Dissertation Angela Merkel Title Page

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.

Political career

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.

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.

Chancellorship

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.

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 liberalFree 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).

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 migrantsmanifested 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. Two weeks later the CDU was ousted from the local governing coalition in Berlin when it posted its worst-ever electoral performance in the capital. Elsewhere, appeals to nationalism had fueled the successful “yes” campaign in the U.K.’sBrexit referendum (June 2016) and propelled Donald Trump to victory in the U.S. presidential election (November 2016), but Merkel continued to tack toward the centre as she announced that she would seek a fourth term.

That strategy seemed to bear fruit when the CDU won bellwether regional elections in Saarland (March 2017) and the traditional SDP stronghold of North Rhine–Westphalia (May 2017). In June 2017 Merkel surprised many when she dropped her opposition to an open vote in the Bundestag on the legalization of same-sex marriage. Days later, lawmakers approved the measure, which enjoyed wide support among the German populace. Although Merkel voted against the bill, its passage removed a potential roadblock between the CDU-CSU and parties that had made marriage equality a precondition of any possible coalition agreement after the September 2017 general election.

That contest saw Merkel secure her fourth term as chancellor—but not without a significant amount of uncertainty and effort. The CDU-CSU and the SPD posted their worst showings in nearly 70 years: Germany’s two largest parties combined to win just over half the vote. Minor parties capitalized on disaffection with the grand coalition, and the Greens, the FDP, and the Left all captured enough votes to earn representation in parliament. The most dramatic result, though, was for the AfD, which finished a strong third behind the SPD. Merkel pledged to engage conservative voters who had shifted their support to the AfD, and Martin Schulz of the SPD stated that his party would return to the opposition, ruling out any discussion of another grand coalition. Schulz eventually reversed himself, when, after months of negotiations, Germany remained without a goverment. Talks with the FDP collapsed in November, and the prospect of fresh elections loomed. Merkel clearly did not relish such a possibility, and in December the SPD voted to open discussions with the CDU-CSU about continuing the grand coalition. Those talks concluded in February 2018, with Merkel conceding the powerful finance and foreign affairs portfolios to the SPD. Schulz, who had been initially tapped to assume the post of foreign minister in the new government, faced a fierce backlash from within the SPD and was forced to step down as party leader. Final say on the coalition rested with the SPD, and five months of postelection uncertainty ended when two-thirds of SPD voters approved the proposed government in March 2018, officially securing a fourth term for Merkel.

Merkel’s style of government has been characterized by pragmatism, although critics have decried her approach as the absence of a clear stance and ideology. She demonstrated her willingness to adopt the positions of her political opponents if they proved to be sensible and popular. One notable example of that was Merkel’s decision to phase out nuclear power in the wake of the Fukushima accident in 2011 after having passed a law to prolong the operating life of Germany’s nuclear power plants only two years earlier. Merkel’s handling of the euro-zone debt crisis, on the other hand, led to criticism of an approach many considered too strict. Indeed, even the broadly pro-austerity International Monetary Fund director, Christine Lagarde, drew attention to the harm that harsh austerity measures could inflict on an already-damaged economy. In spite of those challenges, the leader of Europe’s most populous and economically powerful country continued to enjoy strong domestic approval numbers.

In 2011 Merkel was awarded the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom.

"Merkel" redirects here. For other uses, see Merkel (disambiguation).

Angela Dorothea Merkel (; German:[aŋˈɡeːla ˈmɛʁkl̩];[a]néeKasner, born 17 July 1954) is a German politician serving as Chancellor of Germany since 2005 and leader of the centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) since 2000; since 24 October 2017 she and her Cabinet continue as the acting government until a new government is formed.[7] Merkel has been widely described as the de facto leader of the European Union, the most powerful woman in the world, and the leader of the Free World.

Merkel was born in Hamburg in then-West Germany and moved 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, and briefly served as a deputy spokesperson for the first democratically elected East German Government headed by Lothar de Maizière in 1990. Following German reunification in 1990, Merkel was elected to the Bundestag for the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, and has been reelected ever since. As the protégée of ChancellorHelmut Kohl, Merkel was appointed as the Federal Minister for Women and Youth in Kohl's government in 1991, and became the Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety in 1994. After her party lost the federal election in 1998, Merkel was elected Secretary-General of the CDU 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 Germany's first female Chancellor at the head of a grand coalition consisting of the CDU, 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 Free Democratic Party (FDP).[8] At 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.[9] In the 2017 federal election the CDU again became the largest party; her cabinet continues as an acting government while she negotiates to form a new coalition.

In 2007, Merkel was 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.[10] On 26 March 2014, Merkel became the longest-serving incumbent head of government in the European Union and she is currently the senior G7 leader.

Background and early life

Merkel was born Angela Dorothea Kasner in 1954, in Hamburg, West Germany, the daughter of Horst Kasner (1926–2011; né Kaźmierczak),[11][12] a Lutheran pastor and a native of Berlin, and his wife Herlind (née Jentzsch), born in 1928 in Danzig (now Gdańsk, Poland), a teacher of English and Latin. She has two younger siblings, Marcus Kasner, a physicist, and Irene Kasner, an occupational therapist. In her childhood and youth, Merkel was known among her peers by the nickname "Kasi", derived from her last name Kasner.[13]

Merkel is of German and Polish descent. Her paternal grandfather, Ludwik Kaźmierczak, was a German policeman of Polish ethnicity, who had taken part in Poland's struggle for independence in the early 20th century.[14] He married Merkel's grandmother Margarethe, a German from Berlin, and relocated to her hometown where he worked in the police. In 1930, they Germanized the Polish name Kaźmierczak to Kasner.[15][16][17][18] Merkel's maternal grandparents were the Danzig politician Willi Jentzsch, and Gertrud Alma née Drange, a daughter of the city clerk of Elbing (now Elbląg, Poland) Emil Drange. Merkel has mentioned her Polish heritage on several occasions, but her Polish roots became better known as a result of a 2013 biography.[19]

Religion played a key role in the Kasner family's migration from West Germany to East Germany.[20] Merkel's paternal grandfather was originally Catholic but the entire family converted to Lutheranism during the childhood of her father,[16] who later studied Lutheran theology in Heidelberg and Hamburg. In 1954, when Angela was just three months old, her father received a pastorate at the church in Quitzow (a quarter of Perleberg in Brandenburg), which was then in East Germany. The family moved to Templin and Merkel grew up in the countryside 90 km (56 mi) north of East Berlin.[21]

In 1968, Merkel joined the Free German Youth (FDJ), the official communist youth movement sponsored by the ruling Marxist–Leninist Socialist Unity Party of Germany.[22][23][24] Membership was nominally voluntary, but those who did not join found it difficult to gain admission to higher education.[25] She did not participate in the secular coming of age ceremony Jugendweihe, however, which was common in East Germany. Instead, she was confirmed.[26] During this time, she participated in several compulsory courses on Marxism-Leninism with her grades only being regarded as "sufficient".[27]

Later, at the Academy of Sciences, she became a member of its FDJ secretariat. According to her former colleagues, she openly propagated Marxism as the secretary for "Agitation and Propaganda".[28] However, Merkel has denied this claim and stated that she was secretary for culture, which involved activities like obtaining theatre tickets and organising talks by visiting Soviet authors.[29] She stated "I can only rely on my memory, if something turns out to be different, I can live with that."[28]

At school, she learned to speak Russian fluently, and was awarded prizes for her proficiency in Russian and Mathematics.[30] Merkel was educated at Karl Marx University, Leipzig, where she studied physics from 1973 to 1978.[21] 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; however, with backing of the local leadership of the SED party, the project was allowed to proceed.[31]

Near the end of her studies, Merkel sought an assistant professorship at an engineering school. As a condition for getting the job, Merkel was told she would need to agree to report on her colleagues to officers of the Ministry for State Security (Stasi). Merkel declined, using the excuse that she could not keep secrets well enough to be an effective spy.[32] 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 in 1986,[33] she worked as a researcher and published several papers.[34] In 1986 she was able to travel freely to West-Germany to participate at a congress; she also participated in a multi-week language course in Donetsk.[35]

Early political career

The fall of the Berlin Wall served as the catalyst for Merkel's political career. Although she did not participate in the crowd celebrations the night the wall came down, one month later Merkel became involved in the growing democracy movement, joining the new party Democratic Awakening.[36] Following the first (and only) multi-party election in East Germany, she became the deputy spokesperson of the new pre-unification caretaker government under Lothar de Maizière.[37] Merkel had impressed de Maiziere with her adept dealing with journalists questioning the role of a party leader, Wolfgang Schnur, as a secret informant for police.[36][32] In April 1990, the Democratic Awakening merged with the East German CDU, which in turn merged with its western counterpart after reunification.

Merkel stood for election at the 1990 federal election, the first since reunification, and was elected to the Bundestag for the constituency of Stralsund – Nordvorpommern – Rügen,[38] which is in the district of Vorpommern-Rügen. She has won re-election for this constituency at the six federal elections since.[citation needed] After her first election, she was almost immediately appointed to the Cabinet, serving as Minister for Women and Youth under ChancellorHelmut Kohl.[39][40] 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").[41]

Leader of the opposition

After the Kohl Government was defeated at the 1998 election, Merkel was appointed Secretary-General of the CDU,[39] a key position as the party was no longer part of the federal government.[citation needed] 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 that 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.[39] She was subsequently elected to replace Schäuble, becoming the first female leader of a German party on 10 April 2000.[42] Her election surprised many observers, as her personality offered a contrast to the party she had been elected to lead; Merkel is a centristProtestant 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, the CDU was not able to win in subsequent state elections. As early as February 2001 her rival Friedrich Merz had made clear he intended to become ChancellorGerhard Schröder's main challenger in the 2002 election. Merkel's own ambition to become Chancellor was well-known, but she lacked the support of most Minister-presidents and other grandees within her own party. She was subsequently outmaneuvered politically by CSU Leader Edmund Stoiber, to whom she eventually ceded the privilege of challenging Schröder.[43] He went on to squander a large lead in opinion polls to lose the election by a razor-thin margin in an election campaign that was dominated by the Iraq War. While Chancellor Schröder made clear he would join the war in Iraq, Merkel and the CDU-CSU supported the invasion of Iraq. 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.[44]

Merkel supported a substantial reform agenda for Germany's economic and social system, and was considered more pro-market than her own party (the CDU). She advocated German labour law changes, specifically removing barriers to laying off employees and increasing the allowed number of work hours in a week. She argued that existing laws made the country less competitive, because companies could not easily control labour costs when business is slow.[45]

Merkel argued that Germany should phase out nuclear power less quickly than the Schröder administration had planned.[46][citation needed]

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.[47]

2005 national election

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[48] when Merkel, having made economic competence central to the CDU's platform, confused gross and net income twice during a televised debate.[49] 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.[48]

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[citation needed] was designed to benefit only the rich.[50] This was compounded by Merkel's proposal to increase VAT[51] 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.[citation needed] Although Merkel's standing recovered after she distanced herself from Kirchhof's proposals, she remained considerably less popular than Schröder,[citation needed] and the CDU's lead was down to 9% on the eve of the election.[52]

On the eve of the election, Merkel was still favored to win a decisive victory based on opinion polls.[53] 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 35.2% (CDU 27.8%/CSU 7.5%)[citation needed] of the second votes to the SPD's 34.2%.[53] The result was so close, both Schröder and Merkel claimed victory.[39][53] 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.[53] A grand coalition between the CDU/CSU and SPD faced the challenge that both parties demanded the chancellorship.[53][54] 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.[54]

Chancellor of Germany

Main article: Merkel Cabinet

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. The coalition deal was approved by both parties at party conferences on 14 November 2005.[55] 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.[56]

Reports at the time indicated that the grand coalition would pursue a mix of policies, some of which differed 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.[57]

When announcing the coalition agreement, Merkel stated that the main aim of her government would be to reduce unemployment, and that it was this issue on which her government would be judged.[58]

Her party was re-elected in 2009 with an increased number of seats, and could form a governing coalition with the FDP. This term was overshadowed by the European debt crisis. Conscription in Germany was abolished and the Bundeswehr became a Volunteer military. Unemployment sank below the mark of 3 million unemployed people.[59]

In the election of September 2013 the CDU/CSU parties emerged as winners, but formed another grand coalition with the SPD due to the FDP's failure to obtain the minimum of 5% of votes required to enter parliament.[9][60]

In the 2017 election, Merkel led her party to victory for the fourth time. Both CDU/CSU and SPD received a significantly lower proportion of the vote than they did in the 2013 election. and attempted to form a coalition with the FDP and Greens.[61][62] The collapse of these talks led to stalemate.[63] The German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier appealed to the SPD to change their hard stance and to consider a 3rd grand coalition with the CDU/CSU.

Domestic policy

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Immigration

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",[64] stating that: "The concept that we are now living side by side and are happy about it" does not work[65] 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."[66] She continued to say that immigrants should integrate and adopt Germany's culture and values. This has added to a growing debate within Germany[67] on the levels of immigration, its effect on Germany and the degree to which Muslim immigrants have integrated into German society.

Refugee and migration policy

In the wake of the 2015 European migrant crisis, the number of people coming from African nations as well as from the Middle East, particularly Syria, rose significantly and Merkel pledged to give general refuge to Syrians in Germany fleeing from the civil war,[68] subsequently discontinuing the enforcement of EU regulations for asylum seekers.[69]

Foreign policy

Main article: Foreign policy of Angela Merkel

Merkel's foreign policy has focused on strengthening European cooperation and international trade agreements. Merkel has been widely described as the de facto leader of the European Union throughout her tenure as Chancellor.

One of Merkel's priorities was strengthening transatlantic economic relations. She signed the agreement for the Transatlantic Economic Council on 30 April 2007 at the White House.[70] Merkel enjoyed good relations with former U.S. Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.[71] Obama described her in 2016 as his "closest international partner" throughout his tenure as President.[72]

On 25 September 2007, Merkel met the 14th Dalai Lama for "private and informal talks" in the Chancellery in Berlin amid protest from China. China afterwards cancelled separate talks with German officials, including talks with Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries.[73]

In 2006 Merkel expressed concern about overreliance on Russian energy, but she received little support from others in Berlin.[74]

Merkel favors the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the European Union; but stated in December 2012 that its implementation depends on reforms in Ukraine.[75]

In recognition of the importance of China to the German economy, by 2014 Merkel had led seven trade delegations to China since assuming office in 2005. The same year, in March, China's President Xi Jinping visited Germany.[76]

In 2015, with the absence of Stephen Harper, Merkel became the only leader to have attended every G20 meeting since the very first in 2008, having been present at a record eleven summits as of 2016. She hosted the twelfth meeting at the 2017 G20 Hamburg summit.[77]

In June 2017, Merkel criticized the draft of new U.S. sanctions against Russia that target EU–Russia energy projects, including Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.[78]

Eurozone crisis

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 6 October, with German banks to contribute €30 billion and the Bundesbank €20 billion to a credit line.[79]

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,[80] 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.[81] 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.[82] Other European governments eventually either raised the limits or promised to guarantee savings in full.[82]

Social expenditure

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, 2013, she said that Europe had only 7% of the global population and produced only 25% of the global GDP, but that it accounted for almost 50% of global social expenditure. She went on to say that Europe could only maintain its prosperity by being innovative and measuring itself against the best.[83] Since then, this comparison has become a central element in major speeches.[84] The international financial press has widely commented on her thesis, with The Economist saying that:

If Mrs Merkel's vision is pragmatic, so too is her plan for implementing it. It can be boiled down to three statistics, a few charts and some facts on an A4 sheet of paper. The three figures are 7%, 25% and 50%. Mrs Merkel never tires of saying that Europe has 7% of the world's population, 25% of its GDP and 50% of its social spending. If the region is to prosper in competition with emerging countries, it cannot continue to be so generous.[85]

adding that:

She produces graphs of unit labour costs ... at EU meetings in much the same way that the late Margaret Thatcher used to pull passages from Friedrich Hayek's Road to Serfdom from her handbag.[85]

The Financial Times commented:

Although Ms Merkel stopped short of suggesting that a ceiling on social spending might be one yardstick for measuring competitiveness, she hinted as much in the light of soaring social spending in the face of an ageing population.[86][b]

Cabinets

The first cabinet of Angela Merkel was sworn in at 16:00 CET on 22 November 2005. 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 party chairman, which he did in November. Ostensibly responding to this, Edmund Stoiber (CSU), who was originally nominated as Minister for Economics and Technology, announced his withdrawal on 1 November 2005. While this was initially seen as a blow to Merkel's attempt at forming a viable coalition, 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. The second Cabinet of Angela Merkel was sworn in on 28 October 2009.[87]

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 in the Bundestag since 1957.[88] However, with their preferred coalition partner, the FDP, 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.[citation needed]

Approval ratings

Midway through her second term, Merkel's approval plummeted in Germany, resulting in heavy losses in state elections for her party.[89] An August 2011 poll found her coalition had only 36% support compared to a rival potential coalition's 51%.[90] 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 and again in July 2014.[91] Merkel's approval rating dropped to 54% in October 2015, during the European migrant crisis, the lowest since 2011.[92] According to a poll conducted after terror attacks in Germany Merkel's approval rating dropped to 47% (August 2016).[93] Half of Germans did not want her to serve a fourth term in office compared to 42% in favor.[94] However, according to a poll taken in October 2016, her approval rating had been found to have risen again, 54% of Germans were found to be satisfied with work of Merkel as Chancellor.[95] According to another poll taken in November 2016, 59% were to found to be in favour of a renewed Chancellor candidature of Merkel in 2017.[96] According to a poll carried out just days after the 2016 Berlin attack, in which it was asked which political leader(s) Germans trust to solve their country's problems; 56% named Merkel, 39% Seehofer (CSU), 35% Gabriel (SPD), 32% Schulz (SPD), 25% Özdemir (Greens), 20% Wagenknecht (Left party), 15% Lindner (FDP), and just 10% for Petry (AfD).[97] A YouGov survey published in late December 2017 found that just 36 percent of all respondents want Merkel to stay at the helm until 2021, while half of those surveyed voters called for a change at the top before the end of the legislature.[98]

International status

Merkel has been widely described as the de facto leader of the European Union throughout her tenure as Chancellor. Merkel has twice been named the world's second most powerful person following Vladimir Putin by Forbes magazine, the highest ranking ever achieved by a woman.[99][100][101][102][103] On 26 March 2014, Merkel became the longest-serving incumbent head of government in the European Union. In December 2015, Merkel was named as Time magazine's Person of the Year, with the magazine's cover declaring her to be the "Chancellor of the Free World".[104] In May 2016, Merkel was named the most powerful woman in the world for a record twelve time by Forbes.[105] Following the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency in November 2016, Merkel was described by The New York Times as "the Liberal West's Last Defender".[106] Since 2016 she has been described by many commentators as the "leader of the free world".[107] Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described Merkel in 2017 as "the most important leader in the free world."[108] She is currently the senior G7 leader.

Personal life

Main article: Family of Angela Merkel

In 1977 at the age of 23, Angela Kasner married physics student Ulrich Merkel and took his surname. The marriage ended in divorce in 1982.[109] 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,[110] became a couple later and married privately on 30 December 1998.[111] She has no children, but Sauer has two adult sons from a previous marriage.[112] Merkel is a fervent

Merkel's paternal grandfather, Ludwik Marian Kaźmierczak, in Polish Blue Army uniform, with his then-fiancée Margarethe.
Merkel meets with Argentine President Mauricio Macri in Berlin in 2016.
Merkel with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Russia, May 2017
Angela Merkel at the signing of the coalition agreement for the 18th election period of the Bundestag, December 2013

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