Frank-Walter Steinmeier, nominated on Thursday as Germany's next foreign minister, is a close ally of outgoing Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder who has so far preferred a low profile to the political spotlight.A law graduate, he has earned a reputation across party lines as an efficient manager and tireless worker in six years as the head of Schroeder's chancellery.
"Daddy lives in the office," his daughter is reported to have said. Steinmeier now assumes one of the most visible roles in German politics. He will need great diplomatic finesse in handling ties with Washington, soured by the outgoing government's opposition to the Iraq war, and forging consensus with allies over the EU's future.
Steinmeier would serve as foreign minister for the Social Democrats (SPD) in a "grand coalition" of Germany's two big parties under conservative leader Angela Merkel.
German newspapers have nicknamed the 49-year-old the "Little Chancellor", the "Chancellor Whisperer" and "Dr Flawless".
As a behind-the-scenes operator, the white-haired Steinmeier has generally given few clues about his own political beliefs.
"My job lies in the border zone between management and politics," he told a newspaper reporter this year.
But he stepped out of Schroeder's shadow last month to deliver a speech on foreign affairs because the chancellor was involved in talks about the future government.
He championed the policy of seeking a more active role for a democratic and peaceful Germany on the international stage, gradually shaking off the reticence that followed World War Two.
"Without the commitment of the federal government, substantial initiatives would never have seen the light of day or would never have taken the positive turns we believe they took," he told Berlin's Science and Politics Foundation.
He cited peacekeeping in the Balkans, efforts to help the world's poorest countries and Germany's strategic partnership with Russia among the government's achievements, reports the Reuters. I.L.