Sunday, October 30, 2011

Angela Merkel – The Titanium Frau

Angela Merkel, the first female Chancellor of Germany and Europe’s most powerful politician, has come a long way from a member of Socialist-led youth movement “Free German Youth (FDJ)”, to the position of Chancellor. The whole world respects her and her people will most definitely put their trust in her for yet another term.

For a woman who has a picture of famous German woman, Russian Empress Catherine the Great, on the desk in her office – symbol of enlightenment and good relations with people – Angela Merkel is surprisingly non-charismatic. She is criticized for not holding long speeches, for not appearing in public unless it is necessary, for being mysterious, strong and unshakable to the point of stubbornness.  But, instead of glamour and gossips that follow the other heads of states in Europe, Angela Merkel has behind her something that many of them do not have – results.

The most powerful politician of the most powerful – both politically and economically – country in Europe has subjected everything to practice. Prosperous, rich, export-oriented, and with an unemployment rate that has hit the historical bottom line, Germany will once again find her way through the chaos of recession that threatens to consume the entire Europe.

While her political party – Christian Democratic Union (CDU) – fears for the election results in German federal states, her position in the Chancellor’s chair is stronger than ever. There is no one now who doubts that she will, like her political friend and former head of the government Helmut Kohl, win yet another term and keep the title of "Frau Bundeskanzlerin" at least until 2017. And this will be a rare exception in today's European politics, because the voters have brutally punished all governments that have been in power since 2008 when economies started to fall. Such thing will definitely not happen in Germany.

We could probably conclude that Angela Merkel’s strength, which frightens her colleagues  from London, Rome, Paris or Madrid, comes from her origin.  She was born as a daughter of a Lutheran pastor in the communist GDR, and she became a leader of a party that was formed to protect the rich middle class of the West.

And not just that – today, she is a leading woman in a "male" political party, divorced Protestant in a Catholic party, "Easterner" in a party run by "Westerners", and a scientist in the party of financiers, bankers, businessmen and managers. The only woman with whom we can compare her is, perhaps, Margaret Thatcher. But if Thatcher (a woman who was afraid of "united Germany" in the autumn of 1989, when Merkel worked at the Central Institute for Physical Chemistry in Leipzig) was the “iron lady, then Angela Dorothea Merkel, nee Kasner, is definitely the “titanium lady”. 

Her political career started already in her youth. Like all students in East Germany, she was a member of Socialist-led youth movement “Free German Youth (FDJ)”. However, she didn’t participate in movement’s ceremonies and her progress in the compulsory Marxism-Leninism course was graded only with “sufficient” - passing grade. In her youth she learned fluently the Russian language.

In 1989, Merkel got involved in the democracy movement, and after the fall of the Berlin Wall politics became her full time profession. At the first elections after the reunification of Germany, she was elected to the Bundestag. Then she became Minister for Women and Youth in Helmut Kohl's 3rd cabinet. Her next position was Minister for the Environment and Nuclear Safety. Helmut Kohl appreciated Angela (the youngest minister in his cabinet) very much, and at every meeting they had, he called her "mein Mädchen" – my girl.

CDU’s departure to opposition didn’t mean that Merkel ceased to aim the top position in the German (and European) politics. In 2002, she was nominated by CDU to be a rival to Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, but in the end, she had to accept a large coalition with Schroeder’s SPD. She claimed the Chancellor’s cabinet on November 22, 2005, and she won a second term with such a convincing margin over SPD that she no longer needed Schroeder’s party. 

She is considered as one of the best negotiators in European politics. 

As a "Superstar" of European politics, Angela Merkel was placed four times in a row on a convincing first place of Forbes magazine list of "The World's 100 Most Powerful Women" (in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, and also in 2011). In February 2011, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from U.S. President Barack Obama. This recognition is awarded only to those who do something great for world peace. She is also awarded with Vision for Europe Award (2006), Charlemagne Prize (2008), Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (2008), B’nai B’rith Europe Award of Merit (2008), Global Leadership Award –AICGS (2010), Leo Baeck Medal (2010), Jawaharlal Nehru Award (2011), etc.

 And regardless to all of that, Frau Merkel remained firmly on the ground. She still goes shopping in the neighborhood where she lives. And she still cooks and prepares cakes for her second husband (quantum chemist and professor Joachim Sauer) by herself.

Germans like everything about her. Residents of her country believe that her mixture of dangerous and shy, human and pragmatic best describes and depicts their country. That is why it’s no wonder that German media is racing with praises on her account. Der Spiegel has proudly posted on their front page that she, a single woman, has managed to transform a gloomy country in to a country of smiles.

And how she did it can be summarized with just two words – “Merkel effect.

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