Get to know: Angela Merkel

It’s time to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel. From being described by Forbes as the most powerful woman in the world, to stepping down as Chancellor, Angela Merkel has been both greatly admired and deeply unpopular. Let’s take a look at who the German Chancellor is, how she got involved in politics, and what her career has looked like over the years.  

Briefly, who is she? 
Angela Merkel is the Chancellor (leader, like the Prime Minister) of Germany, and part of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the centre-right party of Germany.

The beginning 
Merkel started her political career after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. She became involved with the Democratic Awakening political party, a movement dedicated to growing democracy. 

1990 and beyond 
The 1990 federal election was a successful one for Merkel after winning the constituency of  Stralsund – Nordvorpommern – Rügen (which was later renamed). After first being elected, she was very quickly given the role of Minister for Women and Youth in the Federal Cabinet. Before becoming Chancellor, her other roles in government include: 

  • Minister for Environment
  • General Secretary of the CDU
  • Chairperson of the CDU
  • Leader of the Opposition

This was a big year for Merkel’s political career. She won the nomination as a challenger to Chancellor at the time, Gerhard Schröder. She was successful, winning the national election, and became the first woman chancellor of Germany. 

Merkel as Leader
There have been many defining moments of her leadership.

Her once pro-nuclear power stance reversed after the nuclear disaster in Japan. Days after the Fukushima disaster, Merkel’s government announced the phasing out of all nuclear plants. This won her support from anti-nuclear advocates, but criticism by energy companies.  

Aside from leading Germany, her leadership role in the European Union is significant too. Her foreign policy has focused on strengthening European co-operation. She has often been described as the de-facto leader of the EU and played a huge role in the eurozone crisis (where Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Cyprus could not pay their government debts). 

She also, despite initially being opposed to, agreed to give Greece its third financial bailout. This decision was controversial and drew criticism from fellow party members. 

Refugees and “we can do this” 
She is most notably known for her policies on refugees and asylum seekers. In 2017, she allowed more than one million Syrian refugees into Germany by opening Germany’s borders. Her motto during this time, “we can do this” became an iconic underpinning of her continued leadership. 

She was praised by the United Nations but had strong opposition from the populist party, Alternative for Germany (far-right party). This was another controversial decision for Merkel and deeply divided the nation. 

What’s next? 
Merkel announced in 2018 that she would not run for re-election, but will remain as Chancellor until the 2021 election. She has said on the record that she has no plans to stay in politics (of course that might change), but has hinted at a career in academia.

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