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Profile: Joschka Fischer

Joschka Fischer: From young rebel to Germany's vice chancellor  


BERLIN, Germany (CNN) -- Everyone calls him Joschka except those former companions who never got over his change to pragmatic politics -- realpolitik.

Joseph Martin Fischer, leader of Germany's Green Party, was born the son of a butcher in Gerabronn, about 45 miles northeast of Stuttgart, on April 12, 1948 -- two years after his Hungarian-German parents were forced to leave Budapest.

Shortly before finishing 10th grade, Fischer left secondary school to begin work as a photographer's apprentice, a training he soon ended.

Together with his first wife, Edeltraud, whom he marries in Gretna Green in 1967, he moved to Frankfurt, where they both committed themselves to the student movement of the late 1960s.

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Even though Fischer never formerly enrolled at a university, he devoted himself to intensive socio-political studies and joined the militant group "Revolutionary Fight," taking part in demonstrations and riots. He also held odd jobs, and in the late 1970s he finally passed an exam -- for a licence to work as a taxi driver in Frankfurt.

The bloody terrorist campaign in the "German Autumn" of 1977 turned Fischer away from revolutionary politics. Later he would call this his "loss of illusions."

In 1982 he found a new political home with the Greens, a party founded two years earlier. In March 1983, Fischer was one of the first Green members of the German Bundestag. Because of the Greens' policy of grassroots democracy, he had to "rotate" out of parliament two years later.

In 1985, a coalition government of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Green Party was formed in the state of Hesse, and Fischer became minister of the environment -- the first Green minister in Germany. He was sworn in wearing a pair of sport shoes (which are now on display in the Museum for German History in Bonn).

However, the coalition ended over a dispute about the approval of a nuclear power plant, and Fischer resigned after only 14 months in office.

In the following Hessian election, the Greens increased their votes to 9.4 percent. They are forced into opposition, however, after the Christian Democrats and the Liberals won enough seats to form a coalition.

Fischer became head of the Greens in the Hesse parliament and was seen as the "real opposition leader" for the next four years. Those years marked the turn of the Greens into a professional party.

In 1991, a coalition of the SPD and Greens took over again in Hesse, and Fischer became minister of the environment and vice-minister-president. He resigned in October 1994 to fully commit himself to national politics in Bonn.

A year earlier, the Green Party had united with the East German civil rights party Buendnis 90 ("Buendnis" meaning "alliance"). In the elections of October 1994, the combined party took the Liberals' place as the third strongest party in the Bundestag.

Fischer, who became one of two heads of the parliamentary group, began to develop an inclination towards international politics.

In 1998, the conservative-liberal government of Chancellor Helmut Kohl was voted out of office after 16 years, and the new federal government was formed by the SPD and Greens.

In the cabinet of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Fischer became foreign minister and vice chancellor. Despite debate about his militant past, Fischer remains Germany's most popular politician, being regarded as a statesman rather than a representative of the Green Party.




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