|Leader of the Opposition|
29 February 2000 – 22 September 2002
|Preceded by||Wolfgang Schäuble|
|Succeeded by||Angela Merkel|
|Bundestag Leader of the CDU/CSU Group|
29 February 2000 – 22 September 2002
|Preceded by||Wolfgang Schäuble|
|Succeeded by||Angela Merkel|
|Member of the Bundestag |
26 October 2021
10 November 1994 – 27 October 2009
|Preceded by||Ferdinand Tillmann|
|Succeeded by||Patrick Sensburg|
|Member of the European Parliament|
July 1989 – July 1994
|Preceded by||multi-member district|
|Succeeded by||multi-member district|
Joachim-Friedrich Martin Josef Merz
11 November 1955
Brilon, North Rhine-Westphalia, West Germany
|Political party||Christian Democratic Union|
|Education||University of Bonn|
|Years of service||1975–1976|
|Unit|| German Army (Heer) / |
Friedrich Merz (born 11 November 1955) is a German lawyer and politician. A member of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), he served as a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) from 1989 to 1994 and as a member of the Bundestag from 1994 until 2009, where he chaired the CDU/CSU parliamentary group from 2000 to 2002. He returned to the Bundestag in 2021.
Merz joined the CDU's youth wing in 1972 and is reputed to be a member of the Andean Pact, a powerful network formed by members of the CDU youth wing in 1979 during a trip to the Andes. After finishing law school in 1985 he worked as a judge and corporate lawyer before entering full-time politics in 1989 when he was elected to the European Parliament. After serving one term he was elected to the Bundestag, where he established himself as the leading financial policy expert in the CDU. He was elected chairman of the CDU/CSU group in the same year as Angela Merkel was elected chairwoman of the CDU, and at the time they were rivals for the leadership of the party. In 2002, he stepped down as leader of the opposition in favour of Merkel and gradually withdrew from politics, focusing on his legal career and leaving parliament entirely in 2009, until his return to parliament in 2021. In 2004 he became a senior counsel with Mayer Brown, where he has focused on mergers and acquisitions, banking and finance, and compliance. He has served on the boards of numerous companies.
In 2018 he announced his return to politics. He was a candidate in the 2018 CDU leadership election, placing second behind Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer; he ran again in the 2021 leadership election, placing second behind Armin Laschet.
Merz has described himself as socially conservative and economically liberal, and is seen as a representative of the conservative and pro-business wings of the CDU. He has been chairman of the Atlantik-Brücke association which promotes German-American understanding and Atlanticism, and is a staunch supporter of the European Union and NATO, having described himself as "a truly convinced European, a convinced transatlanticist." Merz advocates a closer union and "an army for Europe."
Merz is Catholic and of French Huguenot descent on his mother's side. He is married to the judge Charlotte Merz, and they have three children. The work of Merz as a corporate lawyer has made him a multimillionaire. He is also a licensed private pilot and owns two airplanes.
Background and early life
Friedrich Merz was born in Brilon in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia in then-West Germany to Roman Catholic parents Joachim Merz and Paula née Sauvigny. His father was a judge and a CDU member until he left the party in 2007. The Sauvigny family was a prominent patrician family in Brilon, of French Huguenot ancestry; his grandfather Josef Paul Sauvigny was a lawyer and served as mayor of Brilon from 1917 to 1937.
After finishing his Abitur exam in 1975 Merz served his military service as a soldier with a self-propelled artillery unit of the German Army. From 1976 he studied law with a scholarship from the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, first at the University of Bonn, later at the University of Marburg. At Bonn he was a member of KDStV Bavaria Bonn, a Roman Catholic student fraternity founded in 1844 that is part of the Cartellverband. After finishing law school in 1985, he became a judge in Saarbrücken. In 1986 he left his position as a judge in order to work as an in-house attorney-at-law at the German Chemical Industry Association in Bonn and Frankfurt from 1986 to 1989.
Merz speaks German, French and English.
Political career prior to 2009
In 1972, at the age of seventeen, he became a member of the CDU's youth wing, the Young Union, and he has been described by German media as a member of the "Andean Pact," a supposed network of influential CDU members formed by members of the Young Union during a trip to the South American Andes region in 1979. He became President of the Brilon branch of the Young Union in 1980.
Member of the European Parliament, 1989–1994
Merz successfully ran as a candidate in the 1989 European Parliament election and served one term as a Member of the European Parliament until 1994. He was a member of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs and of the parliament's delegation for relations with Malta.
Member of the German Bundestag, 1994–2009
In October 1998 Merz became vice-chairman and in February 2000 Chairman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group (alongside Michael Glos), succeeding Wolfgang Schäuble. In this capacity, he was the opposition leader in the Bundestag during Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's first term.
Ahead of the 2002 elections, Edmund Stoiber included Merz in his shadow cabinet for the Christian Democrats’ campaign to unseat incumbent Schröder as chancellor. During the campaign, Merz served as Stoiber's expert for financial markets and the national budget. After Stoiber's electoral defeat, Angela Merkel assumed the leadership of the parliamentary group; Merz again served as vice-chairman until 2004. From 2002 to 2004, he was also a member of the executive board of the CDU, again under the leadership of Merkel.
Career in the private sector
Upon leaving politics, Merz has worked as a corporate lawyer. Since 2004 he has been a Senior Counsel at Mayer Brown's Düsseldorf office, where he works on the corporate finance team; before 2004 he was a senior counsel with Cornelius Bartenbach Haesemann. His work as a lawyer and board member has made him a multimillionaire. He has also taken on numerous positions on corporate boards, including the following:
- Robert Bosch GmbH, Member of International Advisory Committee (since 2011)
- WEPA Hygieneprodukte GmbH, Chairman of the Supervisory Board (since 2009)
- Deutsche Rockwool, Member of the Supervisory Board
- Ernst & Young Germany, Member of the Advisory Board
- Odewald & Compagnie, Member of the Advisory Board
- DBV-Winterthur Holding, Member of the Supervisory Board
- Cologne Bonn Airport, Chairman of the Supervisory Board (2017–2020)
- BlackRock Germany, Chairman of the Supervisory Board (2016–2020)
- Stadler Rail, Member of the Board of Directors (2006–2020)
- HSBC Trinkaus, Chairman of the Advisory Board (2010–2019)
- Borussia Dortmund, Member of the Supervisory Board (2010–2014)
- Axa Konzern AG, Member of the Supervisory Board (2007–2014)
- IVG Immobilien, Member of the Supervisory Board (2006–2010)
- Deutsche Börse, Member of the Supervisory Board (2005–2015)
- Interseroh, Member of the Supervisory Board (2005–2009)
Between 2010 and 2011, Merz represented the shareholders of WestLB, a publicly owned institution that had previously been Germany's third-largest lender, in talks with bidders. In 2012, he joined Norbert Röttgen’s campaign team for the North Rhine-Westphalia state election as advisor on economic policy. He served as a CDU delegate to the Federal Convention for the purpose of electing the President of Germany in 2012 and in 2017.
Attempted return to politics
After Angela Merkel announced her intention to step down as Leader of the CDU party, Merz announced he would run in the subsequent 2018 party leadership election. His candidacy was promoted by the former CDU chairman and "crown prince" of the Kohl era, Wolfgang Schäuble (current President of the Bundestag, ranked second in federal precedence). On 7 December 2018, in the second round of the leadership election, Merz was defeated by Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.
On 25 February 2020, he announced his candidacy in the 2021 leadership election. One of his rivals was Armin Laschet, who named Jens Spahn as his future vice-president. His second challenger was Norbert Röttgen. After several postponements, the election of the new CDU party president took place only at the two-day party congress in mid-January 2021, which was the first time in the party's history that it was held in a fully digital way. In the vote on 16 January 2021, the second day of the congress, Merz received 385 votes in the first round, 5 more than Laschet. In the second round, Merz received 466 votes out of 1001 delegates, while Laschet received 521 votes, thus failing to win the party president's post for the second time.
The same day, after losing the leadership election, Merz proposed to "join the current government and take over the Ministry for Economy". The ministry was already headed by his party colleague Peter Altmaier at the time. The proposal was rebuffed.
Laschet was quick to placate his great rival by recruiting him to his campaign team. He justified this to the outside world by saying that Merz was "without doubt a team player" and that his economic and financial expertise could provide crucial help in overcoming the huge challenge of the pandemic in a sustainable way.
Merz has focused on economic policy, foreign and security policy and family policy. He has described himself as socially conservative and economically liberal, and is seen as a representative of the conservative and pro-business wings of the CDU. He has been chairman of the Atlantik-Brücke association which promotes German-American understanding and Atlanticism, and is a staunch supporter of the European Union and NATO. As a young politician in the 1970s and 1980s, he was a staunch supporter of anticommunism, the dominant state doctrine of West Germany and a core tenet of the CDU. In 2018, he described himself as "a truly convinced European, a convinced transatlanticist" and said that "I stand for a cosmopolitan Germany whose roots lie in Christian ethics and the European Enlightenment and whose most important political allies are the democracies of the West. I gladly use this expression again: The democracies of the West." He especially advocates closer relations between Germany and France. Merz has criticized Donald Trump more harshly than Angela Merkel did and has especially criticized Trump's trade war against Europe. In 2018, he co-authored an article in defence of the European project, which among other things called for "an army for Europe." In July 2018, Merz rejected the Ludwig Erhard Prize, citing objections to publications by the chairman of the Ludwig Erhard Foundation, Roland Tichy, considered by some to be on the extreme right. In November 2018, Merz said that the introduction of same-sex marriage in Germany is correct.
Other activities (selection)
- Deutsche Nationalstiftung, Member of the Senate
- Peace of Westphalia Prize, Member of the Jury
- Bayer Foundation for German and International Labor and Business Law, Member of the Board of Trustees (1998–2002)
- KfW, Member of the Supervisory Board (2003–2004)
- Ludwig Erhard Foundation, Member (1998–2005)
Friedrich Merz is married to the judge Charlotte Merz. He has three children and resides in Arnsberg in the Sauerland region. In 2005, the couple established the Friedrich und Charlotte Merz Stiftung, a foundation supporting projects in the education sector.
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- Wechsel im Aufsichtsratsvorsitz der Axa Konzern AG Axa Konzern AG, press release of 24 July 2007.
- 2010 Annual Report Interseroh.
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- Senate, Deutsche Nationalstiftung.
- Members of the Jury Wirtschaftliche Gesellschaft für Westfalen und Lippe.
- 2004 Annual Report KfW.
- About Friedrich und Charlotte Merz Stiftung.
- Welt.de: Friedrich Merz mit Coronavirus infiziert, 17 March 2020
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