When she leaves office after German elections later this month, Angela Dorothea Merkel will go down in history as one of Germany’s longest-lived chancellors. If the winners take until December to form a coalition (a possible scenario), he will oust his mentor Helmut Kohl, who ruled the country for 16 years. Regardless of the record, Merkel’s positive legacy of 15 years and 10 months now will continue to cast a shadow not only on Europe’s largest and most influential economy, but around the world.
His calm, rational and predictable style, and technocratic view of challenges were a healthy haven in the period of mercurial leaders such as the American Donald Trump, the British Boris Johnson or the Russian Vladimir Putin. While the uncertainty stemmed from others, Merkel was sane.
The daughter of a Lutheran pastor, she was raised in East Germany, still under Soviet orbit. A doctor in quantum chemistry, she entered politics only after the fall of the Berlin Wall. With organizational skills and patience, he rose to all levels of power in the CDU.
During his reign, France and the United States had four presidents; United Kingdom, five Prime Ministers; Italy, eight. Among the great world leaders, only Russia’s Vladimir Putin was in power when she took power. Putin was somewhat of an enemy of the German chancellor. They speak each other’s language fluently, and both created their political personality in the former East Germany, but their reaction to the end of communism couldn’t be more hostile. While Putin always longed for a return to national glory, Merkel wanted to build a multicultural future.
In the years when Merkel exercised the undisputed leadership of the European Union, the world has witnessed a series of crises of all kinds: the financial crisis that nearly made the euro collapse, the Russian invasion of Crimea, and the wave of refugees from the Middle East. The United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, the election of Trump, and the pandemic.
Merkel’s record is virtually flawless. It has often been criticized for being too conservative. Looking at the result, the impression fades. In the refugee crisis, he showed the courage to take a risk and support a humanitarian policy. While negotiating Greece’s third financial rescue plan, with then-Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, he showed firmness in demanding that reforms be modernized in return and rescued the euro. With Trump’s insane rise, he became the inevitable “leader of the free world,” an expression he apparently didn’t like. She has been actively involved in the fight against climate change, although she has been criticized for timid progress in reducing German gas emissions.
Polls show that Merkel is highly rated not only in Germany, but also in Spain, France, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States. She has been rated as the most powerful woman in the world for a decade. Former US President Barack Obama described it this way in “The Promised Land”: “In her eyes, big and blue, there were sometimes touches of frustration, pleasure or sadness. Other than that, his phlegmatic appearance reflected a pragmatic and analytical sensitivity.” Little is known about Merkel’s plans for the future. It is only known that it will be missed.
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