77. Angela Merkel - Renowned World Stateswoman and Her Exemplary Handling of Covid

Updated: Jun 20, 2020

Who is Angela Merkel ?


Angela Dorothea Merkel ([a] née Kasner; born 17 July 1954) is a German politician who has been Chancellor of Germany since 2005. She served as the Leader of the 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 some commentators as the "leader of the free world".



Merkel was born in Hamburg in then-West Germany, moving 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, briefly serving as deputy spokesperson for the first democratically elected East German Government led by Lothar de Maizière. Following German reunification in 1990, Merkel was elected to the Bundestag for the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.


As the protégée of Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Merkel was appointed as Minister for Women and Youth in 1991, later becoming Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety in 1994. After the CDU lost the 1998 federal election, Merkel was elected CDU General Secretary, 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 the first female Chancellor of Germany, leading a grand coalition consisting of the CDU, its Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU) and the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). At 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). In 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. At the 2017 federal election, Merkel led the CDU to become the largest party for the fourth time, and was sworn in for a joint-record fourth term as Chancellor on 14 March 2018.



In 2007, Merkel served as 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.


She has served as senior G7 leader since 2014, and previously from 2011 to 2012. In 2014 she became the longest-serving incumbent head of government in the European Union. In October 2018, Merkel announced that she would stand down as Leader of the CDU at the party convention in December 2018, and would not seek a fifth term as Chancellor in 2021.


I. Early Life

Merkel’s parents, Horst and Herlind Kasner, met in Hamburg, where her father was a theology student and her mother was a teacher of Latin and English. After completing his education, her father accepted a pastorate in Quitzow, Brandenburg, and the family relocated to East Germany (German Democratic Republic) just weeks after Merkel’s birth. In 1957 they moved again to Templin, where Merkel finished high school in 1973. Later that year she went to Leipzig to study physics at Karl Marx University (now the University of Leipzig). There she met her first husband, fellow physics student Ulrich Merkel, and the two were married in 1977.



After earning her diploma in 1978, she worked as a member of the academic faculty at the Central Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Academy of Sciences in East Berlin.

In 1982 Merkel and her husband divorced, though she kept his last name. She was awarded a doctorate for her thesis on quantum chemistry in 1986.

As was the case for most children growing up in the German Democratic Republic, Merkel participated in the state’s youth organizations. She was a member of the Young Pioneers (from 1962) and the Free German Youth (from 1968). Her involvement with the Free German Youth has led to controversy, as some of her former colleagues from the Central Institute of Physical Chemistry claimed that she was active as a secretary for agitation and propaganda at the institute, though Merkel maintained that she was responsible for cultural affairs (e.g., procuring theatre tickets).



Merkel was not nor did she apply to be a member of the Socialist Unity Party, and when approached by personnel of the Ministry for State Security (Stasi) to become an informant, she refused.


II. Political Career

1. East Germany: first free parliamentary elections

After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Merkel joined the newly founded Democratic Awakening and in February 1990 became the party’s press spokesperson. That month the party joined the conservative Alliance for Germany, a coalition with the German Social Union (DSU) and the Christian Democratic Union (CDU). Several days prior to East Germany’s first and only free election in March 1990, it was revealed that Democratic Awakening’s chairman, Wolfgang Schnur, had been working as a Stasi informant for years.


Although the news shook Alliance supporters, the coalition was victorious, and Democratic Awakening became part of the government, despite having won a mere 0.9 percent of the votes. Merkel became deputy spokesperson of the government of Lothar de Maizière (CDU). She joined the CDU in August 1990; that party merged with its western counterpart on October 1, the day before the reunification of Germany.

In the first postreunification election, in December 1990, Merkel won a seat in the Bundestag (lower house of parliament) representing Stralsund-Rügen-Grimmen. She was appointed minister for women and youth by Chancellor Helmut Kohl in January 1991. Kohl’s choice of the young female political newcomer from East Germany appealed to several demographics and earned Merkel the nickname “Kohls Mädchen” (“Kohl’s girl”). Maizière, who had become the CDU’s deputy chairman after the eastern and western parties merged, resigned from his position on September 6, 1991, because of accusations of having worked for the Stasi.



Merkel was elected to replace him in December of the same year. After the 1994 election Merkel became minister of environment, conservation, and reactor safety, and she presided over the first United Nations Climate Conference in Berlin in March–April 1995. In September 1998 the CDU was ousted by Gerhard Schröder and the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). Merkel was elected secretary-general of the CDU on November 7.


She married her longtime companion, chemistry professor Joachim Sauer, on December 30 of that year ( 1998 ). In late 1999 a finance scandal hit the CDU, and Kohl was implicated in the acceptance and use of illegal campaign contributions. In an open letter published on December 22, Merkel, Kohl’s former protégée, called upon the party to make a fresh start without its honorary chairman. Merkel’s stance greatly increased her visibility and popularity with the German public, although it upset Kohl loyalists. On April 10, 2000, Merkel was elected head of the CDU, becoming the first woman and the first non-Catholic to lead the party.


As CDU leader, Merkel faced the lingering effects of the finance scandal and a divided party. Although Merkel had hoped to stand as a candidate for chancellor in the 2002 election, a majority of her party expressed a preference for Edmund Stoiber of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the CDU’s sister party in Bavaria. After the CDU-CSU narrowly lost the election, Merkel became leader of the opposition.


2.First two terms and the euro-zone debt crisis

As support for the SPD wavered, Schröder called for an early general election to be held in September 2005, and the result was a virtual stalemate. The CDU-CSU won 35.2 percent of the votes, besting the ruling SPD by just 1 percent. Both parties sought allies in an attempt to form a government, but months of negotiations proved fruitless. Eventually, the CDU-CSU and the SPD settled on a “grand coalition” government with Merkel at its head. On November 22, 2005, Merkel took office as Chancellor, becoming the first woman, the first East German, and, at age 51, the youngest person to date to hold the office.


Angela Merkel, 2005.U.S. Embassy Berlin/Department of State Her mandate was emphatically renewed in parliamentary elections held on September 27, 2009. The SDP posted its worst performance since 1949, and Merkel was able to form a government with her preferred partner, the classical liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP). Merkel’s second term was largely characterized by her personal role in the response to the euro-zone debt crisis. Along with French Pres. Nicolas Sarkozy, Merkel championed austerity as the path to recovery for Europe’s damaged economies. Merkel’s most-visible success in that arena was the entry into force in January 2013 of a fiscal compact that bound signatory governments to operate within specific balanced-budget benchmarks.

In the September 2013 federal election, the CDU-CSU alliance won an impressive victory, capturing nearly 42 percent of the vote—just short of an absolute majority. However, because her coalition partner, the FDP, failed to reach the 5 percent threshold for representation, Merkel faced the prospect of forming a government with either the SDP or the Green Party, both of whom were likely to be reluctant partners. After more than two months of negotiations, Merkel secured an agreement with the SDP to form another grand coalition government. On December 17 she became Germany’s third three-time chancellor in the postwar era (after Konrad Adenauer and Kohl).


3. The migrant crisis and softening support

The struggling European economy continued to loom large as Merkel entered her third term—the prospect of a Greek exit from the euro zone was a recurring concern—but it was soon eclipsed by a pair of security challenges on the frontiers of the European Union (EU). A pro-Western protest movement in Ukraine drove pro-Russian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych from office in February 2014, and Russia responded by forcibly annexing the Ukrainian autonomous republic of Crimea. As pro-Russian gunmen seized territory in eastern Ukraine, Merkel joined other Western leaders in accusing Russia of directly fomenting the conflict.


She spearheaded EU efforts to enact sanctions against Russia and participated in numerous multiparty discussions in an effort to restore peace to the region. Merkel was also faced with Europe’s gravest refugee crisis since World War II when hundreds of thousands of migrants fleeing conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan, and elsewhere flocked to the EU. Although she maintained that Germany would keep its borders open in the face of the humanitarian emergency, Merkel temporarily suspended the Schengen Agreement and reintroduced border controls with Austria in September 2015.


More than one million migrants entered Germany in 2015, and Merkel’s party paid a steep political price for her stance on refugees. As the backlash against migrants manifested itself in street protests and at the ballot box, the right-wing Alternative for Germany (Alternative für Deutschland; AfD) was among the parties to capitalize on the rising tide of populism and xenophobia in Europe. In September 2016 the AfD placed second—ahead of the CDU—in regional elections in Merkel’s home state, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

4. Ukraine crisis