Klaus Kinkel

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Klaus Kinkel
Klaus Kinkel CJD Koenigswinter 2005.jpg
Foreign Minister of Germany
In office
Preceded by Hans-Dietrich Genscher
Succeeded by Joschka Fischer
Chairman of the FDP
In office
Preceded by Otto Graf Lambsdorff
Succeeded by Wolfgang Gerhardt
Personal details
Born (1936-12-17) 17 December 1936 (age 85)
Political party FDP
Alma mater University of Tübingen
University of Bonn
University of Cologne
Religion Roman Catholic

Klaus Kinkel (born 17 December 1936) is a German civil servant, lawyer, and politician of the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP). He served as Federal Minister of Justice (1991–1992), Foreign Minister (1992–1998) and Vice Chancellor of Germany (1993–1998) in the government of Helmut Kohl. He was also chairman of the liberal Free Democratic Party from 1993 to 1995. Previously, he was President of the Federal Intelligence Service (1979–1982).

As Foreign Minister, Kinkel took a clear stance to end the atrocities committed during the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s, and proposed the creation of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.[1]


The son of a doctor, Kinkel was born in Metzingen, Baden-Württemberg, into a Catholic family. He took his Abitur at the Staatliches Gymnasium Hechingen and studied law at the universities of Tübingen, Bonn and Cologne. He joined A.V. Guestfalia Tübingen, a Catholic student fraternity that is member of the Cartellverband. Kinkel took his first juristic state exam at Tübingen, the second in Stuttgart and earned a doctorate of law in 1964.

Career as a civil servant

Kinkel was first employed as a civil servant in the state of Baden-Württemberg, until he was employed at the Federal Ministry of the Interior in 1968. There, he was personal secretary for the Federal Minister, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, from 1970 to 1974, and eventually the head of the Minister's bureau. After Genscher was appointed Foreign Minister in 1974, Kinkel held senior positions in the Federal Foreign Office, as head of the Leitungsstab and the policy planning staff (Planungsstab).

President of the Federal Intelligence Service

From 1979 to 1982 he was president of the Federal Intelligence Service.

Secretary of state

From 1982 to 1991, Kinkel was secretary of state in the Federal Ministry of Justice.

Kinkel as President of the Federal Intelligence Service in 1981, during a visit to President Karl Carstens

He became a member of FDP in 1991.

Political career

Federal Minister of Justice

Kinkel was Federal Minister of Justice from 18 January 1991 to 18 May 1992. Among other achievements, he took the lead in pressing for the return of Erich Honecker, the former East German leader, to face trial. He also engaged in public negotiations with the terrorist Red Army Faction, successfully urging them to renounce violence.[2][3]

Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs and FDP chairman

In a surprise decision on 29 April 1992, the members of the FDP parliamentary group rejected the nomination of Germany's designated new Foreign Minister, Irmgard Schwaetzer, and voted instead to name Kinkel to head the Federal Foreign Office.[4]

During his tenure as Foreign Minister, Kinkel made substantial efforts to end the atrocities committed by Serbs in the Yugoslav Wars.[citation needed] In 1992, he proposed the creation of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia[citation needed] and – unsuccessfully –introduced a resolution at a meeting of European Community foreign ministers that would have committed each of the member countries to accept more refugees from the Balkans.[5] Later that year, he announced Germany's wish for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, arguing that Britain and France would never agree to an alternative plan under which they would merge their national seats into a single permanent seat representing the European Union.[6]

Under the leadership of Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Kinkel, the German Bundestag in 1993 agreed on a three-point amendment to the 1949 Constitution that for the first time let German troops take part in international peacekeeping operations sanctioned by the United Nations and other bodies, subject to advance approval by parliament.[7] Shortly after, the German Parliament approved a controversial troop deployment under the umbrella of the United Nations Operation in Somalia II, clearing the final hurdle for what was then Germany's biggest deployment of ground forces abroad since World War II.[8] Also under Kinkel’s leadership, Germany began destroying stockpiles of tanks and other heavy weapons in the early 1990s, becoming the first country to implement the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe.[9]

In 1995, China dismissed a personal appeal from Kinkel and expelled journalist Henrik Bork, a reporter for the newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau, to release Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng.[10] One year later, China abruptly canceled a planned visit to Beijing by Kinkel, citing a German parliamentary resolution that condemned China's human rights record in Tibet.[11]

A strong supporter of European integration, Kinkel successfully advocated for Germany to ratify the Maastricht Treaty on European political and economic union in December 1992, making it the 10th of the 12 European Community nations to sign on.[12] In 1994, he had to abandon his candidate for President of the European Commission, Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene of Belgium, following protest by British Prime Minister John Major.[13] In 1997, he argued that Turkey did not qualify because of its record on "human rights, the Kurdish question, relations with Greece and of course very clear economic questions."[14] On Kinkel’s initiative, Germany became the first government to declare a suspension of contacts with Bosnia's envoys abroad after a recommendation made by the High Representative of the International Community in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Carlos Westendorp.[15]

From 21 January 1993, Kinkel was also Vice-Chancellor of Germany. From 1993 to 1995 he also served as chairman of the FDP. After the Free Democrats won barely enough votes to get into the Bundestag in 1994[16] and later lost badly in 12 out of 14 state and European Parliament elections, Kinkel announced that he would not seek re-election as party chairman. He resigned as Foreign Minister and Vice-Chancellor after the government's defeat in the 1998 federal election.[citation needed]

Member of Parliament

Kinkel was a member of the Bundestag, the Parliament of Germany, from 1994 to 2002. From 1998 to 2002, he served as deputy chairman of the FDP parliamentary group. Kinkel was elected from the state of Baden-Württemberg.

Life after politics

After leaving government in 1998, Kinkel has worked as a lawyer and been engaged in a number of philanthropic activities. From 2002, he served on the European Advisory Council of Lehman Brothers. He currently is Chairman of the Executive Board at Deutsche Telekom Foundation.

Selected works


  1. Hazan, Pierre (2004). Justice in a Time of War: The True Story Behind the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. College Station: Texas A&M University Press. ISBN 1585443778.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Stephen Kinzer (18 April 1992), German Terrorist Group Says It Will End Attacks New York Times.
  3. Stephen Kinzer (29 April 1992), Party in Bonn Rebels on Genscher's Successor New York Times.
  4. Stephen Kinzer (29 April 1992), Party in Bonn Rebels on Genscher's Successor New York Times.
  5. Stephen Kinzer (29 July 1992), Germany Chides Europe About Balkan Refugees New York Times.
  6. Paul Lewis (24 September 1992), Germany Tells the U.N. It Wants A Permanent Seat on the Council New York Times.
  7. Craig R. Whitney (14 January 1993), Kohl and Partners in Accord on Peacekeeping New York Times.
  8. Bonn Parliament OKs Somalia Troops Los Angeles Times, 3 July 1993.
  9. Germany Begins Cutbacks Under Weapons Treaty Los Angeles Times, 4 August 1992.
  10. Rone Tempest (28 December 1995), Court Rejects Appeal of China Dissident Wei Los Angeles Times.
  11. Alan Cowell (25 June 1996), Germany's Concerns Over Rights in Tibet Clash With Trade Ties to China New York Times.
  12. Germany Ratifies Maastricht Treaty Los Angeles Times, 19 December 1992.
  13. Tom Buerkle (30 June 1994), Bonn Seeks To Break EU Logjam International Herald Tribune.
  14. Stephen Kinzer (27 March 1997), Europeans Shut the Door on Turkey's Membership in Union New York Times.
  15. Contact Suspended With Bosnia Envoys Los Angeles Times, 4 August 1997.
  16. Craig R. Whitney (20 October 1994), Kohl's Free Democratic Allies Shaken by Big Election Losses New York Times.
Civic offices
Preceded by
Gerhard Wessel
President of the Federal Intelligence Service
Succeeded by
Eberhard Blum
Political offices
Preceded by
Hans A. Engelhard
Federal Minister of Justice
Succeeded by
Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger
Preceded by
Hans-Dietrich Genscher
Foreign Minister of Germany
Succeeded by
Joschka Fischer
Preceded by
Jürgen Möllemann
Vice Chancellor of Germany
Succeeded by
Joschka Fischer
Party political offices
Preceded by
Otto Graf Lambsdorff
Chairman of the Free Democratic Party
Succeeded by
Wolfgang Gerhardt