Angela Dorothea Merkel (German: [aŋˈɡeːla doʁoˈteːa ˈmɛʁkl̩] ( ); née Kasner; born 17 July 1954) is a German politician and former research scientist, who has been the Chancellor of Germany since 2005 and the leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) since 2000. She is the first woman to hold either office.
Having earned a doctorate as a physical chemist, Merkel entered politics in the wake of the Revolutions of 1989, briefly serving as the deputy spokesperson for the East German Government. Following the German reunification in 1990, she was elected to the Bundestag for Stralsund-Nordvorpommern-Rügen in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, a seat she has held since. She was later appointed as the Federal Minister for Women and Youth in 1991 under Chancellor Helmut Kohl, and became the Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation, and Nuclear Safety in 1994, serving until 1998. After the CDU/CSU coalition was defeated in 1998, she was elected Secretary-General of the CDU, before being elected the party's first ever woman as leader in 2000.
Following the 2005 federal election, she was appointed Germany's first female Chancellor at the head of a grand coalition consisting of her own CDU party, 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 support of the CSU, and the Free Democratic Party (FDP). At the 2013 federal election, Merkel led the CDU/CSU to 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.
In 2007, Merkel was President of the European Council and chaired the G8, the second woman (after Margaret Thatcher) to do so. She played a central role in the negotiation of the Treaty of Lisbon and the Berlin Declaration. One of her priorities was also to strengthen transatlantic economic relations by signing the agreement for the Transatlantic Economic Council on 30 April 2007. Merkel is seen as playing a crucial role in managing the financial crisis at the European and international level, and has been referred to as "the decider." In domestic policy, health care reform and problems concerning future energy development have been major issues of her tenure.
Angela Merkel has been described as the de facto leader of the European Union, and was ranked as the world's second most powerful person by Forbes magazine in 2012, the highest ranking ever achieved by a woman, and is now ranked fifth.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Early political career
- 3 Leader of the Opposition
- 4 Chancellor of Germany
- 5 Cabinets
- 6 Personal life
- 7 Honours and awards
- 8 Comparisons
- 9 Controversies
- 10 References
- 11 Bibliography
- 12 External links
Merkel was born Angela Dorothea Kasner in Hamburg, West Germany, the daughter of Horst Kasner (1926–2011), a native of Berlin, and his wife Herlind, born in 1928 in Danzig (now Gdańsk, Poland) as Herlind Jentzsch, a teacher of English and Latin. Her mother was once a member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany. Merkel has Polish ancestry through her paternal grandfather, Ludwig Kasner, a German national of Polish origin.
Merkel's father studied theology in Heidelberg and, afterward, in Hamburg. In 1954 her father received a pastorate at the church in Quitzow (near Perleberg in Brandenburg), which then was in East Germany, and the family moved to Templin. Thus Merkel grew up in the countryside 80 km (50 mi) north of East Berlin. Gerd Langguth, a former senior member of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, states in his book, that the family's ability to travel freely from East to West Germany during the following years, as well as their possession of two automobiles, leads to the conclusion that Merkel's father had a "sympathetic" relationship with the communist regime, since such freedom and privileges for a Christian pastor and his family would have been otherwise impossible in East Germany.
Like most pupils, Merkel was a member of the Free German Youth (FDJ), the official youth movement sponsored by the ruling Socialist Unity Party. Although membership was nominally voluntary, those who didn't join found it all but impossible to be admitted to higher education. She did not take part in the secular coming of age ceremony Jugendweihe, however, which was common in East Germany, and was confirmed instead. Later, at the Academy of Sciences, she became a member of the FDJ district board and secretary for "Agitprop" (Agitation and Propaganda). Merkel claimed that she was secretary for culture. When Merkel's onetime FDJ district chairman contradicted her, she insisted that: "According to my memory, I was secretary for culture. But what do I know? I believe I won't know anything when I'm 80." Merkel's progress in the compulsory Marxism-Leninism course was graded only genügend (sufficient, passing grade) in 1983 and 1986.
At school, she learned to speak Russian fluently, and was awarded prizes for her proficiency in Russian and Mathematics. Merkel was educated in Templin and at the University of 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 of Leipzig, however, with backing of the local leadership of the SED party, the project was allowed to proceed. Merkel worked and studied at the Central Institute for Physical Chemistry of the Academy of Sciences in Berlin-Adlershof from 1978 to 1990. After being awarded a doctorate (Dr. rer. nat.) for her thesis on quantum chemistry, she worked as a researcher and published several papers.
In 1989, Merkel got involved in the growing democracy movement after the fall of the Berlin Wall, joining the new party Democratic Awakening. Following the first (and only) multi-party election of the East German state, she became the deputy spokesperson of the new pre-unification caretaker government under Lothar de Maizière. In April 1990, the Democratic Awakening merged with the East German CDU, which in turn merged with its western counterpart after reunification.
Early political career
Merkel stood for election at the 1990 federal election, the first since reunification, and was successfully elected to the Bundestag for the constituency of Stralsund – Nordvorpommern – Rügen, which is in the district of Vorpommern-Rügen. She has won re-election for this constituency at the six federal elections since. After her first election, she was almost immediately appointed to the Cabinet, serving as Minister for Women and Youth under Chancellor Helmut Kohl. In 1994, she was promoted to becoming Minister for the Environment and Nuclear Safety, which gave her greater political visibility and a platform from which to build her 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. 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 which 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 CDU Leader 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 Protestant 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, she enjoyed considerable popularity among the German population and polls indicated that many Germans would like to see her become Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's main challenger in the 2002 election. However she was subsequently outmanoeuvred 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. 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 concerning Germany's economic and social system and was considered to be more pro-market than her own party (the CDU); she advocated changes to German labour law, specifically removing barriers to laying off employees and increasing the allowed number of work hours in a week, arguing that existing laws made the country less competitive because companies cannot easily control labour costs at times when business is slow.
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.
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 proposing 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 18 September 2005, Merkel's CDU/CSU and Schröder's SPD went head-to-head in the national elections, with the CDU/CSU winning 35.3% (CDU 27.8%/CSU 7.5%) of the second votes to the SPD's 34.2%. 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, and both Schröder and Merkel claimed victory. 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. 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 had indicated that the grand coalition would pursue a mix of policies, some of which differ 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.
Merkel had stated that the main aim of her government would be to reduce unemployment, and that it is this issue on which her government will be judged.
Chancellor of Germany
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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. She was re-elected in 2009 with a larger majority and was able to form a governing coalition with the FDP. In the election of September 2013 the CDU/CSU parties emerged as winners, but they need a coalition partner to form the Government.
On 25 September 2007, Merkel met the 14th Dalai Lama for "private and informal talks" in Berlin in the Chancellery amid protest from China. China afterwards cancelled separate talks with German officials, including talks with Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries.
One of Merkel's priorities involved strengthening transatlantic economic relations - she signed the agreement for the Transatlantic Economic Council on 30 April 2007 at the White House. The Council, co-chaired by an EU and a US official, aims at removing barriers to trade in a further integrated transatlantic free-trade area. This project has been described as ultra-liberal by the French left-wing politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon, fearing a transfer of sovereignty from citizens to multinationals and an alignment of the European Union on the American foreign policy and institutions.
Der Spiegel reported that tensions between Chancellor Merkel and U.S. President Barack Obama eased during a meeting between the two leaders in June 2009. Commenting on a White House Press Conference held after the meeting, Spiegel stated, "Of course the rather more reserved chancellor couldn't really keep up with [Obama's]...charm offensive," but to reciprocate for Obama's "good natured" diplomacy, "she gave it a go...by mentioning the experiences of Obama's sister in Heidelberg, making it clear that she had read his autobiography".
Merkel has visited Israel four times. On 16 March 2008, Merkel arrived in Israel to mark the 60th anniversary of the Jewish state. She was greeted at the airport by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, an honor guard and many of the country's political and religious leaders, including most of the Israeli Cabinet. Until then, US President George W. Bush had been the only world leader Olmert had bestowed with the honor of greeting at the airport. Merkel spoke before Israel's parliament, the only foreigner who was not a head of state to have done so, although this provoked rumbles of opposition from Israeli MPs on the far right. At the time, Merkel was also both the President of the European Council and the chair of the G8. Merkel has supported Israeli diplomatic initiatives, opposing the Palestinian bid for membership at the UN. However, Merkel requested settlement building continued beyond the Green Line should stop, and disagreed with the Israeli government's behavior.
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 October 6, with German banks to contribute €30 billion and the Bundesbank €20 billion to a credit line.
On 4 October 2008, a Saturday, 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.
Merkel and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made a "Joint Declaration" emphasising the Indo-German strategic partnership in 2006. It turned the focus of future cooperation onto the fields of energy, science and technology, and defence. A similar Declaration, signed during Merkel’s visit to India in 2007, noted the substantial progress made in Indo-German relations and set ambitious goals for their development in the future. The relationship with India on the basis of cooperation and partnership was further strengthened with Merkel's visit to India in 2011. At the invitation of the Indian government, the two countries held their first intergovernmental consultations in New Delhi. These consultations set a new standard in the implementation of the strategic partnership, as India became only the third non-European country with which Germany has had this nature of comprehensive consultations. India became the first Asian country to hold a joint cabinet meeting with Germany during Merkel's state visit.
The Indian government presented the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding for the year 2009 to Merkel. A statement issued by the Government of India stated that the award "recognises her personal devotion and enormous efforts for sustainable and equitable development, for good governance and understanding and for the creation of a world better positioned to handle the emerging challenges of the 21st century."
Failure of multiculturalism
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: "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.
Midway through her second term, Merkel's approval plummeted in Germany, resulting in heavy losses in state elections for her party. A poll in August 2011 found her coalition with only 36% support compared to a rival potential coalition which had 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.
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 Chairman of the party in November, which he did. Ostensibly responding to this, Edmund Stoiber (CSU), who was originally nominated for the Economics and Technology post, announced his withdrawal on 1 November 2005. While this was initially seen as a blow to Merkel's attempt at forming a viable coalition and cabinet, 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.
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 since 1957. However, with the FDP, its preferred coalition partner, 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.
In 1977, Angela Kasner married physics student Ulrich Merkel 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 known to dislike dogs. She is a fervent football (soccer) fan and has been known to both listen to games while in the Bundestag and to frequent games of the national team in her official capacity.
Honours and awards
- National honours and medals
- Italy: Dame Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic (21/03/2006).
- Germany: Dame Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (January 2008).
- USA: Presidential Medal of Freedom (15 February 2011), awarded by U.S. President Barack Obama.
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.
- Norway : Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Norwegian Order of Merit (15/10/2007).
- Israel : President's Medal (25/02/2014).
- Honorary degree
- In 2007, Merkel was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
- She was also awarded the honorary doctorate from Leipzig University in June 2008,
- University of Technology in Wrocław (Poland) in September 2008 and Babeş-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.
- Other awards
- 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 and 2013.
- 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 Magazine's List of The World's Most Powerful People ranked Merkel as the world's second most powerful person in 2012; the highest ranking ever achieved by a woman.
- On 28 November 2012, she received the Heinz Galinski Award in Berlin, Germany.
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: an Oxford University degree 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'), said by Der Spiegel to refer to an idealised mother figure from the 1950s and 1960s. 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. She studied physics; her predecessors studied law, business or history or were military officers, among others.
- Merkel has been criticised for being personally present and involved at the M100 Media Award handover to Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard. This happened at a time of fierce emotional debate in Germany over disparaging remarks about Muslim immigrants made by the former Deutsche Bundesbank executive Thilo Sarrazin. The Central Council of Muslims in Germany and the left party (Die Linke) as well as the German Green Party 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 controversial remarks by Thilo Sarrazin with regard to Arab and Turkish people has been critical throughout. According to her personal statements, Sarrazin’s approach is "totally unacceptable" and contraproductive to the ongoing problems of integration.
- Members of her cabinet and Merkel herself also support state schools enabling Islamic religious instruction (similar to the provision of denominational Christian religious instruction).
- 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 to be undemocratic, as any discussion on Merkel's politics would thus be deemed unnecessary or undesirable.
- Her trademark Merkel-Raute has been described as "probably one of the most recognisable hand gestures in the world". Its political symbolism received mixed reviews, ranging from being prominently used by the CDU during the 2013 election campaign, to accusations of a cult of personality that were brought forth by her opponents.
- 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 Neuland for us all". Using the term for a newly discovered or unexplored land her sentence led to various internet memes and online mockery of Merkel.
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|Minister of Women and Youth
|Minister of the Environment
|Chancellor of Germany
|Party political offices|
|Secretary-General of the Christian Democratic Union
|Leader of the Christian Democratic Union
|Chair of the G8
|Speaker at the College of Europe Opening Ceremony