- Sep 20, 1988 - BA Thesis, Spring Semester 2013. Merged into a larger identity. Thatcher; David Cameron; Helmut Kohl; and Angela Merkel, from two.
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By Karl Vick / Berlin with Simon Shuster
￼￼Photograph by Steffen Kugler
- Person of the Year
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Fairy tales are where you find them, but any number seem to begin in the dark German woods where Angela Merkel spent her childhood.
The girl who would grow up to be called the most powerful woman in the world came of age in a glade dappled by the northern sun and shadowed by tall pines.
Her family’s house stood three stories, and the steep rake of its tile roof held an attic window in the shape of a half-open eye. Strangers walked on the paths below, passing residents who often moved at curious gaits. Cries of anguish were sometimes heard. To adults, Waldhof was home to the Lutheran seminary run by Merkel’s father, an isolated compound—“forest court” in English—that hosted students and other short-term visitors while also functioning as a home and workplace for mentally disabled adults. But to a child of 3, Angela’s age when her family arrived, it was a world unto itself, and would remain so until she went to school in the adjoining town of Templin. There, she came to realize that, like the 17 million other residents of East Germany, she actually was living within the walls of a fortress.
Merkel remained a captive for the first 35 years of her life, biding her time. As an adult, she lived in East Berlin, riding an elevated train beside the barricade whose 1961 construction she recalled as the first political memory of her life. When it fell in 1989, she gathered the qualities cultivated as a necessity in the East—patience, blandness, intellectual rigor and an inconspicuous but ferocious drive—and changed not only her life but the course of history.
The year 2015 marked the start of Merkel’s 10th year as Chancellor of a united Germany and the de facto leader of the European Union, the most prosperous joint venture on the planet. By year’s end, she had steered the enterprise through not one but two existential crises, either of which could have meant the end of the union that has kept peace on the continent for seven decades. The first was thrust upon her—the slow-rolling crisis over the euro, the currency shared by 19 nations, all of which were endangered by the default of a single member, Greece. Its resolution came at the signature plodding pace that so tries the patience of Germans that they have made it a verb: Merkeling.
The second was a thunderclap. In late summer, Merkel’s government threw open Germany’s doors to a pressing throng of refugees and migrants; a total of 1 million asylum seekers are expected in the country by the end of December. It was an audacious act that, in a single motion, threatened both to redeem Europe and endanger it, testing the resilience of an alliance formed to avoid repeating the kind of violence tearing asunder the Middle East by working together. That arrangement had worked well enough that it raised an existential question of its own, now being asked by the richest country in Europe: What does it mean to live well?
Merkel had her answer: “In many regions war and terror prevail. States disintegrate. For many years we have read about this. We have heard about it. We have seen it on TV. But we had not yet sufficiently understood that what happens in Aleppo and Mosul can affect Essen or Stuttgart. We have to face that now.” For her, the refugee decision was a galvanizing moment in a career that was until then defined by caution and avoidance of anything resembling drama. Analysts called it a jarring departure from form. But it may also have been inevitable, given how Angela Merkel feels about walls.
What was not inevitable but merely astounding was that the most generous, openhearted gesture of recent history blossomed from Germany, the country that within living memory (and beyond, as long as there’s a History Channel) blew apart the European continent, and then the world, by taking to gruesome extremes all the forces its Chancellor strives to hold in check: nationalism, nativism, self-righteousness, reversion to arms. No one in Europe has held office longer—or to greater effect—in a world defined by steadily receding barriers. That, after all, is the story of the E.U. and the story of globalization, both terms as colorless as the corridor of a Brussels office building. The worlds Merkel has mastered carry not a hint of the forces that have shaped Europe’s history, the primal sort a child senses, listening to a story, safe in bed.
In some ways, living in East Germany was like living on a stage set. The German Democratic Republic called itself a sovereign nation, but it was Moscow’s closest satellite in the Soviet bloc. Its deeply paranoid government put great store on appearances, employing thousands to spy on other citizens. It minted coins that felt strangely light in the palm—they were made of aluminum—and many streets were facades. “I stayed there for six or nine months in 1981. My impression is it was 1947 or ’48,” says Peer Steinbrück, a Social Democrat who both lost to Merkel and served as her Finance Minister. “Behind Unter den Linden, all these buildings were still destroyed. Bullet scars on the walls.”
Erika Benn had the same feeling when she arrived in Templin in 1965 from university at Leipzig to teach Russian: “I said, Where have I ended up? My God.” The medieval town had a history, with a church that dates to the 14th century. But churches were merely tolerated in the GDR, which was officially atheist.
That made public life delicate at Waldhof. Merkel’s father, Horst Kasner, had moved his family there in 1957, after leaving Hamburg, where Angela, the first of three children, was born. Most people were moving in the other direction, to the West. But the Lutheran Church enjoyed a standing in German society that brought a measure of deference even from Marxist-Leninists. Its parishes in the East became refuges for dissidents, something like embassies. That in turn brought anyone associated with them additional scrutiny, though Kasner’s situation was tempered by his enthusiasm for socialism—at least as he understood it—and an evident talent for navigating the state apparatus.
It also helped that the pastor embraced a school of theology that steered clear of social activism and instead sought to reconcile the work of modern philosophers like Immanuel Kant with religious belief, according to a former adviser to Merkel. The discussions young Angela grew up amid in the parsonage were erudite and rigorous. Her mother Herlind, trained as an English teacher, was never allowed to teach the language. At school, Angela enrolled in Russian with Frau Benn.
The retired teacher keeps a file folder on her star student. Pulling out a black-and-white group photo, she points out Merkel in the back row, recognizable mostly by her helmet hair. “That’s how she was: the girl in the back,” says Benn. “She’s about almost invisible. It’s so typical of her, I can’t even tell you.”
As an adolescent, Merkel both lived inside her head and exulted in the outdoors. Physically clumsy, she avoided sports but camped with friends, all while excelling at school. As she got older, she explored as much of the world as a citizen of the Soviet bloc was permitted. The system’s limits on wanderlust rendered Merkel, waiflike in her youth, with her face pressed up against the glass of a warm shop window.
She journeyed to Bulgaria and stared over the border toward the forbidden hillsides of Greece. She watched, as almost everyone in the GDR did, television stations beamed from West Germany, and dreamed of visiting California. Merkel understood that she would not be permitted to go there until she was 60, the age at which East Germany trusted its citizens to travel to the West. Yet she began to plan for it. Patience was a lesson of life in the East, as was realism.
“You know I grew up in the GDR,” Merkel told a security conference in Munich in February, where she was peppered with demands that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s incursion into Ukraine be answered with military force rather than the economic pressure Merkel had spearheaded. “As a 7-year-old child, I saw the Wall being erected. No one—although it was a stark violation of international law—believed at the time that one ought to intervene militarily in order to protect citizens of the GDR and whole Eastern bloc of the consequences of that, namely to live in lack of freedom for many, many years. And I don’t actually mind. Because I understand this, because it was a realistic assessment that this would not lead to success.”
Merkel plays the long game, in other words. For a career, she shrewdly chose a path in the field that communists worshipped instead of God: science. She studied physics at Leipzig University and married another scientist, Ulrich Merkel. She ended the marriage after five years but kept his name, even after marrying her current husband, Joachim Sauer, a quantum chemist, after years spent living together.
More than that, she retained the disciplines of scientific inquiry learned on the way to a Ph.D. in quantum chemistry—intellectual diligence and a quest for the most reliable data. In combination with her natural, seemingly endless curiosity, the result was an inquisitiveness rare for a politician. Merkel also retained the survival instincts honed in a country where any citizen might prove to be a Stasi informant—the GDR’s security agency had 274,000 agents—and the discretion intended to mask beliefs that emerged only when it was safe. But they did emerge.
“We’ve always had this experience that things take long, but I’m 100% convinced that our principles will in the end prevail,” she told the audience in Munich. “No one knew how the Cold War would end at the time, but it did end. This is within our living experience … I’m surprised at how fainthearted we sometimes are, and how quickly we lose courage.”
The day the Berlin Wall came down, Nov. 9, 1989, Merkel was about to have her regular Thursday-night sauna with a friend. A creature of habit, she kept to her routine, finishing her sweat before venturing with the crowds into West Berlin. She stopped in an apartment, talked to the people there and had a beer. The label on it was unfamiliar. Then she went back across no-man’s-land and changed her life. She was 35 years old.
No obvious natural boundary separates Austria from Germany. The snowy mountains of Bavaria look an awful lot like the snowy mountains of Austria, and the two-lane highway from Kiefersfelden, in one country, to Kufstein, in the other, is a smoother transition than from Maryland to Pennsylvania—not even the road surface changes. You almost have to ask a local to know what country you’re in.
This uncertainty counts as one of the great triumphs of the modern age. In the past 70 years, supreme efforts have been made to erase national boundaries in Europe or at least render them harmless. This effort is known as the European Union, which includes 28 countries and, it must be said, is reliably boring. But that’s the whole idea. For thousands of years, the Continent generated not white papers but wars too numerous to mention—especially to Americans, who know them only from textbooks and strain to recall them only until the written test. “Europe’s Wars, 1648–1789: A Selection” takes up two pages in Appendix III of Norman Davies’ Europe: A History.
But everyone knows World War II, the cataclysm that still defines Germany for many, not least because the Nazis are a staple of global popular culture as a stand-in for unqualified evil. That war claimed at least 50 million lives worldwide, most of them civilians, and produced a raft of international institutions—from the United Nations to the International Monetary Fund—aimed at preventing anything like it from happening again. The one that ultimately mattered most was thought up by the countries with the bloodiest records: the postwar leaders of France and Germany began the European Coal and Steel Community, which grew even blander as it expanded. By the time it was called the European Union, in 1991, the supranational organization had been washed of all color. Countries surrendered elements of sovereignty to it in exchange for access to shared markets and an overarching identity as European, their citizens able to move among 26 countries without showing a passport and among 19 without having to change money. Founded on a series of interlocking treaties, the E.U. exists, a cynic could say, largely as an endless series of meetings and nearly endless regulations.
On the other hand, none of its members has raised more than a voice against another for seven decades—a modern record. In 2012, the E.U. was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The gold medal was accepted by three officials, none of whom actually ran the union. By then, that responsibility had fallen, more or less, to Merkel.
To a large extent, the job came with the territory. Merkel was Chancellor of Germany, and Germany was the most populous and prosperous member in a union that had become a lucrative club. As globalization rewarded scale and standardization, E.U. membership became a ticket to prosperity, especially for members of the former East bloc. German manufacturers, working in concert with labor outsourced to its poorer neighbors, built an export economy that remains the healthiest in Europe and the fourth largest in the world.
But Merkel was made for the job. The E.U.’s mission of removing barriers and spreading democracy was her mission too. And the plodding, patient style she brought from the laboratory meshed with the E.U. mandate encouraging decision by consensus. She appeared to be the perfect person to navigate the euro crisis, which began in 2010 and reached equilibrium this year. By then, she was being caricatured with Hitler’s mustache, and Germans had coined the word Merkeling.
The problem was Greece. The country that gave the world democracy was supplying it with headaches. Athens was broke and carried debts it could never hope to pay. If the country still had its own currency, it might at least dilute the problem by printing more of it. But like 18 other E.U. countries, Greece had exchanged its money, the drachma, for the euro—and the only way to pay its debts was by asking its neighbors for more euros. Merkel stood by the cash register, with her lessons from East Germany. There the collapse of the Wall had been swiftly followed by the collapse of the economy, an event as traumatic as the breach had been euphoric, but experienced only by the Ossies, as East Germans were called. What’s more, the trigger had been a common currency: the abrupt introduction of the West German deutsche mark to the East shuttered factories, putting millions out of work, including Merkel.
“I come from a country in which I experienced economic collapse,” Merkel reminded reporters in 2012. If Greece’s debt was not reduced “sustainably and with a view to the long term, Europe simply will no longer be the prosperous continent that the world listens to and that gets people’s attention.”
What got people’s attention during the saga of Greece—and Portugal, and Ireland, and briefly Italy, but first and last, Greece—was Merkel’s stern mien. She wasn’t the only Northerner preaching austerity to the sunny Mediterranean nations that spent money they did not have. But it was Merkel who became the face of the European banker, caricatured here as a dominatrix, there as a storm trooper. The crisis went on for years, and Merkel’s image grew as entrenched as her position: rescue only if Greece ended its spendthrift ways.
It wasn’t entirely Athens’ fault; the euro had a deeper problem that dated from its birth: the currency bound nations together economically without a parallel political apparatus, a problem Merkel diagnosed and set out to eventually solve through lengthy treaty renegotiations. But the immediate political problem was the civic culture of Greece, where the rich avoided taxes and governments spent lavishly. Greeks rioted, a government fell. But in the end, the leaders who hoped to defy Merkel’s E.U. had no choice but to back down. It was either face expulsion from the euro zone or swallow austerity measures that gutted pensions and public services. The saga cemented Merkel’s status as leader of Europe, if a chilly one.
“They call me ‘Little Angela Merkel’ when they think I’m being too strict,” says Angela Klingbeil, of her colleagues at the Berlin firm where she heads accounting. Klingbeil smiles grimly, looking into the remains of the cappuccino she was sipping at an outdoor café in Alexanderplatz, the former center of East Berlin. Today its retail temples outshine the Kurfürstendamm, the marquee shopping street deliberately fashioned to advertise the attractions of capitalism to East Germans like Merkel. The Chancellor has recalled darting from shopping basket to shopping basket “like a lynx” to see who had emerged from a store with a line worth joining. Toothbrushes and underwear were particular treasures.
But life in a consumer paradise begs a modern question: How much shopping can you do? In December 2014, Pope Francis traveled to Strasbourg to chide the European Parliament—one of the vaguer institutions—about being and nothingness. The Argentine called Europe “less and less a protagonist” in a world that regards the continent as “somewhat elderly and haggard.” Said the Pontiff: “The great ideas which once inspired Europe seem to have lost their attraction, only to be replaced by the bureaucratic technicalities of its institutions.” He accused Europe’s leaders of confusing unity with uniformity and “the reality of democracy with a new political nominalism.”
It was Merkel who most famously framed the euro crisis in existential terms—“If the euro fails, Europe fails,” she said—but did that mean the union was at bottom only about money? Merkel often says Ossies know that after working hard in exchange for almost nothing, the ability to procure a decent living in exchange for hard work matters in the competition between ideologies. But that’s not the same as being coldhearted, the reputation stalking both Germany and its Chancellor when Merkel, with the euro crisis just winding down, appeared at a meeting with students on July 16. It was for a televised discussion called Living Well in Germany, and a young girl named Reem raised her hand and explained that her family members were Palestinian refugees and faced deportation to Lebanon.
“As long as I don’t know that I can stay here, I don’t know what my future will be,” the 14-year-old said in fluent German. “I want to study. It’s really painful to watch how other people can enjoy life and you can’t enjoy it with them.”
Software protection platform windows 10. The Chancellor looked taken aback. “I understand,” she began, “and yet I have to …” There was an easy way out: deflect the plea, perhaps promise to have someone look at the family’s file. Merkel went another way. “Sometimes politics is hard,” she informed the girl. “You’re a very nice person, but you know that there are thousands and thousands of people in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, and if we say, ‘You can all come,’ and, ‘You can all come from Africa,’ and ‘You can all come,’ we just can’t manage that.”
Merkel broke off a moment later because the girl was weeping. “Oh Gott,” she muttered, moving across the room. “I want to comfort her.” But the girl was inconsolable, and the footage went viral.
Thirty-five when the Wall fell, Merkel was all of 36 when she took office as a minister in the first government of a united Federal Republic of Germany. Everything moved fast in the heady days that ended the Cold War—the East bloc nations threw off their communist governments in the space of weeks—but even by the standards of the time, Merkel’s transformation had a storybook quality, a sword pulled from a stone.
Suddenly freed of the pressing eyes of the Stasi, the quietly political household at the Waldhof was allowed to participate in the open. Merkel went to the Berlin office of a new East German party calling itself Democratic Awakening, which was going to stand in the first (and last) elections in a divided Germany. She ended up as deputy press secretary for the man elected as the East’s Prime Minister, thanks to a quiet word from an official in Awakening’s sister party in the West, the Christian Democratic Union.
On the surface, the CDU was not a natural fit. Merkel’s mother, whose father had been a politician in Danzig, would win local office with the Social Democrats, a center-left party. Before his 2011 death, her father, according to Benn, aligned with the Green Party, leftists with an environmental bent. The Christian Democrats were center-right, Catholic, culturally conservative and something of a boys’ club. By choosing them, Merkel—a divorced Protestant from the East bloc who lived with her lover—would presage a tidal shift in German society, which a quarter-century later would be less formal, more liberal and more comfortable with itself.
But at the time, the choice spoke more to Merkel’s ambition. The CDU controlled the government, and after seeking out an introduction to Helmut Kohl, the novice counted the then Chancellor of Germany as her political mentor. His party made Merkel its candidate for a constituency in the far north of Germany, on a peninsula extending into the Baltic Sea. A photograph shows her in a denim skirt and collarless shirt, looking a bit lost as she gets the feel for retail politics by drinking brandy in a hut with bearded fishermen.
After the CDU won the unified election, Kohl put Merkel in his Cabinet as Minister for Women and Youth. Later that year she was in California, the place she’d longed to see, on a state visit that proceeded to the White House. She shook hands with Ronald Reagan, a girlhood hero of hers for standing up to the Soviets. But if her dreams were coming true, they carried a price. She was “Kohl’s girl,” introduced to delegations like a novelty item, an exotic creature from the East. Merkel bristled and withdrew to the background she preferred. At the same time, she craved acknowledgment on her own terms, crying tears of frustration when she felt slighted on her first trip to Israel—“a weakness that Merkel quite often displayed early on in her political career,” according to biographer Stefan Kornelius.
“Even when she was awkward and shy, you could feel her energy, you could feel her power, from the beginning,” says Herlinde Koelbl, a prominent German photographer who in 1991 began taking portraits of 15 up-and-coming politicians, including Merkel. The portraits were retaken each year for a book titled Traces of Power, a kind of longitudinal study of ambition in pictures. Obtaining the pols’ cooperation was not a problem. “They love it. They love to be photographed and filmed,” Koelbl says. “Merkel is not like that. She’s not vain. To be vain, if you’re familiar with Wagner, it’s an Achilles’ heel for everyone, I would say. That’s one way she was protected, in a certain way. And is still protected.”
Germany’s male politicians were the first to make the mistake of underestimating Merkel. At one point, Gerhard Schröder, the preening peacock who headed the Social Democrats and was Chancellor from 1998 to 2005, publicly called her “pitiful” as Environment Minister, the position she assumed after the CDU was re-elected in 1994. “I will put him in the corner, just like he did with me,” she told Koelbl the next time they met. “I still need time, but one day, the time will come for this. And I am already looking forward.”
By the available evidence, Merkel’s performance as Environment Minister was not bad at all. She mounted the second major global conference on climate change, in Berlin, which ended with the first promise to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. But that’s what Merkel does—work a system, persevere, seek consensus. It’s all very worthy and is probably the key to her success, but it can’t compete with the flash of a knife’s blade that then disappeared into her sleeve for most of a decade.
When she finally put Schröder in that corner, he appeared not to know it, and she pretended not to. It was election night 2005, and neither his party nor Merkel’s had won a majority. That did not stop Schröder from “mansplaining” the results at length during the television show known as the “elephant round,” where, by German tradition, candidates gather to parse the returns. Schröder would not shut up, fairly shouting that no one else would be able to create a government. Merkel looked on with a blank expression. Two months later, she was sworn in as Chancellor.
By then she had dispatched Kohl, her mentor and patron, by publicly calling in December 1999 for his removal after he became tangled in a campaign-finance scandal. She had served him for eight years, plus another year in the opposition, and simply announced his time was up. “She doesn’t take on fights she can’t win,” says Kornelius. “There are a couple of examples out there, lying in their coffins, of people who got in her way.”
Yet Germans call her Mommy. The word in German, Mutti, is even cozier, summoning the sense of being cared for that accumulated over Merkel’s 10 years in office. The country has grown steadily more prosperous on her watch, thanks in part to changes put in place by her predecessor, but also to the sure hand by which she navigated the global recession. Germany overtook France as the most competitive major European economy and found trading partners outside the continent, especially China.
Critics complain that she governs by poll, moving cautiously in order to test the limits of policy. Der Spiegel reported that in the space of four years, her Chancellery commissioned more than 600 such surveys. “It’s a funny kind of boldness, when you wait until you have public opinion behind you,” says Hans Kundnani, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund. Rivals attribute that caution to the hair’s-breadth closeness of her first national election. But caution has also been her calling card nearly from birth. “She moves very, very carefully,” says Steinbrück, the former Finance Minister, “and I think that follows from growing up in the GDR.” Merkel once said that in school, she preferred to sit in the middle of the classroom if not all the way in the back, because she “liked to have the overview.”
The back is also where a ship’s captain stands, and Merkel likes the freedom to make course corrections as needed, with all other eyes to the front. Her method is to study a problem to its foundations, vacuuming up data and asking endless questions. “She knows details you wouldn’t expect a Cabinet minister to know,” says Matthias Wissmann, who served beside her in Kohl’s Cabinet. In Germany’s version of the White House, so airy and light-filled it could be a museum, the massive desk at the far end of Merkel’s seventh-floor office is mostly decorative. She uses it for making telephone calls to foreign leaders—something she does a lot—and ceremonial events. Every other visit is a working visit and takes place at the long conference table near the door, where she spends most of her day. When, after much study, she decides on a course, she is unlikely to announce what it is, preferring the freedom of proceeding step by step on a map never made public. “She says she has a plan,” Steinbrück says, “but she doesn’t tell anyone what it is.”
Merkel’s hands-on approach carries a constant danger of getting lost in the weeds, as many said she did during the euro crisis. But she also has a record of scanning the globe from a high altitude, focusing intently on dangers not yet apparent to others. At that Munich security conference, almost every questioner wanted to know why she favored economic sanctions on Putin’s Russia instead of sending arms to the Ukrainian republic he had invaded. “Frederick the Great said that diplomacy without arms is like music without instruments,” a former U.K. Defense Minister pointedly observed, to applause.
Merkel knows Putin’s bullying at a visceral level. In 2007, on a visit to his Black Sea residence, the Russian strongman opened the door during a photo opportunity and let in his massive Labrador, named Koni. Merkel, whose fear of dogs is well known, eyed the canine with visible distress as it sniffed around her. Cameras whirred, and from the next chair Putin watched with a broad smile and legs spread wide. But she refused to be drawn.
Her analytical, cerebral approach to governance has brought Merkel closer to U.S. President Barack Obama than either of them would have thought after she denied him permission to make a 2008 campaign speech at Brandenburg Gate, a historic Berlin venue reserved for leaders who have already been elected. Their relationship has warmed steadily over the years, surviving Edward Snowden’s revelations that the U.S. tapped the smartphone she carries in her handbag.
That may be because the two have found they react similarly to crises—with stubborn rationalism—even if they don’t always agree on the right response. Obama praised Merkel’s stand on refugees as “courageous.” The President and his aides were less excited about the impasse on Greek debt, which precipitated Obama’s July intervention with calls to Merkel and Greek leader Alexis Tsipras in pursuit of a deal. For her part, Merkel regards Germany’s alliance with the U.S. as the keystone to its foreign policy.
“She has demonstrated particularly bold moral and practical leadership on the refugee crisis, welcoming vulnerable migrants despite the political costs,” says Obama’s national security adviser Susan Rice. “The President values her as a good friend and one of his closest and most trusted international partners.”
Merkel holds her people’s confidence, to judge by the polls—both at election time and in between. Her party has gained more seats with each ballot, reaching nearly 50% in 2013, when she won a third term. “In the beginning, she was considered weak. ‘She doesn’t like to take positions.’ ‘She’s so slow.’ All that. But that’s the way she works,” says Sylke Tempel, editor of the Berlin Policy Journal.
Unlikely as it may sound in the era of Donald Trump and Barack Obama, the blandness is an asset. “Politics is a talent,” says Koelbl, the photographer. “But it’s different in Germany. We don’t like so much the performers. In America, you say, ‘I’m fantastic. I’m great. I did this.’ You don’t do this in Germany.”
Part of it has to do with history. “I’ve heard lots of Germans talk about Obama and then bring up Hitler,” says Kundnani of the German Marshall Fund. “They find charismatic leadership worrying. And rhetoric.” Another part is surely the particular qualities of the speaker herself. Merkel used to fidget at the podium, never sure what to do with her hands. When she finally found a comfortable position, fingertips pressed to each other like Spock, it became a signature. The “Merkel rhombus,” or “raute,” inspired an emoticon, -<>-, flash mobs and a 2013 CDU campaign ad with 2,150 supporters holding the pose to pledge “Germany’s future in good hands.”
By her own account, though, she still can’t deliver a speech. “Merkel has this rare talent to put these very clear, direct thoughts into mushy rhetoric,” notes Tempel. “Usually it’s the other way around. But she really means what she says.” And in churches, people have noticed, she can actually manage eloquence. Her Nov. 23 eulogy for Helmut Schmidt, the tetchy former Chancellor who died at age 96, stood out for its potency and because many listeners believed she was talking as much about herself as the deceased.
“We trusted him,” she said. “We trusted that he would get the situation under control and well in hand … If Helmut Schmidt was convinced of the right thing to do, then he did it … He was steadfast … Even with all his willingness to act, he was convinced that a decision was only ripe once it had been thought out and imbibed with reason … The greatness of his chancellorship was in the wisdom and consistency of his governance.” Most of all, she said, “he was willing to pay the highest price, because he always factored the risk of failure into his actions—even including the risk of losing his chancellorship.”
The public face that Koelbl has been photographing since 1991 is “her mask,”the photographer says, a deadpan expression with bangs that also serves as comic trope, Photoshopped into vamps and nuns. Her attire is equally predictable: a colored blazer, black pants. On Nov. 22, the day marking a solid decade in office, the daily Die Welt noted the anniversary with a front-page montage of 10 photos from her annual New Year’s address: 10 frames, same outfit. When Hillary Clinton was U.S. Secretary of State, Merkel presented her with a framed copy of a German newspaper that ran a photo of the women, both in blazers and black slacks, their hands clasped in front of them but their heads cropped. Angela Merkel? Hillary Clinton? the headline asked.
By the accounts of colleagues and visitors, Merkel is as entertaining in private as she is stolid in public. In the right mood, she will caricature other public figures to devastating effect, and finds an edge in conversation to make pointed jokes, both at her own expense and that of others. Bombastic males are a specialty. When, in her first term, then French President Nicolas Sarkozy gestured to a Toulouse crowd and remarked to Merkel how happy the people were to see them, she told him, dryly, “Nicolas, I think compared to you, I am an energy-conserving lamp.”
“I think most of the time I’ve spent with her she is smiling,” says Robert Kimmitt, a former ambassador who has known her since 1991. Select reporters can see the playful and barbed side of Merkel when, on trips abroad, she calls them into the salon on her Airbus A319 or in occasional small-group briefings at the Chancellery. But the occasions are strictly off the record, and no one dares disobey.
Glimpses are visible sometimes, however, in the behavior of world leaders emerging from closed-door sessions with her. Sarkozy went from narcissist to wingman on the euro. George W. Bush famously sneaked up on her from behind at a G-8 summit and started to give her a neck rub. She clenched and shook him off, then turned and came up with a smile. There are photographs of Merkel with current French President François Hollande in which she appears to have her head on his shoulder.
“Behind the doors I think she’s very convincing. She’s very clever and very fast and picks up the information you give her,” says Steinbrück. “She’s reliable. When you come to some conclusion, she’s always going to stick to that.” But she enforces extremely strict controls on information, emphasizing the necessity of absolute confidentiality in all matters. “When you violate that, you never get another chance,” says Steinbrück. Merkel’s Chancellery is an extraordinarily tight ship, as buttoned down as she is. Her inner circle is more like a knot consisting of just six or seven key aides, two of whom have been with her the whole 10 years.
In the mid-1990s, Merkel told Koelbl she was thinking of leaving politics. The strain of government service was wearing on her, she recalls her saying: “She didn’t want to be ‘emptied out.’” The feeling obviously passed, and a few years later, she began showing up for her portrait wearing makeup. Her body language grew more confident. Looking back, Koelbl notes the change coincided with her decision to run for Chancellor. Whatever reserve Merkel located within herself, associates say it is replenished by her private hours. This is the part of her life at once most closely guarded and well known, at least to Germans, who regard Merkel’s lifestyle as authentic, even endearing evidence that whatever her flaws, their Chancellor is one of them.
Unified Germany is a relatively new democracy. It has no finished official residence, and if it did, Merkel would continue to live in the central Berlin apartment she shares with her husband, whose name is on the buzzer. “I always show it to Latin American visitors,” says Wissmann, who was Transportation Minister when Merkel ran the environment department. “I don’t know if it’s 100 square meters or 120, but that’s for a world leader. She is living modestly.”
The most powerful woman in the world does her own grocery shopping, dragging a small security contingent to the German equivalent of Kroger’s. “If you have good luck, you meet her on a Friday afternoon at the supermarket buying a bottle of white wine and a fish for dinner for her and her husband,” says Wissmann. “That’s not a show.”
By the time Reem burst into tears, Germany’s refugee crisis was already under way, though no one was calling it a crisis yet. About 200,000 people had applied for asylum since January at that point, twice the number of the previous year, but the baseline says a lot about what the country had become used to. There are many ways that Germany has made payments on its Nazi past—like its emphatic support for Israel (flights from which are met at Germany’s airports by armed guards), its reluctance to use its military and the intensely felt, almost constant reminders of collective guilt embedded in school curricula and every other facet of public life that make up what Germans call, after taking a deep breath, Vergangenheitsbewältigung—roughly translated as “wrestling the past into submission.”
But perhaps the least known is its embrace of new arrivals. National Socialism built a fascist state on the ideal of a master race and a myth of genetic purity, but postwar Germany has become something of a nation of immigrants. The first wave of refugees were fellow Germans displaced by World War II. They were taken in by those whose homes survived, the foundation of Willkommenskultur, the “welcome culture” that later embraced asylum seekers.
Then, in the 1960s, came the Turks, guest workers from small-town Anatolia who were needed to fill a labor shortage. Though not immediately integrated into German society, a half-century later their absorption is regarded as a model for other Muslim arrivals. “Where I come from, in my city, 10% of people came from Turkey. There was no problem,” says Hans-Peter Friedrich, a former Interior Minister. “They came to Bavaria. They had to send their kids to kindergarten. They are German now. My sister-in-law is Turkish.”
Next were the Spanish, Portuguese, Greeks, Italians—workers from the Mediterranean countries that would later falter—all for jobs. In 1988 Düsseldorf, a priest recalls, only half the students he taught in Catholic school had been born in Germany. All learned the language of Goethe, which was the key to integrating in a culture that, along the way, lost some of its heaviness.
Few miss it. In her youth, Tempel says inviting the neighbors over for a meal required formal invitations and elaborate preparation. Today people just drop by, and many Germans are seeking out direct contact with refugees, even taking them into their homes. “My parents are conservative, parochial people, like all parents are conservative parochial people,” Tempel says, “but they’re very happy with the changes made in the last 10 to 15 years.”
None of which prepared anyone for what has become known as the Hungarian weekend. Syrians had been coming to Germany for months, even years, in a steady trickle that also included Afghans, Pakistanis and other nationalities. But the numbers were limited by the difficulty of the journey, which for three years had involved finding one’s way to Libya, then crossing the Mediterranean, usually to Italy. The journey was expensive and as risky as staying in a war zone. Libyan police locked people up. Smugglers stole. And boats capsized. After 800 people drowned on April 19, the E.U. sent patrol boats to turn them back.
Then a new route opened. It was safer: crossing maybe 3 miles (5 km) of sea, between Turkey, where more than 2 million Syrians had taken shelter, and Greece, Europe’s doorstep. Under E.U. rules, migrants seeking asylum were supposed to stop there and await a decision, the idea being to use the outermost ring of E.U. members as a fence, protecting the freedom of movement among the 26 nations (called the Schengen Area for where the treaty was signed) where no passport is required. But no one wanted to stay in economically struggling Greece. Everyone had heard good things about Germany. Sweden, just beyond, was even more famously receptive.
“In Europe,” says Jamil Ahmad, just arrived from Syria,“we feel human.” The Balkan route ran northwest from Greece, across Macedonia and Serbia to Hungary, then on to Austria and finally Germany. And just as it was pioneered, marked and published to fellow refugees on Facebook and WhatsApp, events in the Middle East conspired to further encourage migration. Inside Syria, press gangs from the government of Bashar Assad were going door to door, forcing young men into the stalemated conflict. Life was also taking a wrenching turn for Syrians who had fled to neighboring countries—Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, the north of Iraq, where the U.N. had set up facilities to house and feed refugees convenient to the nation to which they would presumably return. After four years and 250,000 deaths, Syria was no longer compelling enough. “Donor fatigue” brought shortfalls in U.N. budgets. In July, the word went out to refugees in Jordan and Lebanon that, from August, they would be expected to feed themselves on half as much as before, just 50¢ a day. Aid officials say thousands then headed for the exit toward Europe.
Migrants are expert at urban camouflage. Their uncertain legal status makes them skittish, anxious to avoid attracting attention. But there was no hiding the numbers moving across Europe in August, hundreds at a time tramping through fields, across pastures and in a wide column down the emergency lane of European freeways, while Citroëns and Volkswagens whizzed by.
Every saga has its galvanizing moment. In this one, it was on Sept. 2, with the publication of the photograph of the body of 3-year-old Alan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach. The image instantly lifted Syria’s refugees to the top of the global agenda. People who in the Middle East had remained foreigners became in Europe protagonists whose almost biblical exodus was charted by the hour on satellite news. When the story reached Hungary, a villain emerged in Viktor Orban, the right-wing Prime Minister who refused to allow the refugees to board trains toward Austria, the last stop before Germany. The standoff stranded hundreds at Budapest’s Keleti station on platforms that doubled as the world stage.
Merkel watched along with everyone else on the planet. She knew Keleti station—Hungary was one of the few places she was permitted to travel as a citizen of the GDR. “In East Germany,” she told TIME in an interview six years ago, “we always ran into boundaries before we were able to discover our own personal boundaries.” Austria’s Chancellor phoned. His tone was urgent. The first weekend in September passed in a flurry of calls and logistics. Finally, an arrangement was struck to usher the refugees through Vienna, where they boarded trains for Germany. When they lurched into Munich’s central station, hundreds of Germans greeted them with cheers, flowers and diapers. Welcome, the signs read. “Thank you, Germany!” the refugees chanted. The scene was transcendent, almost too good to be true.
Many say it was. “The country was simply carried away with this,” Kornelius recalls in his Munich office. “People were drunk with how good they were.” Three months later, Germans are still nursing a buzz. But as the refugees keep coming—nearly a million so far, with no end in sight—they’re also wondering what got into them, and into Mutti. “This crisis really shows a new Merkel,” her biographer says. “You’ve never seen the soft side of Merkel until now.”
The Chancellor has not spoken publicly about the decision to admit therefugees, and her office, citing the press of events that flowed from it, declined interview requests from TIME. But the source of the action—certain to be her legacy, for good or ill—is more apparent than where it will lead. Those who know her say it followed logically from the sight of Hungarian border guards holding back refugees at gunpoint in order to build a fence topped with razor wire.
“She has one principle—an emotional belief, I think—as one who in her younger years was not able to travel around the world,” says Wissmann. “She does not want to see people surrounded by walls. I think she has an instinctive reaction if someone asks for a wall. I know her well. If you ask me what is her main principle belief, it’s around this issue: Let us be free. From the station of a person, up to the free-trade pact of a nation.”
That’s not what she told little Reem, of course. But if good public policy balances head and heart, one of the minor marvels of the refugee crisis was that it forced Merkel’s decisionmaking process—usually so heavily guarded—into the public realm. Her prudent “We can’t take you all” message on television was balanced against all the times she had urged Germans in the months before to lay out the welcome mat. Refugees were the centerpiece of Merkel’s 2015 New Year’s address: “Many literally escaped death. It goes without saying that we will help them and take in people who seek refuge with us.” As their numbers increased over the summer, she visited refugee shelters inside Germany, posing with smiling migrants for selfies uploaded immediately on social media, where would-be migrants discussed whether now was the time to go, and where. “She opened the door for our needs,” says Israa Ibrahim, 25, and seven months pregnant, as she prepared to board a bus bound for Bavaria. “She can feel in her heart how tired we are.”
The paradox is that by opening the gates to Syrians, Merkel threw into doubt the larger project of Europe. The most immediate danger is the free movement between Schengen countries. That barely visible border between Austria and Germany is now backed up for miles, as police open every truck looking for smugglers. Sweden has shut its doors, recently imposing border checks. And France declared a state of emergency after the Paris attacks, which amplified fears that terrorists may be entering with refugees, as two of the Paris attackers reportedly had. Many Germans share those fears, but elected officials in Berlin seem more concerned that all the other attackers evidently grew up in Europe and were radicalized in the ethnic ghettos that spring up when immigrants are not integrated in society, a prevalent problem in Belgium, for example.
At the same time, Merkel’s bluff confidence—“We can handle this!”—is running up against the exhaustion of the volunteers. Social-service centers in Berlin alone were receiving 500 to 600 people a day in late November. They were housed everywhere from school gymnasiums (displacing kids by day and adult leagues by night) to the old Stasi headquarters (where wiretap listening rooms turned out to serve wonderfully as bedrooms). “I think she said one sentence too much: ‘Everybody is welcome,’” says Silvia Kostner, spokeswoman for the Berlin office of LaGeSo, the federal social-services agency, but speaking personally. “People took it as an invitation. It wasn’t an invitation … They have to find a solution to reduce the flow.”
Merkel is working on that, negotiating with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to shut off the faucet. Armed with €3 billion from the E.U. to help care for refugees on its side of the Aegean, Turkey on Nov. 30 made its first significant sweep of smugglers, sending 250 police to raid beaches facing Lesbos. Meanwhile, Germany struggles to hasten asylum decisions, certifying those fleeing war and sending home those fleeing poverty. Merkel speaks now of “legal migration.” Rules. Germans still like those, and it’s become clear why.
But the Chancellor is in an unfamiliar place—out front. For years she was accused of governing so effectively from the center that her coalition sucked all the oxygen out of German politics. Today there’s so much oxygen that some fear combustion. Right-wing parties across Europe have found an updraft in what is being called Merkel’s naiveté, as well as her (so far largely vain) call for other E.U. members to accept a share of asylum seekers. The conservative Law and Justice Party swept into power in neighboring Poland on Oct. 25, in an election dominated by the refugee crisis. “You cannot call it solidarity when some countries try to, in a way, export problems that they brought on themselves,” said incoming Prime Minister Beata Szydlo. In France, polls showed that Marine Le Pen’s nativist National Front would win a national election if one were held today. In the initial round of local elections held on Dec. 6, the party finished first in six of 13 regions.
Germany’s right wing has surged as well, with thousands attending weekly anti-immigrant rallies in Dresden, the benighted city where television from the West did not reach. “What unites us,” says Lutz Bachmann, co-founder of the movement, called Pegida, “is the feeling that the politicians are no longer paying attention to us.”
Some analysts share that concern, arguing that by stigmatizing all right-wingers as neo-Nazis, German postwar politics offers no legitimate outlook for those who find no ear in center-right parties that, lately, are far more center than right. “There are a great many people who hold right-wing views but feel totally unrepresented in German politics,” says Frank Richter, an adviser to the regional government of Saxony, whose capital is Dresden. “Grand coalitions by their nature create these conditions. Everyone is trying to cram into a tiny space in the political center, and no one is engaging with the people closer to the edges.” Pegida is not a political party, but the right-wing Alternative for Germany is, and its support has grown since this summer. It could enter Parliament in 2017, the next national ballot.
Merkel has given no indication whether she will seek a fourth term. Her popularity is sharply down—polls showed uneasiness over Muslim immigrants even before the events of the summer, which her own Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, termed an “avalanche.” The turmoil is most pronounced in the CDU’s sister party in Bavaria, where most refugees arrive. The faction’s male leader lectured Merkel from the podium on Nov. 20 as she stood with her eyes downcast.
Still, there’s no competitor on the horizon, and Merkel has more than a year to restore the equilibrium to which Germans had grown accustomed. All she has to do is end the refugee crisis, persuade the rest of the E.U. to take a few hundred thousand Muslims amid galloping fears of terrorism, end the war in Syria and parry any unforeseen setbacks, like a scandal at Volkswagen, flagship of the nation’s largest industrial sector. Along the way she has to convince Germans that what many call the ultimate rash move is, in fact, visionary. Merkel never claimed to have a vision, and in fact quoted Schmidt as saying anyone who did should have his eyes examined. But those who study her say it’s been visible, if not always audible, in what one calls “her mumbled speeches.”
“The heart and soul of Europe is tolerance,” she said in one, years before the refugee crisis. “It has taken us centuries to understand this. We have persecuted and annihilated one another. We have laid our own country to waste … The worst period of hatred, devastation and destruction happened not even a generation ago. It was done in the name of my people.”
Germany owns the Holocaust as no other nation owns its crimes. Berlin’s historic center is stippled with memorials to the nation’s victims. It makes for a variegated tourist experience in one of Europe’s most vibrant and affordable cities. Here’s the Reichstag, the seat of National Socialism, transformed by a glass dome into a Parliament synonymous with transparency. Here’s a man changing out of a bear costume—a bear being the symbol of Berlin—outside the memorial to the slaughter of Gypsies. The memorial to the 6 million Jews exterminated by the Nazis takes up an entire city block, exceptional both as a commitment and an experience. Moving through the grid is not so much disorienting as unsettling. You see a person, and an instant later the person is gone.
Merkel’s legacy—her bold, fraught, immensely empathetic act of leadership—challenges more than the comfort of European life. It also challenges the comfort of assumptions about any group, including, if it works out, Germans. And it’s a legacy that flows not only from her childhood experience as a girl trapped behind a wall. It also follows from what she learned as an adult, applying her disciplined, methodical approach to what she calls “the things that matter to us most.” The Chancellor of Germany put anti-Semitism under her microscope, followed prejudice to its roots and found fear. Not only of Jews but of any “other,” including foreigners. Which takes in the whole world.
“Fear has never been a good adviser, neither in our personal lives nor in our society,” Merkel told a middle-aged woman who rose from an audience on Sept. 3 to ask what the Chancellor intended to do to prevent “Islamization,” with so many Muslims entering the country. “Cultures and societies that are shaped by fear,” Merkel said, “will without doubt not get a grip on the future.”
The ending has yet to be written. But that’s the moral of the story. —With additional reporting by Massimo Calabresi / Washington
Explore The Short ListJump to navigationJump to search
|Chancellor of Germany|
22 November 2005
|Preceded by||Gerhard Schröder|
|Leader of the Christian Democratic Union|
10 April 2000 – 7 December 2018
|Preceded by||Wolfgang Schäuble|
|Succeeded by||Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer|
|Leader of the CDU/CSU Group in the Bundestag|
22 September 2002 – 21 November 2005
|Preceded by||Friedrich Merz|
|Succeeded by||Volker Kauder|
|General Secretary of the Christian Democratic Union|
7 November 1998 – 10 April 2000
|Preceded by||Peter Hintze|
|Succeeded by||Ruprecht Polenz|
|Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety|
17 November 1994 – 26 October 1998
|Preceded by||Klaus Töpfer|
|Succeeded by||Jürgen Trittin|
|Minister for Women and Youth|
18 January 1991 – 17 November 1994
|Preceded by||Ursula Lehr|
|Succeeded by||Claudia Nolte|
|Member of the Bundestag|
22 September 2013
|Constituency||Vorpommern-Rügen – Vorpommern-Greifswald I|
18 January 1991 – 22 September 2013
|Constituency||Stralsund – Nordvorpommern – Rügen|
Angela Dorothea Kasner
17 July 1954 (age 64)
Hamburg, West Germany
Angela Dorothea Merkel (/ˈmɜːrkəl, ˈmɛərkəl/, German: [aŋˈɡeːla ˈmɛɐ̯kl̩];[a]néeKasner; born 17 July 1954) is a German politician serving as Chancellor of Germany since 2005. She served as the leader of the centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) from 2000 to 2018. Merkel has been widely described as the de facto leader of the European Union, the most powerful woman in the world, and by many commentators as the leader of the Free World.
Dissertation Angela Merkel Pdf Merger
Merkel was born in Hamburg in then-West Germany and moved to East Germany as an infant when her father, a Lutheran clergyman, received a pastorate in Perleberg. She obtained a doctorate in quantum chemistry in 1986 and worked as a research scientist until 1989. Merkel entered politics in the wake of the Revolutions of 1989, and briefly served as a deputy spokesperson for the first democratically elected East German Government headed by Lothar de Maizière in 1990. Following German reunification in 1990, Merkel was elected to the Bundestag for the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, and has been reelected ever since. As the protégée of ChancellorHelmut Kohl, Merkel was appointed as the Federal Minister for Women and Youth in Kohl's government in 1991, and became the Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety in 1994. After her party lost the federal election in 1998, Merkel was elected Secretary-General of the CDU before becoming the party's first female leader two years later in the aftermath of a donations scandal that toppled Wolfgang Schäuble.
Following the 2005 federal election, Merkel was appointed Germany's first female chancellor at the head of a grand coalition consisting of the CDU, its Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU), and the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). In the 2009 federal election the CDU obtained the largest share of the vote, and Merkel was able to form a coalition government with the Free Democratic Party (FDP). At the 2013 federal election, Merkel's CDU won a landslide victory with 41.5% of the vote and formed a second grand coalition with the SPD, after the FDP lost all of its representation in the Bundestag. After the 2017 federal election the CDU was again the largest party, and she was reelected to her fourth term on 14 March 2018.
In 2007, Merkel was President of the European Council and played a central role in the negotiation of the Treaty of Lisbon and the Berlin Declaration. One of Merkel's consistent priorities has been to strengthen transatlantic economic relations. Merkel played a crucial role in managing the financial crisis at the European and international level, and she has been referred to as 'the decider.' In domestic policy, health care reform, problems concerning future energy development and more recently her government's approach to the ongoing migrant crisis have been major issues during her Chancellorship. On 26 March 2014, Merkel became the longest-serving incumbent head of government in the European Union and she is currently the senior G7 leader. In October 2018, Merkel announced that she would not seek reelection as leader of the CDU at the party convention in December 2018 and as Chancellor in 2021.
- 2Early political career
- 2.1Leader of the opposition
- 3Chancellor of Germany
- 3.1Domestic policy
- 4Personal life
- 5Honours and awards
Background and early life
Revolution of 1989
Leader of the Christian Democratic Union
First Ministry and Term
Second Ministry and Term
Third Ministry and Term
Fourth Ministry and Term
Merkel was born Angela Dorothea Kasner in 1954, in Hamburg, West Germany, the daughter of Horst Kasner (1926–2011; né Kaźmierczak), a Lutheran pastor and a native of Berlin, and his wife Herlind (1928–2019; née Jentzsch), born in Danzig (now Gdańsk, Poland), a teacher of English and Latin. She has two younger siblings, Marcus Kasner, a physicist, and Irene Kasner, an occupational therapist. In her childhood and youth, Merkel was known among her peers by the nickname 'Kasi', derived from her last name Kasner.
Merkel is of German and Polish descent. Her paternal grandfather, Ludwik Kasner, was a German policeman of Polish ethnicity, who had taken part in Poland's struggle for independence in the early 20th century. He married Merkel's grandmother Margarethe, a German from Berlin, and relocated to her hometown where he worked in the police. In 1930, they Germanized the Polish name Kaźmierczak to Kasner. Merkel's maternal grandparents were the Danzig politician Willi Jentzsch, and Gertrud Alma née Drange, a daughter of the city clerk of Elbing (now Elbląg, Poland) Emil Drange. Since the mid 1990s, Merkel has publicly mentioned her Polish heritage on several occasions and described herself as a quarter Polish, but her Polish roots became better known as a result of a 2013 biography.
Religion played a key role in the Kasner family's migration from West Germany to East Germany. Merkel's paternal grandfather was originally Catholic but the entire family converted to Lutheranism during the childhood of her father, who later studied Lutheran theology in Heidelberg and Hamburg. In 1954, when Angela was just three months old, her father received a pastorate at the church in Quitzow [de] (a quarter of Perleberg in Brandenburg), which was then in East Germany. The family moved to Templin and Merkel grew up in the countryside 90 km (56 mi) north of East Berlin.
In 1968, Merkel joined the Free German Youth (FDJ), the official communist youth movement sponsored by the ruling Marxist–Leninist Socialist Unity Party of Germany. Membership was nominally voluntary, but those who did not join found it difficult to gain admission to higher education. She did not participate in the secular coming of age ceremony Jugendweihe, however, which was common in East Germany. Instead, she was confirmed. During this time, she participated in several compulsory courses on Marxism-Leninism with her grades only being regarded as 'sufficient'.
Later, at the Academy of Sciences, she became a member of its FDJ secretariat. According to her former colleagues, she openly propagated Marxism as the secretary for 'Agitation and Propaganda'. However, Merkel has denied this claim and stated that she was secretary for culture, which involved activities like obtaining theatre tickets and organising talks by visiting Soviet authors. She stated 'I can only rely on my memory, if something turns out to be different, I can live with that.'
At school, she learned to speak Russian fluently, and was awarded prizes for her proficiency in Russian and Mathematics. Merkel was educated at Karl Marx University, Leipzig, where she studied physics from 1973 to 1978. While a student, she participated in the reconstruction of the ruin of the Moritzbastei, a project students initiated to create their own club and recreation facility on campus. Such an initiative was unprecedented in the GDR of that period, and initially resisted by the University; however, with backing of the local leadership of the SED party, the project was allowed to proceed.
Near the end of her studies, Merkel sought an assistant professorship at an engineering school. As a condition for getting the job, Merkel was told she would need to agree to report on her colleagues to officers of the Ministry for State Security (Stasi). Merkel declined, using the excuse that she could not keep secrets well enough to be an effective spy. Merkel worked and studied at the Central Institute for Physical Chemistry of the Academy of Sciences in Berlin-Adlershof from 1978 to 1990. At first she and her husband squatted in Mitte. After being awarded a doctorate (Dr. rer. nat.) for her thesis on quantum chemistry in 1986, she worked as a researcher and published several papers. In 1986, she was able to travel freely to West Germany to attend a congress; she also participated in a multi-week language course in Donetsk.
Early political career
The fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 served as the catalyst for Merkel's political career. Although she did not participate in the crowd celebrations the night the wall came down, one month later Merkel became involved in the growing democracy movement, joining the new party Democratic Awakening. Following the first (and only) multi-party election in East Germany, she became the deputy spokesperson of the new pre-unification caretaker government under Lothar de Maizière. Merkel had impressed de Maiziere with her adept dealing with journalists questioning the role of a party leader, Wolfgang Schnur, as an 'informal co-worker' with the homeland security services. In April 1990, Democratic Awakening merged with the East German Christian Democratic Union, which in turn merged with its western counterpart after reunification.
In the German federal election of 1990, the first to be held following reunification, Merkel successfully stood for election to the Bundestag in the parliamentary constituency of Stralsund – Nordvorpommern – Rügen in north Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. She has won re-election from this constituency (renamed, with slightly adjusted borders, Vorpommern-Rügen – Vorpommern-Greifswald I in 2003) at the seven federal elections held since then. Almost immediately following her entry into parliament, Merkel was appointed by ChancellorHelmut Kohl to serve as Minister for Women and Youth in the federal cabinet. In 1994, she was promoted to the position of Minister for the Environment and Nuclear Safety, which gave her greater political visibility and a platform on which to build her personal political career. As one of Kohl's protégées and his youngest Cabinet Minister, she was frequently referred to by Kohl as 'mein Mädchen' ('my girl').
Leader of the opposition
After the Kohl Government was defeated at the 1998 election, Merkel was appointed Secretary-General of the CDU, a key position as the party was no longer part of the federal government. Merkel oversaw a string of CDU election victories in six out of seven state elections in 1999, breaking the long-standing SPD-Green hold on the Bundesrat. Following a party funding scandal that compromised many leading figures of the CDU – including Kohl himself and his successor as CDU Leader, Wolfgang Schäuble – Merkel criticised her former mentor publicly and advocated a fresh start for the party without him. She was subsequently elected to replace Schäuble, becoming the first female leader of a German party on 10 April 2000. Her election surprised many observers, as her personality offered a contrast to the party she had been elected to lead; Merkel is a centristProtestant originating from predominantly Protestant northern Germany, while the CDU is a male-dominated, socially conservative party with strongholds in western and southern Germany, and its Bavarian sister party, the CSU, has deep Catholic roots.
Following Merkel's election as CDU Leader, the CDU was not able to win in subsequent state elections. As early as February 2001 her rival Friedrich Merz had made clear he intended to become ChancellorGerhard Schröder's main challenger in the 2002 election. Merkel's own ambition to become Chancellor was well-known, but she lacked the support of most Minister-presidents and other grandees within her own party. She was subsequently outmaneuvered politically by CSU Leader Edmund Stoiber, to whom she eventually ceded the privilege of challenging Schröder. He went on to squander a large lead in opinion polls to lose the election by a razor-thin margin in an election campaign that was dominated by the Iraq War. While Chancellor Schröder made clear he would not join the war in Iraq, Merkel and the CDU-CSU supported the invasion of Iraq. After Stoiber's defeat in 2002, in addition to her role as CDU Leader, Merkel became Leader of the Opposition in the Bundestag; Friedrich Merz, who had held the post prior to the 2002 election, was eased out to make way for Merkel.
Merkel supported a substantial reform agenda for Germany's economic and social system, and was considered more pro-market than her own party (the CDU). She advocated German labour law changes, specifically removing barriers to laying off employees and increasing the allowed number of work hours in a week. She argued that existing laws made the country less competitive, because companies could not easily control labour costs when business is slow.
Merkel argued that Germany should phase out nuclear power less quickly than the Schröder administration had planned.
Merkel advocated a strong transatlantic partnership and German-American friendship. In the spring of 2003, defying strong public opposition, Merkel came out in favour of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, describing it as 'unavoidable' and accusing Chancellor Gerhard Schröder of anti-Americanism. She criticised the government's support for the accession of Turkey to the European Union and favoured a 'privileged partnership' instead. In doing so, she reflected public opinion that grew more hostile toward Turkish membership of the European Union.
2005 national election
On 30 May 2005, Merkel won the CDU/CSU nomination as challenger to Chancellor Gerhard Schröder of the SPD in the 2005 national elections. Her party began the campaign with a 21-point lead over the SPD in national opinion polls, although her personal popularity lagged behind that of the incumbent. However, the CDU/CSU campaign suffered when Merkel, having made economic competence central to the CDU's platform, confused gross and net income twice during a televised debate. She regained some momentum after she announced that she would appoint Paul Kirchhof, a former judge at the German Constitutional Court and leading fiscal policy expert, as Minister of Finance.
Merkel and the CDU lost ground after Kirchhof proposed the introduction of a flat tax in Germany, again undermining the party's broad appeal on economic affairs and convincing many voters that the CDU's platform of deregulation was designed to benefit only the rich. This was compounded by Merkel's proposal to increase VAT to reduce Germany's deficit and fill the gap in revenue from a flat tax. The SPD were able to increase their support simply by pledging not to introduce flat taxes or increase VAT. Although Merkel's standing recovered after she distanced herself from Kirchhof's proposals, she remained considerably less popular than Schröder, and the CDU's lead was down to 9% on the eve of the election.
On the eve of the election, Merkel was still favored to win a decisive victory based on opinion polls. On 18 September 2005, Merkel's CDU/CSU and Schröder's SPD went head-to-head in the national elections, with the CDU/CSU winning 35.2% (CDU 27.8%/CSU 7.5%) of the second votes to the SPD's 34.2%. The result was so close, both Schröder and Merkel claimed victory. Neither the SPD-Green coalition nor the CDU/CSU and its preferred coalition partners, the Free Democratic Party, held enough seats to form a majority in the Bundestag. A grand coalition between the CDU/CSU and SPD faced the challenge that both parties demanded the chancellorship. However, after three weeks of negotiations, the two parties reached a deal whereby Merkel would become Chancellor and the SPD would hold 8 of the 16 seats in the cabinet.
Chancellor of Germany
On 22 November 2005, Merkel assumed the office of Chancellor of Germany following a stalemate election that resulted in a grand coalition with the SPD. The coalition deal was approved by both parties at party conferences on 14 November 2005. Merkel was elected Chancellor by the majority of delegates (397 to 217) in the newly assembled Bundestag on 22 November 2005, but 51 members of the governing coalition voted against her.
Reports at the time indicated that the grand coalition would pursue a mix of policies, some of which differed from Merkel's political platform as leader of the opposition and candidate for Chancellor. The coalition's intent was to cut public spending whilst increasing VAT (from 16 to 19%), social insurance contributions and the top rate of income tax.
When announcing the coalition agreement, Merkel stated that the main aim of her government would be to reduce unemployment, and that it was this issue on which her government would be judged.
Her party was re-elected in 2009 with an increased number of seats, and could form a governing coalition with the FDP.This term was overshadowed by the European debt crisis. Conscription in Germany was abolished and the Bundeswehr became a Volunteer military. Unemployment sank below the mark of 3 million unemployed people.
In the election of September 2013 the CDU/CSU parties emerged as winners, but formed another grand coalition with the SPD due to the FDP's failure to obtain the minimum of 5% of votes required to enter parliament.
In the 2017 election, Merkel led her party to victory for the fourth time. Both CDU/CSU and SPD received a significantly lower proportion of the vote than they did in the 2013 election. and attempted to form a coalition with the FDP and Greens. The collapse of these talks led to stalemate. The German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier subsequently appealed successfully to the SPD to change their hard stance and to agree a 3rd grand coalition with the CDU/CSU.
In 2019 media speculation persists that that Merkel's successor as party leader, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer may take over Merkel's position as chancellor sooner than planned if the currentgoverning coalition proves unsustainable. The possibility is neither confirmed nor denied by the party.
In October 2010, Merkel told a meeting of younger members of her conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party at Potsdam that attempts to build a multicultural society in Germany had 'utterly failed', stating that: 'The concept that we are now living side by side and are happy about it' does not work and 'we feel attached to the Christian concept of mankind, that is what defines us. Anyone who doesn't accept that is in the wrong place here.' She continued to say that immigrants should integrate and adopt Germany's culture and values. This has added to a growing debate within Germany on the levels of immigration, its effect on Germany and the degree to which Muslim immigrants have integrated into German society.
Refugee and migration policy
During the Syrian Civil War, Merkel pledged to give refuge in Germany to Syrians who are fleeing the fighting, discontinuing the enforcement of EU regulations for asylum seekers. This policy is regarded by some as having set off the 2015 European migrant crisis. During the crisis, the number of people coming from African nations as well as from countries in the Middle East, outside the war zone, such as Afghanistan and Iran, rose significantly.
On 1 July 2018, German Interior minister Horst Seehofer offered to resign after rejecting Chancellor Angela Merkel's EU migration deal.
Merkel's foreign policy has focused on strengthening European cooperation and international trade agreements. Merkel has been widely described as the de facto leader of the European Union throughout her tenure as Chancellor.
One of Merkel's priorities was strengthening transatlantic economic relations. She signed the agreement for the Transatlantic Economic Council on 30 April 2007 at the White House. Merkel enjoyed good relations with U.S. Presidents George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. Obama described her in 2016 as his 'closest international partner' throughout his tenure as President.
On 25 September 2007, Merkel met the 14th Dalai Lama for 'private and informal talks' in the Chancellery in Berlin amid protest from China. China afterwards cancelled separate talks with German officials, including talks with Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries.
In 2006, Merkel expressed concern about overreliance on Russian energy, but she received little support from others in Berlin.
Merkel favors the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the European Union; but stated in December 2012 that its implementation depends on reforms in Ukraine.
In recognition of the importance of China to the German economy, by 2014 Merkel had led seven trade delegations to China since assuming office in 2005. The same year, in March, China's President Xi Jinping visited Germany.
In 2015, with the absence of Stephen Harper, Merkel became the only leader to have attended every G20 meeting since the very first in 2008, having been present at a record thirteen summits as of 2018. She hosted the twelfth meeting at the 2017 G20 Hamburg summit.
In June 2017, Merkel criticized the draft of new U.S. sanctions against Russia that target EU–Russia energy projects, including Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.
In June 2018, Merkel said that there had been 'no moral or political justification' for the post-war expulsion of ethnic Germans from Central and Eastern European countries.
Following major falls in worldwide stock markets in September 2008, the German government stepped in to assist the mortgage company Hypo Real Estate with a bailout, which was agreed on 6 October, with German banks to contribute €30 billion and the Bundesbank €20 billion to a credit line.
On 4 October 2008, following the Irish Government's decision to guarantee all deposits in private savings accounts, a move she strongly criticised, Merkel said there were no plans for the German Government to do the same. The following day, Merkel stated that the government would guarantee private savings account deposits, after all. However, two days later, on 6 October 2008, it emerged that the pledge was simply a political move that would not be backed by legislation. Other European governments eventually either raised the limits or promised to guarantee savings in full.
At the World Economic Forum in Davos, 2013, she said that Europe had only 7% of the global population and produced only 25% of the global GDP, but that it accounted for almost 50% of global social expenditure. She went on to say that Europe could only maintain its prosperity by being innovative and measuring itself against the best. Since then, this comparison has become a central element in major speeches. The international financial press has widely commented on her thesis, with The Economist saying that:
If Mrs Merkel's vision is pragmatic, so too is her plan for implementing it. It can be boiled down to three statistics, a few charts and some facts on an A4 sheet of paper. The three figures are 7%, 25% and 50%. Mrs Merkel never tires of saying that Europe has 7% of the world's population, 25% of its GDP and 50% of its social spending. If the region is to prosper in competition with emerging countries, it cannot continue to be so generous.
She produces graphs of unit labour costs .. at EU meetings in much the same way that the late Margaret Thatcher used to pull passages from Friedrich Hayek's Road to Serfdom from her handbag.
The Financial Times commented:
Although Ms Merkel stopped short of suggesting that a ceiling on social spending might be one yardstick for measuring competitiveness, she hinted as much in the light of soaring social spending in the face of an ageing population.[b]
The first cabinet of Angela Merkel was sworn in at 16:00 CET on 22 November 2005. On 31 October 2005, after the defeat of his favoured candidate for the position of Secretary General of the SPD, Franz Müntefering indicated that he would resign as party chairman, which he did in November. Ostensibly responding to this, Edmund Stoiber (CSU), who was originally nominated as Minister for Economics and Technology, announced his withdrawal on 1 November 2005. While this was initially seen as a blow to Merkel's attempt at forming a viable coalition, the manner in which Stoiber withdrew earned him much ridicule and severely undermined his position as a Merkel rival. Separate conferences of the CDU, CSU, and SPD approved the proposed Cabinet on 14 November 2005. The second Cabinet of Angela Merkel was sworn in on 28 October 2009.
In 2013, Merkel won one of the most decisive victories in German history, achieving the best result for the CDU/CSU since reunification and coming within five seats of the first absolute majority in the Bundestag since 1957. However, with their preferred coalition partner, the FDP, failing to enter parliament for the first time since 1949, the CDU/CSU turned to the SPD to form the third grand coalition in postwar German history and the second under Merkel's leadership. The third Cabinet of Angela Merkel was sworn in on 17 December 2013.
The fourth cabinet of Angela Merkel is the current government of Germany, and was sworn in on 14 March 2018 after. The negotiations that led to a Grand Coalition agreement with the Social Democracts (SPD) were the longest in German post-war history, lasting almost six months.
Midway through her second term, Merkel's approval plummeted in Germany, resulting in heavy losses in state elections for her party. An August 2011 poll found her coalition had only 36% support compared to a rival potential coalition's 51%. However, she scored well on her handling of the recent euro crisis (69% rated her performance as good rather than poor), and her approval rating reached an all-time high of 77% in February 2012 and again in July 2014. Merkel's approval rating dropped to 54% in October 2015, during the European migrant crisis, the lowest since 2011. According to a poll conducted after terror attacks in Germany Merkel's approval rating dropped to 47% (August 2016). Half of Germans did not want her to serve a fourth term in office compared to 42% in favor. However, according to a poll taken in October 2016, her approval rating had been found to have risen again, 54% of Germans were found to be satisfied with work of Merkel as Chancellor. According to another poll taken in November 2016, 59% were to found to be in favour of a renewed Chancellor candidature of Merkel in 2017. According to a poll carried out just days after the 2016 Berlin attack, in which it was asked which political leader(s) Germans trust to solve their country's problems; 56% named Merkel, 39% Seehofer (CSU), 35% Gabriel (SPD), 32% Schulz (SPD), 25% Özdemir (Greens), 20% Wagenknecht (Left party), 15% Lindner (FDP), and just 10% for Petry (AfD). A YouGov survey published in late December 2017 found that just 36 percent of all respondents want Merkel to stay at the helm until 2021, while half of those surveyed voters called for a change at the top before the end of the legislature.
Merkel has been widely described as the de facto leader of the European Union throughout her tenure as Chancellor. Merkel has twice been named the world's second most powerful person following Vladimir Putin by Forbes magazine, the highest ranking ever achieved by a woman. On 26 March 2014, Merkel became the longest-serving incumbent head of government in the European Union. In December 2015, Merkel was named as Time magazine's Person of the Year, with the magazine's cover declaring her to be the 'Chancellor of the Free World'. In 2018, Merkel was named the most powerful woman in the world for a record fourteenth time by Forbes. Following the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency in November 2016, Merkel was described by The New York Times as 'the Liberal West's Last Defender'. Since 2016 she has been described by many commentators as the 'leader of the free world'. Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described Merkel in 2017 as 'the most important leader in the free world.' She is currently the senior G7 leader.
On 29 October 2018, Merkel announced that she would not seek reelection as leader of CDU at their party conference in December 2018, but intends to remain as chancellor until 2021, when the next German federal election, at the latest, is to be held. She stated that she does not plan to seek any political office after this. The resignations followed October setbacks for the CSU in the Bavarian state election and for the CDU in the Hessian state election. She decided not to suggest any person as her successor as leader of the CDU.
In 1977, at the age of 23, Merkel, then Angela Kasner, married physics student Ulrich Merkel (born 1953) and took his surname. The marriage ended in divorce in 1982. Her second and current husband is quantum chemist and professor Joachim Sauer, who has largely remained out of the media spotlight. They first met in 1981, became a couple later and married privately on 30 December 1998. She has no children, but Sauer has two adult sons from a previous marriage.
Merkel is a fervent football fan and has been known to listen to games while in the Bundestag and to attend games of the national team in her official capacity. Merkel stated that her favorite movie is The Legend of Paul and Paula, an East German movie released in 1973.
Merkel has a fear of dogs after being attacked by one in 1995. Vladimir Putin, in a move reminiscent of Germany's first chancellor, brought in his Labrador Retriever during a press conference in 2007. Putin claims he did not mean to scare her, though Merkel later observed, 'I understand why he has to do this – to prove he's a man. [..] He's afraid of his own weakness.'
Angela Merkel is a Lutheran member of the Evangelical Church in Berlin, Brandenburg and Silesian Upper Lusatia (German: Evangelische Kirche Berlin-Brandenburg-schlesische Oberlausitz – EKBO), a UnitedProtestant (i.e. both Reformed and Lutheran) church body under the umbrella of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD). The EKBO is a church of the Union of Evangelical Churches. Before the 2004 merger of the Evangelical Church in Berlin-Brandenburg and the Evangelical Church in Silesian Upper Lusatia (both also being a part of the EKD), she belonged to the former. In 2012, Merkel said, regarding her faith: 'I am a member of the evangelical church. I believe in God and religion is also my constant companion, and has been for the whole of my life. We as Christians should above all not be afraid of standing up for our beliefs.' She also publicly declared that Germany suffers not from 'too much Islam' but 'too little Christianity'.
Honours and awards
- Germany: Grand Cross 1st Class of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany
- Austria: Grand Decoration of Honour in Gold with Sash of the Order of Honour for Services to the Republic of Austria
- Bulgaria: Grand Cross of the Order of the Balkan Mountains
- Israel: Recipient of the President's Medal
- Italy: Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic
- Latvia: Grand Officer of the Order of the Three Stars
- Lithuania: Grand Cross of the Order of Vytautas the Great
- Norway: Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Merit
- Peru: Grand Cross of the Order of the Sun of Peru
- Portugal: Grand Cross of the Order of Infante Henry
- Saudi Arabia: Grand Officer of the Order of Abdulaziz al Saud
- United States of America: Presidential Medal of Freedom[c]
- Slovakia: 1st Class of the Order of the White Double Cross
- In 2007, Merkel was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
- In June 2008, she was awarded the honorary doctorate from Leipzig University.
- University of Technology in Wrocław (Poland) in September 2008 and Babeș-Bolyai University from Cluj-Napoca, Romania on 12 October 2010 for her historical contribution to the European unification and for her global role in renewing international cooperation.
- On 23 May 2013, she was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Radboud University Nijmegen.
- In November 2013, she was awarded the Honorary Doctorate (Honoris Causa) title by the University of Szeged.
- In November 2014, she was awarded the title Doctor Honoris Causa by Comenius University in Bratislava.
- In September 2015, she was awarded the title Doctor Honoris Causa by the University of Bern.
- In January 2017, she was awarded the title Doctor Honoris Causa jointly by the Ghent University and Katholieke Universiteit Leuven.
- In May 2017, Merkel was awarded the title of Doctrix Honoris Causa by the University of Helsinki.
- India: Recipient of the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding
- In 2006, Angela Merkel was awarded the Vision for Europe Award for her contribution toward greater European integration.
- She received the Karlspreis (Charlemagne Prize) in 2008 for distinguished services to European unity.
- In March 2008, she received the B'nai B'rith Europe Award of Merit.
- Merkel topped Forbes magazine's list of 'The World's 100 Most Powerful Women' in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018.
- New Statesman named Angela Merkel in 'The World's 50 Most Influential Figures' 2010.
- On 16 June 2010, the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Washington D.C. awarded Chancellor Merkel its Global Leadership Award (AICGS) in recognition of her outstanding dedication to strengthening German-American relations.
- On 21 September 2010, the Leo Baeck Institute, a research institution in New York City devoted to the history of German-speaking Jewry, awarded Angela Merkel the Leo Baeck Medal. The medal was presented by former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury and current Director of the Jewish Museum Berlin, W. Michael Blumenthal, who cited Merkel's support of Jewish cultural life and the integration of minorities in Germany.
- On 31 May 2011, she received the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for the year 2009 from the Indian government. She received the award for International understanding.
- Forbes list of The World's Most Powerful People ranked Merkel as the world's second most powerful person in 2012, the highest ranking achieved by a woman since the list began in 2009; she was ranked fifth in 2013 and 2014
- On 28 November 2012, she received the Heinz Galinski Award in Berlin, Germany.
- India: Indira Gandhi Peace Prize (2013)
- In December 2015, she was named Time magazine's Person of the Year.
- In May 2016, Merkel received in Middelburg (The Netherlands) the International Four Freedoms Award from the Roosevelt Foundation Angela Merkel - Laureate International Four Freedoms Award 2016 - Laureates since 1982 - Four Freedoms Awards
- For the Year 2017, she received the Elie Wiesel Award, from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
- For the year 2018 Merkel was ranked first on the Forbes list of The Worlds's 100 Most Powerful Women in 2018
As a female politician from a centre right party who is also a scientist, Merkel has been compared by many in the English-language press to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Some have referred to her as 'Iron Lady', 'Iron Girl', and even 'The Iron Frau,' all alluding to Thatcher, whose nickname was 'The Iron Lady' (Thatcher also had a science degree from Oxford University in chemistry). Political commentators have debated the precise extent to which their agendas are similar. Later in her tenure, Merkel acquired the nickname 'Mutti' (a German familiar form of 'mother').She has also been called the 'Iron Chancellor', in reference to Otto von Bismarck.
In addition to being the first female German chancellor, the first to have grown up in the former East Germany (though she was born in the West), and the youngest German chancellor since the Second World War, Merkel is also the first born after World War II, and the first chancellor of the Federal Republic with a background in natural sciences. While she studied physics, her predecessors studied law, business or history, among other professions.
Merkel has been criticised for being personally present and involved at the M100 Media Award handover to Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, who had triggered the Muhammad cartoons controversy. This happened at a time of fierce emotional debate in Germany over a book by the former Deutsche Bundesbank executive and finance senator of Berlin Thilo Sarrazin, which was critical of the Muslim immigration. At the same time she condemned a planned burning of Korans by a fundamental pastor in Florida. The Central Council of Muslims in Germany and the Left Party (Die Linke) as well as the German Green Party[d] criticised the action by the centre-right chancellor. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper wrote: 'This will probably be the most explosive moment of her chancellorship so far.' Others have praised Merkel and called it a brave and bold move for the cause of freedom of speech.
Merkel's position towards the negative statements by Thilo Sarrazin with regard to the integration problems with Arab and Turkish people in Germany has been critical throughout. According to her personal statements, Sarrazin's approach is 'totally unacceptable' and counterproductive to the ongoing problems of integration.
The term alternativlos (German for 'without an alternative'), which was frequently used by Angela Merkel to describe her measures addressing the European sovereign-debt crisis, was named the Un-word of the Year 2010 by a jury of linguistic scholars. The wording was criticised as undemocratic, as any discussion on Merkel's politics would thus be deemed unnecessary or undesirable. The expression is credited for the name of the political party Alternative for Germany, which was founded in 2013.
In July 2013, Merkel defended the surveillance practices of the National Security Agency, and described the United States as 'our truest ally throughout the decades'. During a visit of U.S. President Barack Obama in Berlin, Merkel said on 19 June 2013 in the context of the 2013 mass surveillance disclosures: 'The Internet is uncharted territory for us all'. (German: Das Internet ist Neuland für uns alle.) This statement led to various internet memes and online mockery of Merkel.
Merkel compared the NSA to the Stasi when it became known that her mobile phone was tapped by that agency. In response, Susan Rice pledged that the U.S. will desist from spying on her personally, but said there would not be a no-espionage agreement between the two countries.
In July 2014 Merkel said trust between Germany and the United States could only be restored by talks between the two, and she would seek to have talks. She reiterated the U.S. remained Germany's most important ally.
Her statement 'Islam is part of Germany' during a state visit of the Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoğlu in January 2015 induced criticism within her party. The parliamentary group leaderVolker Kauder said that Islam is not part of Germany and that Muslims should deliberate on the question why so many violent people refer to the Quran.
In October 2015, Horst Seehofer, Bavarian State Premier and leader of CSU, the sister party of Merkel's CDU, criticised Merkel's policy of allowing in hundreds of thousands of migrants from the Middle East: 'We're now in a state of mind without rules, without system and without order because of a German decision.' Seehofer attacked Merkel policies in sharp language, threatened to sue the government in the high court, and hinted that the CSU might topple Merkel. Many MPs of Merkel's CDU party also voices dissatisfaction with Merkel. Chancellor Merkel insisted that Germany has the economic strength to cope with the influx of migrants and reiterated that there is no legal maximum limit on the number of migrants Germany can take.
At the conclusion of the May 2017 Group of Seven's leaders in Sicily, Merkel criticised American efforts to renege on earlier commitments on climate change. According to Merkel, the discussions were difficult and marred by dissent. 'Here we have the situation where six members, or even seven if you want to add the EU, stand against one.'
In the arts and media
Since 1991, Merkel has sat annually for sitting and standing portraits by, and interview with, Herlinde Koelbl.
Merkel features as a main character in two of the three plays that make up the Europeans Trilogy (Bruges, Antwerp, Tervuren) by Paris-based UK playwright Nick Awde: Bruges (Edinburgh Festival, 2014) and Tervuren (2016). A character named Merkel, accompanied by a sidekick called Schäuble, also appears as the sinister female henchman in Michael Paraskos's novel In Search of Sixpence.
On the American sketch-comedy Saturday Night Live, she has been parodied by Kate McKinnon since 2013.
On the British sketch-comedy Tracey Ullman's Show, comedian Tracey Ullman has parodied Merkel to international acclaim with German media dubbing her impersonation as the best spoof of Merkel in the world.
In 2016, a documentary film Angela Merkel – The Unexpected, a story about her unexpected rise to power from an East German physicist to the most powerful woman in the world, was produced by Broadview TV and MDR in collaboration with Arte and Das Erste.
Merkel was portrayed by Swiss actress Anna Katarina in the 2012 political satire film The Dictator.
- ^The English pronunciation of her first name could be /ˈæŋɡələ, ˈɑːŋ-/, and that of her last name /ˈmɜːrkəl, ˈmɛərkəl/. In German, her last name is pronounced [ˈmɛɐ̯kl̩]. There are different ways to pronounce the name Angela in German. The Duden Pronunciation Dictionary lists [ˈaŋɡela] and [aŋˈɡeːla]. According to her biographer, Merkel prefers the pronunciation with stress on the second syllable ([aŋˈɡeːla] with a long /eː/).
- ^The economist Arno Tausch from Corvinus University in Budapest, in a paper published by the Social Science Research Network in New York has contended that a re-analysis of the Merkel hypothesis about the distribution of global social expenditure based on 169 countries for which we have recent ILOSocial Protection data and World BankGNI data in real purchasing power reveals that the 27 EU countries with complete data spend only 33% of global world social protection expenditures, while the 13 non-EU-OECD members, among them the major other Western democracies, spend 40% of global social protection expenditures, the BRICS 18% and the Rest of the World 9% of global social protection expenditures. Most probably, the author claims, Merkel's 50% ratio is the product of a mere, simple projection of data for the OECD-member countries onto the world level <http://www.oecd.org/social/expenditure.htm>. Tausch also claims that the data reveal the successful social Keynesianism of the Anglo-Saxon overseas democracies, which are in stark contrast to the savings agenda in the framework of the European 'fiscal pact', see Tausch, Arno, Wo Frau Kanzlerin Angela Merkel Irrt: Der Sozialschutz in Der Welt, Der Anteil Europas Und Die Beurteilung Seiner Effizienz (Where Chancellor Angela Merkel Got it Wrong: Social Protection in the World, Europe's Share in it and the Assessment of its Efficiency) (4 September 2015). doi:10.2139/ssrn.2656113
- ^The medal is presented to people who have made an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, or cultural or other significant public or private endeavors
- ^Grüne/Bündnis 90 Spokesman Renate Künast: 'I wouldn't have done it', said Green Party floor leader Renate Künast. It was true that the right to freedom of expression also applies to cartoons, she said. 'But if a chancellor also makes a speech on top of that, it serves to heat up the debate.'
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Merkel wollte immer mit der Betonung auf dem 'e' Angela genannt werden. (Merkel always wanted her first name pronounced with the stress on the 'e'.)
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Angela Merkel war allerdings kein 'einfaches Mitglied', sondern gehörte zum FDJ-Sekretariat des Instituts. Osten [Hans-Jörg Osten] kann sich nicht an die genaue Funktion seiner damaligen Kollegin erinnern. .. Er kann sich nicht definitiv daran erinnern, aber auch nicht ausschließen, dass Angela Merkel die Funktion eines Sekretärs für Agitation und Propaganda wahrnahm. [Angela Merkel was not just an 'ordinary member', but belonged to the FDJ secretariat of the institute. Osten cannot remember the exact function of his erstwhile colleague. .. He cannot remember definitely whether she performed the function of a secretary for agitation and propaganda, but he cannot exclude that possibility.]
- ^Langguth, Gerd (August 2005). Angela Merkel (in German). DTV. p. 50. ISBN3423244852.
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