Angela Merkel

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Angela Merkel
Angela Merkel 2019 cropped.jpg
Merkel in 2019
Chancellor of Germany
Assumed office
22 November 2005

Angela Dorothea Merkel (pronounced [aŋˈɡeːla doʁoˈteːa ˈmɛʁkl̩] ( Loudspeaker.svg listen ); [lower-alpha 1] née  Kasner; born 17 July 1954) is a German politician who has been serving as the chancellor of Germany since 2005. She served as the leader of the Opposition from 2002 to 2005 and as the leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) from 2000 to 2018. [9] A member of the CDU, Merkel is the first female chancellor of Germany. [10] During her tenure as Chancellor, Merkel has been frequently referred to as the de facto leader of the European Union and the most powerful woman in the world. [11] [12] [13]


Merkel was born in Hamburg in then-West Germany, moving 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. [14] Merkel entered politics in the wake of the Revolutions of 1989, briefly serving as deputy spokesperson for the first democratically elected Government of East Germany led by Lothar de Maizière. Following German reunification in 1990, Merkel was elected to the Bundestag for the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. As the protégée of Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Merkel was appointed as Minister for Women and Youth in 1991, later becoming Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety in 1994. After the CDU lost the 1998 federal election, Merkel was elected CDU General Secretary, before becoming the party's first female leader and the first female Leader of the Opposition two years later, in the aftermath of a donations scandal that toppled Wolfgang Schäuble.

Following the 2005 federal election, Merkel was appointed to succeed Gerhard Schröder as Chancellor of Germany, leading a grand coalition consisting of the CDU, its Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU) and the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). Merkel was the first woman to be elected as Chancellor, and the first Chancellor since German reunification to have been raised in the former East Germany. At 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). [15] 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. [16] At the 2017 federal election, Merkel led the CDU to become the largest party for the fourth time; Merkel formed a third grand coalition with the SPD and was sworn in for a joint-record fourth term as Chancellor on 14 March 2018. [17]

In foreign policy, Merkel has emphasised international cooperation, both in the context of the European Union and NATO, and strengthening transatlantic economic relations. In 2008, Merkel served as President of the European Council and played a central role in the negotiation of the Treaty of Lisbon and the Berlin Declaration. Merkel played a crucial role in managing the global financial crisis of 2007–2008 and the European debt crisis. She negotiated the 2008 European Union stimulus plan focusing on infrastructure spending and public investment to counteract the Great Recession. In domestic policy, Merkel's Energiewende program has focused on future energy development, seeking to phase out nuclear power in Germany, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and increase renewable energy sources. Reforms to the Bundeswehr which abolished conscription, health care reform, and her government's response to the 2010s European migrant crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic in Germany have been major issues during her chancellorship. [18] She has served as senior G7 leader since 2014, and previously from 2011 to 2012. In 2014 she became the longest-serving incumbent head of government in the European Union. In October 2018, Merkel announced that she would stand down as Leader of the CDU at the party convention, and would not seek a fifth term as Chancellor in the 2021 federal election. [19]

Background and early life

Merkel's paternal grandparents when engaged, Margarethe and her betrothed, Ludwik Marian Kazmierczak in his Polish Blue Army uniform Ludwik Marian Kazmierczak in the uniform of Haller's Army with fiancee Margarethe.jpg
Merkel's paternal grandparents when engaged, Margarethe and her betrothed, Ludwik Marian Kaźmierczak in his Polish Blue Army uniform

Merkel was born Angela Dorothea Kasner in 1954, in Hamburg, West Germany, the daughter of Horst Kasner (1926–2011; Kaźmierczak), [20] [21] a Lutheran pastor and a native of Berlin, and his wife Herlind (1928–2019; née Jentzsch), born 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. [22]

Merkel is of German and Polish descent. Her paternal grandfather, Ludwik Kasner, was a German policeman of Polish ethnicity, who had taken part in Poland's struggle for independence in the early 20th century. [23] 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. [24] [25] [26] [27] 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. Since the mid 1990s, Merkel has publicly mentioned her Polish heritage on several occasions and described herself as a quarter Polish, but her Polish roots became better known as a result of a 2013 biography. [28]

Religion played a key role in the Kasner family's migration from West Germany to East Germany. [29] Merkel's paternal grandfather was originally Catholic but the entire family converted to Lutheranism during the childhood of her father, [25] 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  [ de ] (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. [30]

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. [31] [32] [33] Membership was nominally voluntary, but those who did not join found it difficult to gain admission to higher education. [34] She did not participate in the secular coming of age ceremony Jugendweihe, however, which was common in East Germany. Instead, she was confirmed. [35] During this time, she participated in several compulsory courses on Marxism-Leninism with her grades only being regarded as "sufficient". [36] Merkel later said that "Life in the GDR was sometimes almost comfortable in a certain way, because there were some things one simply couldn't influence." [37]

Education and scientific career

At school Merkel learned to speak Russian fluently, and was awarded prizes for her proficiency in Russian and mathematics. She was the best in her class in mathematics and Russian, and completed her school education with the best possible average Abitur grade 1.0. [38]

Merkel continued her education at Karl Marx University, Leipzig, where she studied physics from 1973 to 1978. [30] 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. With backing of the local leadership of the SED party, the project was allowed to proceed. [39]

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. [40]

Merkel worked and studied at the Central Institute for Physical Chemistry of the Academy of Sciences in Berlin-Adlershof from 1978 to 1990. At first she and her husband squatted in Mitte. [41] 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". [42] 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. [43] She stated: "I can only rely on my memory, if something turns out to be different, I can live with that." [42]

After being awarded a doctorate ( Dr. rer. nat. ) for her thesis on quantum chemistry in 1986, [44] she worked as a researcher and published several papers. [45] In 1986, she was able to travel freely to West Germany to attend a congress; she also participated in a multi-week language course in Donetsk, in the then-Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. [46]

Early political career

Democratic Awakening, 1989–1990

The fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 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 Beginning. [47]

Alliance for Germany, 1990

Lothar de Maiziere and Merkel, 1990 Bundesarchiv Bild 183-1990-0803-017, Lothar de Maiziere und Angela Merkel.jpg
Lothar de Maizière and Merkel, 1990

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. [48] Merkel had impressed de Maiziere with her adept dealing with journalists questioning the role of a party leader, Wolfgang Schnur, as an "informal co-worker" with the homeland security services. [40] [47]

Merger of Democratic Alliance into CDU, 1990

In April 1990, Democratic Awakening merged with the East German Christian Democratic Union, which in turn merged with its western counterpart after reunification.

Minister for Women and Youth, 1991–1994

In the German federal election of 1990, the first to be held following reunification, Merkel successfully stood for election to the Bundestag in the parliamentary constituency of Stralsund – Nordvorpommern – Rügen in north Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. [49] She has won re-election from this constituency (renamed, with slightly adjusted borders, Vorpommern-Rügen – Vorpommern-Greifswald I in 2003) at the seven federal elections held since then. Almost immediately following her entry into parliament, Merkel was appointed by Chancellor Helmut Kohl to serve as Minister for Women and Youth in the federal cabinet. [11] [50] The ministry was the smallest and least powerful one of the three ministries that were created from the old Ministry for Health, Seniors, Family and Youth.

In November 1991, Merkel ran for the leadership of the neighboring CDU in Brandenburg. She lost to Ulf Finke; this has been the only election to date Merkel has lost.

In June 1993, she was elected leader of the CDU in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, succeeding her former mentor Günther Krause.

Minister for Environment, 1994–1998

Merkel in a CDU campaign poster, 1995 KAS-Merkel, Angela-Bild-14890-2.jpg
Merkel in a CDU campaign poster, 1995

In 1994, she was promoted to the position of Minister for the Environment and Nuclear Safety, which gave her greater political visibility and a platform on which to build her personal 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"). [51]

General Secretary of the CDU, 1998–2000

After the Kohl Government was defeated at the 1998 election, Merkel was appointed Secretary-General of the CDU, [50] 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. [50]

Chairperson of the CDU, 2000–2018

She was subsequently elected to replace Schäuble, becoming the first female leader of a German party on 10 April 2000. [52] Her election surprised many observers, as her personality offered a contrast to the party she had been elected to lead; Merkel is a centrist 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.

Merkel and Russian president Vladimir Putin, 2002 Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin in Moscow 2002.jpg
Merkel and Russian president Vladimir Putin, 2002

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 Chancellor Gerhard 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. [53] 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 not join the war in Iraq, [54] Merkel and the CDU-CSU supported the invasion of Iraq.

Leader of the Opposition, 2002–2005

Some successes

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. Stoiber voted for Merkel. [55]

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. [56]

Merkel argued that Germany should phase out nuclear power less quickly than the Schröder administration had planned. [57] [58]

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 2003 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. [59]

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 [60] when Merkel, having made economic competence central to the CDU's platform, confused gross and net income twice during a televised debate. [61] 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. [60]

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. [62] This was compounded by Merkel's proposal to increase VAT [63] 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. [64]

On the eve of the election, Merkel was still favored to win a decisive victory based on opinion polls. [65] 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%. [65] The result was so close, both Schröder and Merkel claimed victory. [50] [65] 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. [65] A grand coalition between the CDU/CSU and SPD faced the challenge that both parties demanded the chancellorship. [65] [66] 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. [66]

Chancellor of Germany, 2005–present

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Merkel with US president George W. Bush at his Prairie Chapel Ranch, 2007
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Merkel with US president Barack Obama in the Oval Office, 2015
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Merkel with US President Donald Trump in the Oval Office, 2017
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Merkel with US president Joe Biden in the Oval Office, 2021

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.

In 2015, with the absence of Stephen Harper, Merkel became the only leader to have attended every G20 meeting since the first in 2008, having been present at a record fifteen summits as of 2021. She hosted the twelfth meeting at the 2017 G20 Hamburg summit. [129]

United States

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. [130]

Merkel enjoyed good relations with US presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. [131] Obama described her in 2016 as his "closest international partner" throughout his tenure as president. [132] Obama's farewell visit to Berlin in November 2016 was widely interpreted as the passing of the torch of global liberal leadership to Merkel as Merkel was seen by many as the new standard bearer of liberal democracy since the election of Donald Trump as US president. [133] [134]

Upon the election of Donald Trump Merkel said that "Germany and America are tied by values of democracy, freedom and respect for the law and human dignity, independent of origin, skin colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political views. I offer the next president of the United States, Donald Trump, close cooperation on the basis of these values." [135] The comment was characterized by policy analyst Jennifer Rubin as manifesting the psychological principle of reintegrative shaming. [136]

Following the G7 Summit in Italy and the NATO Summit in Brussels, Merkel stated on 28 May 2017 that the US was no longer the reliable partner Europe and Germany had depended on in the past. [137] At an electoral rally in Munich, she said that "We have to know that we must fight for our future on our own, for our destiny as Europeans", [138] which has been interpreted as an unprecedented shift in the German-American transatlantic relationship. [139] [137]


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. [140]

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. [141]

In response to the death of Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, who died of organ failure while in government custody, Merkel said in a statement that Liu had been a "courageous fighter for civil rights and freedom of expression." [142]

In July 2019, the UN ambassadors from 22 nations, including Germany, signed a joint letter to the UNHRC condemning China's mistreatment of the Uyghurs as well as its mistreatment of other minority groups, urging the Chinese government to close the Xinjiang re-education camps. [143]


Merkel with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Sochi, May 2017 Meeting with Federal Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel1.jpg
Merkel with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Sochi, May 2017

In 2006, Merkel expressed concern about overreliance on Russian energy, but she received little support from others in Berlin. [144]

In June 2017, Merkel criticized the draft of new US sanctions against Russia that target EU–Russia energy projects, including Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. [145]

Other issues

Merkel favors the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the European Union; but stated in December 2012 that its implementation depends on reforms in Ukraine. [146]

Merkel expressed support for Israel's right to defend itself during the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict. She telephoned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on 9 July to condemn "without reservation rocket fire on Israel". [147]

In June 2018, Merkel said that there had been "no moral or political justification" for the post-war expulsion of ethnic Germans from Central and Eastern European countries. [148]

Eurozone crisis

Merkel with Polish and Italian prime ministers Donald Tusk (left) and Silvio Berlusconi (right), 2008 Flickr - europeanpeoplesparty - EPP Summit 19 June 2008 (19).jpg
Merkel with Polish and Italian prime ministers Donald Tusk (left) and Silvio Berlusconi (right), 2008
Merkel at the 2012 congress of the European People's Party (EPP) Angela Merkel (9307201890).jpg
Merkel at the 2012 congress of the European People's Party (EPP)

During the financial crisis of 2007–2008, 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. [149]

On 4 October 2008, following the Irish Government's decision to guarantee all deposits in private savings accounts, a move she strongly criticised, [150] 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. [151] 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. [152] Other European governments eventually either raised the limits or promised to guarantee savings in full. [152]

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. [153] Since then, this comparison has become a central element in major speeches. [154] The international financial press has widely commented on her thesis, with The Economist saying:

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. [155] ... 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. [155]

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. [156] [lower-alpha 2]

International status

Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko, Merkel, and US vice-president Joe Biden, 7 February 2015 Poroschenko Merkel and Biden Security Conference February 2015.jpg
Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko, Merkel, and US vice-president Joe Biden, 7 February 2015
Merkel at the EPP Congress in Helsinki, November 2018 EPP Helsinki Congress in Finland, 7-8 November 2018 (31908879048).jpg
Merkel at the EPP Congress in Helsinki, November 2018
Angela Merkel's tenure as Chancellor compared to heads of government in the EU and UK Angela Merkel tenure graphic.svg
Angela Merkel's tenure as Chancellor compared to heads of government in the EU and UK

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. [157] [158] [159] [160] [161] 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". [162] In 2018, Merkel was named the most powerful woman in the world for a record fourteenth time by Forbes. [163] Following the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency in November 2016, Merkel was described by The New York Times as "the Liberal West's Last Defender". [164] Following the election of Donald Trump, some media have described her as the "new leader of the free world". [165] [166] [167] [168] Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described Merkel in 2017 as "the most important leader in the free world". [169] She is currently the senior G7 leader. The Atlantic described her in 2019 as "the world's most successful living politician, on the basis of both achievement and longevity". [170] She was found in a 2018 survey to be the most respected world leader internationally. [171] She was named as Harvard University's commencement speaker in 2019; Harvard University President Larry Bacow described her as "one of the most widely admired and broadly influential statespeople of our time". [172]


Merkel with Argentine president Mauricio Macri in the Casa Rosada, 2017 Angela Merkel and Mauricio Macri 03.jpg
Merkel with Argentine president Mauricio Macri in the Casa Rosada, 2017

On 29 October 2018, Merkel announced that she would not seek reelection as leader of CDU at their party conference in December 2018, but intended to remain as chancellor until the 2021 German federal election was held. She stated that she did not plan to seek any political office after this. The resignations followed October setbacks for the CSU in the Bavarian state election and for the CDU in the Hessian state election. [19] [173] In August 2019, Merkel hinted that she might return to academia at the end of her term in 2021. [174]

She decided not to suggest any person as her successor as leader of the CDU. [175] However, political observers had long considered Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer as Merkel's protégé groomed for succession. This view was confirmed when Kramp-Karrenbauer – widely seen as the chancellor's favourite for the post – was voted to succeed Merkel as leader of the CDU in December 2018. [176] Kramp-Karrenbauer's elevation to Defence Minister after Ursula von der Leyen's departure to become president of the European Commission also boosted her standing as Merkel's most likely candidate for succession. [177] In 2019, media outlets speculated that Kramp-Karrenbauer might take over Merkel's position as Chancellor sooner than planned if the current governing coalition proved unsustainable. [178] [179] The possibility was neither confirmed nor denied by the party. [180] In February 2020, Kramp-Karrenbauer announced that she would resign as party leader of the CDU in the summer, after party members in Thuringia defied her by voting with Alternative for Germany to support an FDP candidate for minister-president. [181] Kramp-Karrenbauer was succeeded by Armin Laschet at the 2021 CDU leadership election. [182]

Personal life

U.S. president Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Merkel, and her husband Joachim Sauer, 2009 President and First Lady Obama with Chancellor Merkel.jpg
U.S. president Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Merkel, and her husband Joachim Sauer, 2009

In 1977, at the age of 23, Merkel, then Angela Kasner, married physics student Ulrich Merkel (born 1953) [183] and took his surname. The marriage ended in divorce in 1982. [184] 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, [185] became a couple later and married privately on 30 December 1998. [186] She has no children, but Sauer has two adult sons from a previous marriage. [187]

Merkel is a fervent football fan and has been known to listen to games while in the Bundestag and to attend games of the national team in her official capacity, including Germany's 1–0 victory against Argentina in the 2014 World Cup Final. [188] [189] [190] Merkel stated that her favorite movie is The Legend of Paul and Paula , an East German movie released in 1973. [191]

Merkel has a fear of dogs after being attacked by one in 1995. [192] Vladimir Putin brought in his Labrador Retriever during a press conference in 2007. Putin claims he did not mean to scare her, though Merkel later observed, "I understand why he has to do this – to prove he's a man. ... He's afraid of his own weakness." [192]

Since 2017 Merkel has been seen and filmed to shake visibly on several public occasions, recovering shortly afterwards. [193] [194] [195] After one such occasion she attributed the shaking to dehydration, saying that she felt better after a drink of water. [196] After three occasions where this happened in June 2019, she began to sit down during the performances of the national anthems during the State visits of Mette Frederiksen and Maia Sandu the following month.

In September 2021, after years of evading the question, Merkel said she considered herself a feminist. The statement came in a conference along with Nigerian writer and feminist icon Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. [197]


Merkel speaking at the 2011 German Evangelical Church Assembly in Dresden Ev Kirchentag 2011 in Dresden 71.jpg
Merkel speaking at the 2011 German Evangelical Church Assembly in Dresden

Angela Merkel is a Lutheran member of the Evangelical Church in Berlin, Brandenburg and Silesian Upper Lusatia (German: Evangelische Kirche Berlin-Brandenburg-schlesische Oberlausitz – EKBO), a United Protestant (i.e. both Reformed and Lutheran) church body under the umbrella of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD). The EKBO is a church of the Union of Evangelical Churches. [198] Before the 2004 merger of the Evangelical Church in Berlin-Brandenburg and the Evangelical Church in Silesian Upper Lusatia (both also being a part of the EKD), she belonged to the former. In 2012, Merkel said, regarding her faith: "I am a member of the evangelical church. I believe in God and religion is also my constant companion, and has been for the whole of my life. We as Christians should above all not be afraid of standing up for our beliefs." [199] She also publicly declared that Germany suffers not from "too much Islam" but "too little Christianity". [200]

Honours and awards


National honours

Foreign honours

Honorary degrees



Merkel, often depicted as the unofficial leader of Europe, at the 2019 G20 Osaka summit Press conference EU-Mercosul on June 26, 2019 (VII).jpg
Merkel, often depicted as the unofficial leader of Europe, at the 2019 G20 Osaka summit

As a woman who is a politician from a centre-right party and also a scientist, Merkel has been compared by many in the English-language press to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (Thatcher also had a science degree from Oxford University in chemistry). 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". Political commentators have debated the precise extent to which their agendas are similar. [241] Later in her tenure, Merkel acquired the nickname "Mutti" (a German familiar form of "mother"). She has also been called the "Iron Chancellor", in reference to Otto von Bismarck. [242] [243]

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), [244] 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. While she studied physics, her predecessors studied law, business or history, among other professions.


The decisions of Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2015 on migration policies have led to much discussion and commotion, in the whole Western world 2015.09.02.-Menekultek-a-Keletinel-01.jpg
The decisions of Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2015 on migration policies have led to much discussion and commotion, in the whole Western world

Merkel has been criticised for being personally present and involved at the M100 Media Award handover [245] to Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, who had triggered the Muhammad cartoons controversy. This happened at a time of fierce emotional debate in Germany over a book by the former Deutsche Bundesbank executive and finance senator of Berlin Thilo Sarrazin, which was critical of the Muslim immigration. [246] At the same time she condemned a planned burning of Qurans by a fundamental pastor in Florida. [247] The Central Council of Muslims in Germany [248] [249] and the Left Party [250] (Die Linke) as well as the German Green Party [lower-alpha 4] [251] 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." [252] Others have praised Merkel and called it a brave and bold move for the cause of freedom of speech.

Merkel's position towards the negative statements by Thilo Sarrazin with regard to the integration problems with Arab and Turkish people in Germany has been critical throughout. According to her personal statements, Sarrazin's approach is "totally unacceptable" and counterproductive to the ongoing problems of integration. [253]

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 as undemocratic, as any discussion on Merkel's politics would thus be deemed unnecessary or undesirable. [254] The expression is credited for the name of the political party Alternative for Germany, which was founded in 2013. [255]

Protestors rally against the NSA's mass surveillance, Berlin, June 2013 Berlin 2013 PRISM Demo.jpg
Protestors rally against the NSA's mass surveillance, Berlin, June 2013

In July 2013, Merkel defended the surveillance practices of the National Security Agency, and described the United States as "our truest ally throughout the decades". [256] [257] 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 uncharted territory for us all" (German : Das Internet ist für uns alle Neuland). This statement led to various internet memes and online mockery of Merkel. [258] [259]

Merkel compared the NSA to the Stasi when it became known that her mobile phone was tapped by that agency. In response, Susan Rice pledged that the US would desist from spying on her personally, but said there would not be a no-espionage agreement between the two countries. [260]

Germany's BND has covertly monitored European firms and officials at the request of the NSA -FsA14 - Freiheit statt Angst 060 (15062050686) (2).jpg
Germany's BND has covertly monitored European firms and officials at the request of the NSA

In July 2014 Merkel said trust between Germany and the United States could only be restored by talks between the two, and she would seek to have talks. She reiterated that the US remained Germany's most important ally. [262]

Her statement "Islam is part of Germany" during a state visit of the Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoğlu in January 2015 [263] induced criticism within her party. The parliamentary group leader Volker Kauder said that Islam is not part of Germany and that Muslims should deliberate on the question why so many violent people refer to the Quran. [264]

In October 2015, Horst Seehofer, Bavarian State Premier and CSU leader, criticised Merkel's policy of allowing in hundreds of thousands of migrants from the Middle East: "We're now in a state of mind without rules, without system and without order because of a German decision." [109] Seehofer attacked Merkel policies in sharp language, threatened to sue the government in the high court, and hinted that the CSU might topple Merkel. Many MPs of Merkel's CDU party also voiced dissatisfaction with Merkel. [265] Chancellor Merkel insisted that Germany has the economic strength to cope with the influx of migrants and reiterated that there is no legal maximum limit on the number of migrants Germany can take. [266]

At the conclusion of the May 2017 Group of Seven's leaders in Sicily, Merkel criticised American efforts to renege on earlier commitments on climate change. According to Merkel, the discussions were difficult and marred by dissent. "Here we have the situation where six members, or even seven if you want to add the EU, stand against one." [267]

Merkel has faced criticism for failing to take a tough line on the People's Republic of China. [268] [269] [270] The Asia Times reported that "Unlike certain of her European counterparts, her China diplomacy has focused on non-interference in Beijing’s internal affairs. As such, Merkel was reportedly furious when her Foreign Minister Heiko Maas received Hong Kong dissident Joshua Wong in Berlin in September [2019], a move that Beijing publicly protested." [271]

The Merkel's government has decided to phase out both nuclear power and coal plants and supported the European Commission's Green Deal plans. [272] [273] Some critics blamed the European Union Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) and closure of nuclear plants for contributing to the 2021 global energy crisis. [273] [274] [275]

In the arts and media

Since 1991, Merkel has sat annually for sitting and standing portraits by, and interview with, Herlinde Koelbl. [276] [277]

Merkel was portrayed by Swiss actress Anna Katarina in the 2012 political satire film The Dictator . [278]

Merkel features as a main character in two of the three plays that make up the Europeans Trilogy (Bruges, Antwerp, Tervuren) by Paris-based UK playwright Nick Awde: Bruges (Edinburgh Festival, 2014) and Tervuren (2016). A character named Merkel, accompanied by a sidekick called Schäuble, also appears as the sinister female henchman in Michael Paraskos's novel In Search of Sixpence. [279]

On the American sketch-comedy Saturday Night Live , she has been parodied by Kate McKinnon since 2013. [280] [281] [282]

On the British sketch-comedy Tracey Ullman's Show , comedian Tracey Ullman has parodied Merkel to international acclaim with German media dubbing her impersonation as the best spoof of Merkel in the world. [283]

In 2016, a documentary film Angela Merkel – The Unexpected , a story about her unexpected rise to power from an East German physicist to the most powerful woman in the world, was produced by Broadview TV and MDR in collaboration with Arte and Das Erste. [284]

See also


  1. The English pronunciation of her first name could be /ˈɑːŋɡələ,ˈæŋ-/ (of which the former is a closer approximation of the German). The English pronunciation of her last name is either /ˈmɛərkəl/ or /ˈmɜːrkəl/ (pronunciation respelling MAIR-kəl, MUR-kəl), of which only the former is reported for American English (and is a closer approximation of the German) and only the latter is reported for British English by the Oxford and Merriam-Webster dictionaries, which base their editing on actual usage, not recommendations. [2] [3] [4] In German, her last name is pronounced [ˈmɛʁkl̩] , [5] [6] and her first name is pronounced [ˈaŋɡela] or [aŋˈɡeːla] , [7] but according to her biographer Langguth, Merkel prefers the pronunciation with stress on the second syllable [8] ( [aŋˈɡeːla] with a long /eː/).
  2. The economist Arno Tausch from Corvinus University in Budapest, in a paper published by the Social Science Research Network in New York has contended that a re-analysis of the Merkel hypothesis about the distribution of global social expenditure based on 169 countries for which we have recent ILO Social Protection data and World Bank GNI data in real purchasing power reveals that the 27 EU countries with complete data spend only 33% of global world social protection expenditures, while the 13 non-EU-OECD members, among them the major other Western democracies, spend 40% of global social protection expenditures, the BRICS 18% and the Rest of the World 9% of global social protection expenditures. Most probably, the author claims, Merkel's 50% ratio is the product of a mere, simple projection of data for the OECD-member countries onto the world level <>. Tausch also claims that the data reveal the successful social Keynesianism of the Anglo-Saxon overseas democracies, which are in stark contrast to the savings agenda in the framework of the European "fiscal pact", see Tausch, Arno (4 September 2015). "Wo Frau Kanzlerin Angela Merkel Irrt: Der Sozialschutz in der Welt, der Anteil Europas und die Beurteilung Seiner Effizienz (Where Chancellor Angela Merkel Got it Wrong: Social Protection in the World, Europe's Share in it and the Assessment of its Efficiency)". doi:10.2139/ssrn.2656113. SSRN   2656113 .Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  3. 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
  4. Grüne/Bündnis 90 Spokesman Renate Künast: "I wouldn't have done it", said Green Party floor leader Renate Künast. It was true that the right to freedom of expression also applies to cartoons, she said. "But if a chancellor also makes a speech on top of that, it serves to heat up the debate." [251]

Related Research Articles

The Christian Social Union in Bavaria is a Christian-democratic and conservative political party in Germany. Having a regionalist identity, the CSU operates only in Bavaria while its larger counterpart, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), operates in the other fifteen states of Germany. It differs from the CDU by being somewhat more conservative in social matters, following Catholic social teaching. The CSU is considered the de facto successor of the Weimar-era Catholic Bavarian People's Party.

Christian Democratic Union of Germany Centre-right political party in Germany

The Christian Democratic Union of Germany is a Christian-democratic and liberal-conservative political party in Germany. It is the major catch-all party of the centre-right in German politics.

2005 German federal election Federal election in Germany

Federal elections were held in Germany on 18 September 2005 to elect the members of the 16th Bundestag. The snap election was called after the government's defeat in a state election, which caused them to intentionally lose a motion of confidence to trigger an early federal election. The outgoing government was a coalition of the centre-left Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) and Alliance 90/The Greens, led by federal Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. The election was originally intended for the autumn of 2006.

Horst Seehofer German politician

Horst Lorenz Seehofer is a German politician serving as Minister of the Interior, Building and Community since 2018 under Chancellor Angela Merkel. A member of the Christian Social Union (CSU), he served as the 18th Minister President of Bavaria from 2008 to 2018 and Leader of the Christian Social Union in Bavaria from 2008 to 2019.

2009 German federal election Federal election in Germany

Federal elections took place on 27 September 2009 to elect the members of the 17th Bundestag (parliament) of Germany. Preliminary results showed that the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), and the Free Democratic Party (FDP) won the election, and the three parties announced their intention to form a new centre-right government with Angela Merkel as Chancellor. Their main opponent, Frank-Walter Steinmeier's Social Democratic Party (SPD), conceded defeat. The Christian Democrats previously governed in coalition with the FDP in most of the 1949–1966 governments of Konrad Adenauer and Ludwig Erhard and the 1982–1998 governments of Helmut Kohl.

First Merkel cabinet Government of Germany from 2005 to 2009

The First Merkel cabinet was the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany from 22 November 2005 to 27 October 2009 throughout the 16th legislative session of the Bundestag. Led by Christian Democrat Angela Merkel, the first female Chancellor in German history, the cabinet was supported by a grand coalition between the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Christian Social Union of Bavaria (CSU) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD).

2013 German federal election Federal election in Germany

Federal elections were held on 22 September to elect the members of the 18th Bundestag of Germany. At stake were all 598 seats to the Bundestag, plus 33 overhang seats determined thereafter. The Christian Democratic Union of Germany/Christian Social Union of Bavaria (CDU/CSU) of incumbent chancellor Angela Merkel won their best result since 1990 with nearly 42% of the vote and nearly 50% of the seats, just five short for an overall majority. The Free Democratic Party (FDP) failed to meet the 5% vote electoral threshold in what was their worst showing ever in a federal election, denying them seats in the Bundestag for the first time in their history.

In current German politics, grand coalition describes a governing coalition of the parties CDU/CSU and SPD, since they have historically been the major parties in most state and federal elections since 1949. The meaning of the term may change due to the growth of some formerly minor parties in recent years.

History of Germany since 1990 Aspect of German history

The history of Germany since 1990 spans the period following the German reunification, when West Germany and East Germany were reunited after being divided during the Cold War. Germany after 1990 is referred to by historians as the Berlin Republic as a great power (again) in the world. This time period is also determined by the ongoing process of the "inner reunification" of the formerly divided country.

Reiner Haseloff German politician

Reiner Haseloff is a German politician who serves as the Minister President of Saxony-Anhalt. On 9 October 2020, he was elected President of the Bundesrat. His one-year term started on 1 November 2020.

Jens Spahn German politician

Jens Georg Spahn is a German politician who has served as Federal Minister of Health in the fourth cabinet of Chancellor Angela Merkel since 2018. A member of the centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), he has been the member of the lower house of the federal parliament, the Bundestag, for Steinfurt I – Borken I since 2002.

2017 German federal election Federal election for the 19th Bundestag

Federal elections were held in Germany on 24 September 2017 to elect the members of the 19th Bundestag. At stake were at least 598 seats in the Bundestag, as well as 111 overhang and leveling seats determined thereafter.

Third Merkel cabinet Government of Germany from 2013 to 2018

The Third Merkel cabinet was the 23rd Government of the Federal Republic of Germany during the 18th legislative session of the Bundestag. Installed after the 2013 federal election, it left office on 14 March 2018. It was preceded by the second Merkel cabinet and succeeded by the fourth Merkel cabinet. Led by Chancellor Angela Merkel. The government was supported by a coalition of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the Christian Social Union of Bavaria (CSU) and the Social Democrats (SPD). Sigmar Gabriel (SPD) replaced Philipp Rösler (FDP) as Vice-Chancellor of Germany and became Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Marco Wanderwitz German politician

Marco Wanderwitz, is a German lawyer and politician of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU). Since 2018, he has been serving as Parliamentary State Secretary in the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Markus Söder German politician

Markus Thomas Theodor Söder is a German politician serving as Minister-President of Bavaria since 2018 and Leader of the Christian Social Union in Bavaria (CSU) since 2019.

2021 German federal election General election for the 20th German Bundestag

Federal elections were held in Germany on 26 September 2021 to elect the members of the 20th Bundestag. State elections in Berlin and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern were also held. Incumbent chancellor Angela Merkel, first elected in 2005, chose not to run again, marking the first time that an incumbent Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany has not sought re-election.

Fourth Merkel cabinet Government of Germany since 2018

The Fourth Merkel cabinet is the 23rd and current Government of the Federal Republic of Germany, sworn in on 14 March 2018 after Angela Merkel was proposed as Chancellor by Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and elected by the Bundestag on the first ballot.

The 2018 German government crisis, sometimes referred to as Asylstreit, was a government crisis affecting the Fourth Merkel cabinet, which began on 18 June 2018 and effectively ended on 4 July 2018.

Günter Krings German politician

Günter Krings is a German lawyer and politician of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) who has been serving as a member of the Bundestag from the state of North Rhine-Westphalia since 2002. In 2013, he was appointed Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of the Interior in the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Sabine Weiss (politician) German politician

Sabine Katharina Weiss is a German lawyer and politician of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) who has been serving as a member of the Bundestag from the state of North Rhine-Westphalia since 2009. Following the 2017 elections, she was appointed Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Health under minister Jens Spahn in the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel.


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Angela Merkel. Tallinn Digital Summit.jpg
Merkel in 2017
Chancellorship of Angela Merkel
22 November 2005 present
Angela Merkel