After losing a race last month to replace German Chancellor Angela Merkel as the head of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Friedrich Merz said on Thursday that he would take on a role as adviser to party leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.
Kramp-Karrenbauer tweeted that Merz will provide the party with his "experience and expertise" on economic policy and will be a "great reinforcement" for an expert group advising the CDU. He will also contribute to determining the party's future trans-Atlantic policies.
Expert group adviser, not Cabinet minister
Popular among members of the CDU's right-wing looking to change Merkel's economic and migrant policies, Merz had hinted he would like a Cabinet post, but Merkel ruled out such a move.
CDU this year will be looking to increase its support ahead of regional elections in three eastern states where the far-right populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) is strong. The party also aims to publish a new set of policy mission statements in 2020 — its current official platform dates back to 2007.
Merz's narrow loss to Merkel protege Kramp-Karrenbauer as party leader in early December exposed divisions in the CDU that both candidates vowed to heal, and she made clear she wanted him to play an active role.
Other CDU leaders had called for Merz to maintain a voice in the party.
"It is important that thoughts and ideas Friedrich Merz presented find a place in the policies of the CDU," said Armin Laschet, the premier of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. "I would wish that he remains visible."
A trained lawyer, Merz had lost out to Merkel in a power struggle in 2002 and has been out of the lower house, the Bundestag, since 2009. Since then he has had various corporate roles including chairman of the German arm of the US investment fund BlackRock.
sms/kl (dpa, Reuters)