Angela Merkel marks the end of her 16-year Chancellorship with the upcoming German Federal Elections.
Angela Merkel has served as Chancellor of Germany since 2005. In her 16 years of Chancellorship, she has navigated more crises than Macron, Johnson and Trump together.
She steered Germany through the 2008 financial crisis and the ensuing eurozone debt crisis, the 2015 refugee emergency and most recently, the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a YouGov survey, she received the highest approval ratings among the European world leaders.
Her climate change action plan and response to the global pandemic received a largely positive response.
However, her dealing with Brexit received a comparatively less positive response. The handling of the Greek debt crisis received unfavourable ratings from survey takers from most countries.
It is impossible for a leader always to make everyone happy. Merkel, too, had her moments in the light and the shadows. We’ll take a closer look at the most notable moments of her time in power.
Merkel’s most prominent moment of worldwide fame was her asylum policy. In August and September of 2015, when the world was in the throes of the refugee crisis, she opted to keep German borders open for the thousands of migrants coming in.
While human rights groups applauded the move, it was also a cause of polarized public opinion both within Germany and internationally.
In that year, Angela Merkel was chosen as the “Person of the Year” by Time Magazine. The magazine dubbed her “Chancellor of the free world.” However, six years on, the European Union is still torn over a uniform asylum policy.
Although she was lauded for offering refuge for people fleeing war in Syria and Iraq, she was accused of lacking bite regarding China’s incarceration of Uyghurs. Critiques have claimed Germany’s economic interests in China as being the reason behind it.
In 2008,when the worldwide monetary emergency broke out, one of the most potent symbols of European unification, the Euro, came under pressure.
With the most robust economy in the EU, Germany reluctantly took the leadership role, with Merkel at the helm.
Rigid austerity and reform measures were enforced, especially on the indebted countries. Critics drew parallels between the move and the German occupation during World War II.
The acceptance of Germany and the leader of the reforms were primarily due to Merkel’s ‘culture of restraint combined with ‘culture of responsibility.’
Under Merkel’s watch, Germany cemented its position as the economic engine of the bloc. Unemployment is at a historically low 5.7% despite the economic rebound from the pandemic.
Budget surpluses chalked up from 2012 onwards have allowed Germany to repay a debt mountain. It served as a buffer against the unprecedented health emergency.
When Greece was on the brink of collapse, Merkel turned a deaf ear to the debt relief pleas only after the massive protests did Germany secure European bailouts to save Greece from crashing out of the Euro.
Covid-19 forced her to change direction and retreat on mutualizing European debt. She spearheaded the 750-billion-euro EU recovery fund.
Post the Fukushima Disaster, Merkel decided to shut down Germany’s nuclear power plant and shift to sustainable energy. While the decision is noble, the transition period experienced a high dependency on coal energy.
Her government also refused the plan to advance a 2038 deadline to quit coal energy irking green activists. Only after a court ruling did the government implement a new target to slash emissions by 65% by 2030.
Merkel provided insight into her governing when she received her honorary doctorate from Harvard University, “Nothing can be taken for granted. Our individual freedoms cannot be taken for granted; democracy cannot be taken for granted, neither peace nor prosperity.”