Video: Angela Merkel, the chancellor who ruled for 16 years and marked an era in Germany

During his 16 years in power, Angela Merkel He lived with four American presidents, four French leaders, and rubbed shoulders with three presidents of the European Commission and three heads of the European Central Bank (ECB). The omnipresent figure of the Chancellor gave stability and predictability to German politics, which she had arrived at in the 1990s, under the wing of the then all-powerful Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

Born in Hamburg, Angela Dorothea Kasner – known worldwide by the surname of her first husband, Merkel, whom she divorced in 1981 – spent her childhood and youth in the then German Democratic Republic (GDR), belonging to the communist bloc. It was only in 1990, with the fall of the Wall, that he was able to join Kohl’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and make a career in big politics in Berlin., the brand new capital of unified Germany.

His leadership marked the recent history of the world’s fourth largest economy by fire until his departure from office on December 8. His legacy of high growth rates and job recovery domestically contrasts with the criticism he faced for his excessive fiscal rigor within the European Union (EU). Only in the last stretch of his government, after the outbreak of the coronavirus crisis, Germany agreed to put aside the mantra of austerity to launch the multimillion-dollar European rescue plan, known as “Next Generation EU”. “This is not a humanitarian gesture, but an investment,” Merkel clarified, with her usual dose of pragmatism.

Merkel’s omnipresent figure gave stability and predictability to German politics, which she had reached in the 1990s (AFP)

THE MIDDLE: IN THE CENTER, FAR FROM THE ENDS

What has been the secret of Angela Merkel’s long dominance on the German public scene? In dialogue with DEF, the representative of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Olaf Jacobs, affirmed that the former chancellor represents “the positioning of her party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), at the center of the political spectrum”. Far from the historically more conservative positions of the CDU, for 12 of the 16 years in power he preferred to govern in coalition with his historic rival, the Social Democratic Party (SPD).

The Merkelian imprint also allowed to open the doors of its political formation to new voters and to renew its ranks. This is how Jacobs explained it: “The former chancellor represented the opposite of the typical CDU constituent. She is a woman and the typical party member is a man. She is Lutheran and the typical voter is Catholic. She is not the mother of a family and the typical voter is a father of a family. She comes from the east, from the old GDR, and the typical elector comes from the Rhenish area, close to the western border with France ”. In short, according to this analyst, “Merkel totally broke the CDU scheme and, with that rupture, she naturally opened the party to a lot of people.” The climax of that rise was the 2013 elections, when the alliance between the CDU and its historic Bavarian partner – the Christian Social Union (CSU) – reached 41.5% of the vote, the best result since the German reunification in 1991.

RIGOR IN THE EUROZONE AND ADJUSTMENT POLICIES

At the European level, The first major test for Merkel’s leadership was the euro crisis, which began in 2008 and was on the verge of blowing up the monetary union. The fiscal rigor imposed on Greece, Portugal and Ireland by the troika of the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Central Bank (ECB) had its main promoter in Germany. The figure of “serial adjuster” earned the former foreign minister protests and large demonstrations in the streets of the main cities of the debtor countries.

Leaders: During her 16 years in power, Merkel lived with four American presidents, four French leaders, and rubbed shoulders with three presidents of the European Commission and three heads of the European Central Bank (ECB) (AFP)
Leaders: During her 16 years in power, Merkel lived with four American presidents, four French leaders, and rubbed shoulders with three presidents of the European Commission and three heads of the European Central Bank (ECB) (AFP)

However, the restructuring of the sovereign debt of these countries and the arrival of fresh funds from the ECB and the IMF allowed the recovery of market confidence. Even at the cost of the harsh social consequences of the rigorous policies imposed by the troika, the countries hardest hit by the crisis were able to clean up their accounts and resume the growth path.

REFUGEES: A BOLD MEASURE THAT LEFT AFTERMATH

Perhaps the biggest earthquake domestically has been the Merkel government’s decision to open its borders to refugees fleeing the war in Syria and other conflicts, such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan. The phrase delivered at a press conference in August 2015 –We make it, “We can do it” – earned the former foreign minister strong reproaches within her own party. That year, the country received a record 1.1 million requests for asylum, putting heavy pressure on the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, which had to take a couple of years to process all those requests.

“Possibly, the fact that she lived all her life in eastern Germany and was the daughter of a Lutheran pastor, who every day received political refugees who knocked on the door of her parish to ask for asylum, has also weighed on her decision.” said Olaf Jacobs. “She was predestined to have great sensitivity on the subject,” completed this analyst.

In 2005, the Germany that received Merkel had 5 million unemployed.  Today, the leader of the CDU leaves a growing economy with unemployment reduced by half (AFP)
In 2005, the Germany that received Merkel had 5 million unemployed. Today, the leader of the CDU leaves a growing economy with unemployment reduced by half (AFP)

Many analysts understand that the electoral consequence of that decision was the unexpected drop in the electoral flow of the CDU / CSU in the 2017 elections. On that occasion, the political bloc of the then chancellor lost 15.7% of the votes, a great part of which (12.6%) went to the right-wing Alternative for Germany, which entered Parliament for the first time with a speech with a xenophobic and sovereign tone. It has also had to face, in recent years, the objections of its Bavarian ally, the CSU, whose leader, the then Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, even threatened to resign and break the historic alignment with the CDU.

MERKEL’S LEGACY AND PENDING ACCOUNTS

Upon coming to power in 2005, The Germany that received Merkel had 5 million unemployed and was considered by many “the sick of Europe.” Also benefited by the agenda of social reforms and deregulation of the labor market of his predecessor Gerhard Schröder, known as “Agenda 2010”, the leader of the CDU leaves a growing economy with unemployment reduced by half: 2.6 million unemployed, the lowest figure in the last decade.

Maybe, The biggest challenge for his successor is to accelerate the country’s entry into the digitization era and debureaucratize its public sector. Germany has, surprisingly, one of the worst penetration rates for fiber optics among Internet users. This task, like the urgent energy transition, will have to be assumed by the unprecedented “semaphore coalition” that has just assumed power. The Social Democrats of the new Chancellor Olaf Scholz agreed to a government contract with the Liberals, led by the new Finance Minister, Christian Lindner, and the Greens, who occupy the key portfolios of Foreign Relations (Annalena Baerbock) and of Economy and Climate Protection ( Robert Habeck).

Interestingly, despite belonging to the opposition Social Democratic Party (SPD), Scholz embodies, in many respects, the continuity of the last years of the grand coalition with Angela Merkel. In fact, for the last four years, he was its finance minister. “He was his man of absolute confidence, his alter ego,” illustrates Jacobs, who ventures that, perhaps, had he run for a new term, the German people would have elected Merkel for four more years.

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Reference-www.infobae.com

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