The parliament in the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) on Wednesday elected politician Hendrik Wüst, a member of the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), as the region’s new premier.
The 46-year-old takes over from his party colleague Armin Laschet, who is standing down from the role after failing in his bid to succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor. The CDU and its Bavarian sister party the CSU suffered in recent federal elections with Laschet as chancellor candidate.
Wüst was elected with 103 votes in favor and 90 against in the assembly of 197 seats.
“I am touched by this election, and I am grateful for the trust,” Wüst said in his inaugural speech.
NRW, he said, has major tasks ahead, including dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and rebuilding after devastating flooding in July.
A lawyer by trade, Wüst is perceived as being a member of the CDU’s more-conservative wing.
Wüst, who had already been elected as the CDU’s new party leader in NRW, hasn’t got long to make his mark. He faces state elections in May next year.
The office of state premier involves executive power over state ministries for competencies such as labor, health, finance, transport, the interior, economy, education, justice, communities, and culture.
For centuries, Düsseldorf and its neighbor Cologne have been engaged in a friendly rivalry. Whether in the realm of business, art or even tradition, the western cities are keen to outdo each other. When it comes to modern architecture though, Düsseldorf has the edge. The Rheinturm communications tower, the so-called “Gehry Bauten” architecture and the harbor show off the city’s contemporary class.
As the city’s most famous landmark, Cologne’s Cathedral, is known the world over. Towering almost 160 meters high, it dominates the city’s skyline. While the foundations were laid in 1248, the cathedral was not completed until the nineteenth century. Inside, the Shrine of the Three Kings, a masterpiece crafted in gold and thought to contain the bones of the three Wise Men, is well worth a visit.
One of the most solid traditions in North Rhine-Westphalia is the annual celebration of Carnival. In the period leading up to the Christian observance of Lent, millions of revelers take to the streets dressed in their most bizarre and colorful costumes. The highlight is “Rosenmontag,” the Monday before Ash Wednesday. In Cologne, some 12,000 people take part in the city’s carnival parade.
Another particularly notable city in the western German state is Bonn. It saw its heyday as the capital of West Germany from the post-war period right up to re-unification. Some of the old government buildings are now open to the public to visit today, while others have retained their function as ministerial centers. DW’s headquarters are located in the “Schürmann-Bau” (center of the photograph).
North Rhine-Westphalia doesn’t just attract city slickers; it’s a haven for nature-lovers too. With its varied landscapes, the Eifel mountain range is a big hit among cycling and hiking enthusiasts. The National Park prides itself on protecting the three ‘Ws:’ Water, Wildlife and Woodland. More than 7800 animal and plant species have been identified, of which a quarter are listed as endangered.
In 1978, Aachen’s Cathedral became the first German building to be listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. Commissioned by Charles the Great, or Charlemagne as he’s better known, the cathedral’s foundations were laid in the year 796. The Aachen Cathedral Treasury houses the famous fourteenth-century Charlemagne Bust. The leader himself is buried in the church.
When it comes to biking, Münster reigns supreme. The city of 300,000 inhabitants is apparently home to half a million bicycles. The city is synonymous with cycling, as this photograph of the Prinzipalmarkt square illustrates. The “Promenade” ring road, which circles the city, is restricted to pedestrians and cyclists. With more than 55,000 students, Münster is also a well-known university town.
Corvey Abbey, now a UNESCO heritage site, was home to Benedictine monks until 1792. Situated in the city of Höxter, it’s one of the most important examples of Carolingian architecture. The abbey’s “Princely Library,” where the poet Hoffmann von Fallersleben once worked as a librarian, boasts a collection of 75,000 books.
The Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex is a visitors’ magnet. The site once housed one of Europe’s largest coal mines and coking plants. Today, like Aachen Cathedral and Corvey Abbey, it’s a UNESCO world heritage site. The old industrial buildings are now centers of art and culture. The swimming pool on the site attracts huge crowds in the summer.
The Ruhr area is famous for football too; there are supposedly more regular players here than anywhere else in Germany. The biggest teams, Schalke and Dortmund, are known all over the world. A meeting of the two teams is an unmissable event in the German football calendar.
As such, state premiers are involved in the hiring and firing of cabinet members. They also perform some devolved ceremonial duties that might otherwise be carried out by a head of state.
Other areas like foreign policy, defense, and currency remain the exclusive responsibility of the federal government.
With a population of almost 18 million, NRW has more inhabitants than the average EU state.
rc/wd (AFP, dpa)