahue in Berlin at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Patrick Donahue at; James Hertling at

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