Angela Merkel

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

Angela Merkel
Chancellor of Germany
Assumed office
22 November 2005
President Horst Köhler
Christian Wulff
Joachim Gauck
Deputy Franz Müntefering
Frank-Walter Steinmeier
Guido Westerwelle
Philipp Rösler
Sigmar Gabriel
Preceded by Gerhard Schröder
Leader of the Christian Democratic Union
Assumed office
10 April 2000
Preceded by Wolfgang Schäuble
General Secretary of the Christian Democratic Union
In office
7 November 1998  10 April 2000
Preceded by Peter Hintze
Succeeded by Ruprecht Polenz
Minister for the Environment
In office
17 November 1994  26 October 1998
Chancellor Helmut Kohl
Preceded by Klaus Töpfer
Succeeded by Jürgen Trittin
Minister for Women and Youth
In office
18 January 1991  17 November 1994
Chancellor Helmut Kohl
Preceded by Ursula Lehr
Succeeded by Claudia Nolte
Member of the Bundestag
Assumed office
18 January 1991
Preceded by Constiuency established
Personal details
Born Angela Dorothea Kasner
(1954-07-17) 17 July 1954
Hamburg, Germany
Political party Democratic Awakening
Christian Democratic Union
Spouse(s) Ulrich Merkel (1977–1982)
Joachim Sauer (1998–present)
Alma mater Leipzig University

Angela Dorothea Merkel[lower-alpha 1] (née Kasner; born 17 July 1954) is a German politician and the current Chancellor of Germany. She is also the leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

A former research scientist with a doctorate in physical chemistry, 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. Merkel was appointed as the Minister for Women and Youth in the federal government under Chancellor Helmut Kohl in 1991, and became the Minister for the Environment 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 woman 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 woman 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 support of the Free Democratic Party (FDP).[9] At the 2013 federal election, Merkel won a landslide victory with 41.5% of the vote, falling just short of an overall majority, and formed a second grand coalition with the SPD, after the FDP lost all of its representation in the Bundestag.[10]

In 2007, Merkel was President of the European Council and chaired the G8, the second woman to do so. Merkel 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.[11]

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 by Forbes magazine, the highest ranking ever achieved by a woman.[12][13][14][15][16][17] 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."[18] 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. In May 2016, Merkel was named the most powerful woman in the world for a record tenth time by Forbes.[19] On 20 November 2016, Merkel announced she would seek re-election to a fourth term.[20]

Early life and education

Merkel was born Angela Dorothea Kasner in 1954, in Hamburg, Germany, the daughter of Horst Kasner (1926–2011; né Kaźmierczak),[21][22] 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, her brother Marcus Kasner, a physicist, and her sister 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.[23]

Angela Merkel is of Polish and German descent. Her paternal grandfather Ludwik Marian Kaźmierczak was a German policeman of Polish ethnicity, who had taken part in Poland's struggle for independence. He married Merkel's grandmother Margarethe, a German girl 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. Merkel has mentioned her Polish heritage on several occasions, 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 to East Germany. Her father was born a Catholic, but the Kasner family eventually converted to Lutheranism,[25] and he studied Lutheran theology in Heidelberg and afterwards in Hamburg. In 1954, Angela's father received a pastorate at the church in Quitzow (a quarter of Perleberg in Brandenburg), which was then in East Germany, and so the family moved to Templin. Merkel thus grew up in the countryside 80 km (50 mi) north of East Berlin.

Like most young people in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), Merkel was a member of the Free German Youth (FDJ), the official youth movement sponsored by the ruling Socialist Unity Party. Membership was nominally voluntary, but those who did not join found it all but impossible to gain admission to higher education. She did not participate in the secular coming of age ceremony Jugendweihe, however, which was common in East Germany. Instead, she was confirmed. Later, at the Academy of Sciences, she became a member of the FDJ district board and secretary for "Agitprop" (Agitation and Propaganda). Merkel claimed that she was secretary for culture. When Merkel's one-time FDJ district chairman contradicted her, she insisted that: "According to my memory, I was secretary for culture. But what do I know? I believe I won't know anything when I'm 80."[29] Merkel's progress in the compulsory Marxism–Leninism course was graded only genügend (sufficient, passing grade) in 1983 and 1986.[30]

Merkel and Lothar de Maizière, 1990

At school, she learned to speak Russian fluently, and was awarded prizes for her proficiency in Russian and Mathematics.[31] Merkel was educated in Templin and at the University of Leipzig, where she studied physics from 1973 to 1978. 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 of Leipzig; however, with backing of the local leadership of the SED party, the project was allowed to proceed.[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,[33] she worked as a researcher and published several papers.[34]

In 1989, Merkel got involved in the growing democracy movement after the fall of the Berlin Wall, joining the new party Democratic Awakening. Following the first (and only) multi-party election of the East German state, she became the deputy spokesperson of the new pre-unification caretaker government under Lothar de Maizière.[35] In April 1990, the Democratic Awakening merged with the East German CDU, which in turn merged with its western counterpart after reunification.

Early political career

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, which is in the district of Vorpommern-Rügen. She has won re-election for this constituency at the six federal elections since. After her first election, she was almost immediately appointed to the Cabinet, serving as Minister for Women and Youth under Chancellor Helmut Kohl. 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").[36]

Leader of the opposition

After the Kohl Government was defeated at the 1998 election, Merkel was appointed Secretary-General of the CDU, a key position as the party was no longer part of the federal government. 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. She was subsequently elected to replace Schäuble, becoming the first female leader of a German party on 10 April 2000. 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 with Vladimir Putin, 2002

Following Merkel's election as CDU Leader, she enjoyed considerable popularity among the German population and polls indicated that many Germans would like to see her become Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's main challenger in the 2002 election. However, she was subsequently outmaneuvered politically by CSU Leader Edmund Stoiber, to whom she eventually ceded the privilege of challenging Schröder. He went on to squander a large lead in opinion polls to lose the election by a razor-thin margin. 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.[37]

Merkel supported a substantial reform agenda concerning 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 cannot easily control labour costs when business is slow.[38]

Merkel argued that Germany should phase out nuclear power less quickly than the Schröder administration had planned.[39]

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.[40]

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[41] when Merkel, having made economic competence central to the CDU's platform, confused gross and net income twice during a televised debate. 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.[41]

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

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 35.3% (CDU 27.8%/CSU 7.5%) of the second votes to the SPD's 34.2%. 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, and both Schröder and Merkel claimed victory. A grand coalition between the CDU/CSU and SPD faced the challenge that both parties demanded the chancellorship. 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.[42] The coalition deal was approved by both parties at party conferences on 14 November 2005.[43] 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.[44]

Reports had indicated that the grand coalition would pursue a mix of policies, some of which differ 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.[45]

Merkel had stated that the main aim of her government would be to reduce unemployment, and that it is this issue on which her government will be judged.[46]

Chancellor of Germany

Merkel with President George W. Bush, 2007

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. Her party was re-elected in 2009 with an increased number of seats, and could form a governing coalition with the FDP. 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.[10]

Domestic policy

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",[47] stating that: "The concept that we are now living side by side and are happy about it" does not work[48] 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."[49] She continued to say that immigrants should integrate and adopt Germany's culture and values. This has added to a growing debate within Germany[50] on the levels of immigration, its effect on Germany and the degree to which Muslim immigrants have integrated into German society.

Foreign policy

Merkel meets with Argentine President Mauricio Macri in Berlin, 2016.

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.[51]

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. The Council, co-chaired by an EU and a US official, aims at removing barriers to trade in a further integrated transatlantic free-trade area.[52] This project has been described as ultra-liberal by the French left-wing politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon, fearing a transfer of sovereignty from citizens to multinationals and an alignment of the European Union on the American foreign policy and institutions.[53][54]

Der Spiegel reported that tensions between Chancellor Merkel and President Barack Obama[55] eased during a meeting between the two leaders in June 2009. Commenting on a White House press conference held after the meeting, Der Spiegel stated, "Of course the rather more reserved chancellor couldn't really keep up with [Obama's]... charm offensive," but to reciprocate for Obama's "good natured" diplomacy, "she gave it a go... by mentioning the experiences of Obama's sister in Heidelberg, making it clear that she had read his autobiography".[56]

Merkel and Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, holding a joint press conference, 8 March 2008

In 2006 Merkel expressed concern about overreliance on Russian energy, but she received little support from others in Berlin.[57]

Merkel favors the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the European Union; but stated in December 2012 that its implementation depends on reforms in Ukraine.[58]

Merkel has visited Israel four times. On 16 March 2008, Merkel arrived in Israel to mark the 60th anniversary of the Jewish state. She was greeted at the airport by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, an honor guard and many of the country's political and religious leaders, including most of the Israeli Cabinet.[59] Until then, US President George W. Bush had been the only world leader Olmert had honored by greeting at the airport.[60][61] Merkel spoke before Israel's parliament, the only foreigner who was not a head of state to have done so,[62] but this provoked rumbles of opposition from Israeli MPs on the far right.[63] At the time, Merkel was also both the President of the European Council and the chair of the G8. Merkel has supported Israeli diplomatic initiatives, opposing the Palestinian bid for membership at the UN. However, Merkel requested that continued building of settlements beyond the Green Line should stop,[64] and disagreed with the Israeli government's behavior.[65] Merkel's latest visit to Israel was on 25–27 February 2014. During her visit, Merkel was awarded Israel's highest civilian award by President Shimon Peres, for her "unwavering commitment to Israel's security and the fight against anti-Semitism and racism."[66]

Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Merkel, and her husband, Joachim Sauer, 2009

Merkel and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made a "Joint Declaration" emphasising the Indo-German strategic partnership in 2006.[67] It turned the focus of future cooperation onto the fields of energy, science and technology, and defence. A similar Declaration, signed during Merkel's visit to India in 2007, noted the substantial progress made in Indo-German relations and set ambitious goals for their development in the future.[67] The relationship with India on the basis of cooperation and partnership was further strengthened with Merkel's visit to India in 2011. At the invitation of the Indian government, the two countries held their first intergovernmental consultations in New Delhi. These consultations set a new standard in the implementation of the strategic partnership, as India became only the third non-European country with which Germany has had this nature of comprehensive consultations.[67] India became the first Asian country to hold a joint cabinet meeting with Germany during Merkel's state visit.[68]

Merkel, British PM Theresa May and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, China, 3 September 2016

The Indian government presented the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding for the year 2009 to Merkel. A statement issued by the Government of India stated that the award "recognises her personal devotion and enormous efforts for sustainable and equitable development, for good governance and understanding and for the creation of a world better positioned to handle the emerging challenges of the 21st century."[67]

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 visited Germany.[69]

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 is expected to host the 2017 G20 Hamburg summit.[70] In 2016, following the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency, Merkel was described by The New York Times as "the Liberal West's Last Defender"[71] and by Timothy Garton Ash as "the leader of the free world."[72] U.S. President Barack Obama described her in 2016 as his "closest international partner" throughout his tenure as President.[73]

Eurozone crisis

Merkel, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi, 2008
Angela Merkel at the 2012 congress of the European People's Party (EPP)

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.[74]

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,[75] 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.[76] 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.[77] Other European governments eventually either raised the limits or promised to guarantee savings in full.[77]

Social expenditure

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, 2013, she started to say that Europe nowadays has only 7% of the global population and produces only 25% of the global GDP, but that it spends almost 50% of the global social expenditure. The solution to the economic ills of the continent only can consist in raising its competitiveness.[78] Since then, this comparison has become a central element in major speeches.[79] 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.[80]

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.[80]

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.[81][82]

Approval ratings

Midway through her second term, Merkel's approval plummeted in Germany, resulting in heavy losses in state elections for her party.[83] An August 2011 poll found her coalition had only 36% support compared to a rival potential coalition's 51%.[84] 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.[85] Merkel's approval rating dropped to 54% in October 2015, during the European migrant crisis, the lowest since 2011.[86] According to a poll conducted after terror attacks in Germany Merkel's approval rating dropped to 47% (August 2016).[87] Half of Germans did not want her to serve a fourth term in office compared to 42% in favor.[88] 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 satifsfied with work of Merkel as Chancelor.[89] According to another poll taken in November 2016, 59% were to found to be in favour of a renewed Chancelor candidature of Merkel in 2017.[90]


Angela Merkel at the signing of the coalition agreement for the 18th election period of the Bundestag, December 2013

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.[91]

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. 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.

At the beginning of August 2015, Der Spiegel reported that Merkel had "evidently decided to run again in 2017".[92]

Personal life

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.[93] 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,[94] became a couple later and married privately on 30 December 1998.[95] She has no children, but Sauer has two adult sons from a previous marriage.[96] She 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.[97][98]

On 6 January 2014, Merkel fractured a bone in her pelvis in a cross-country skiing accident in Switzerland.[99]

Merkel has a fear of dogs after being attacked by one in 1995. Vladimir Putin brought in his pet Labrador 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."[100]


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 Prussian Union.[101]

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.


Honours and awards

National honours

Merkel in 2008

Honorary degrees



Conservative leaders meet at congress of European People's Party in 2012

As a female politician from a centre right party who is also a scientist, Merkel has been compared by many in the English-language press to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. 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"—Thatcher also had a science degree from Oxford University in chemistry). Political commentators have debated the precise extent to which their agendas are similar.[125] Later in her tenure, Merkel acquired the nickname "Mutti" (a German familiar form of "mother"), said by Der Spiegel to refer to an idealised mother figure from the 1950s and 1960s.[126] She has also been called the "Iron Chancellor", in reference to Otto von Bismarck.[127]

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[128]), 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. She studied physics; her predecessors studied law, business or history or were military officers, among others.


Merkel has been criticised for being personally present and involved at the M100 Media Award handover[129] 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.[130] At the same time she condemned a planned burning of Korans by a fundamental pastor in Florida.[131] The Central Council of Muslims in Germany[132][133] and the Left Party[134] (Die Linke) as well as the German Green Party[135][136] 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."[137] 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.[138]

Members of her cabinet and Merkel herself also support state schools enabling Islamic religious instruction (similar to the provision of denominational Christian religious instruction).[139][140][141]

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.[142] The expression is credited for the name of the political party Alternative for Germany, which was founded in 2013.[143]

Her trademark Merkel-Raute has been described as "probably one of the most recognisable hand gestures in the world". Its political symbolism received mixed reviews, ranging from being prominently used by the CDU during the 2013 election campaign, to accusations of a cult of personality that were brought forth by her opponents.[144]

Protestors rally against NSA's mass surveillance, Berlin, June 2013

In July 2013, Merkel defended the surveillance practices of the NSA, and described the United States as "our truest ally throughout the decades".[145][146] 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 Neuland für uns alle.) Her sentence led to various internet memes and online mockery of Merkel.[147][148]

Merkel has 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 USA will desist from spying on her personally, but said there would not be a no-espionage agreement between the two countries.[149]

Merkel with Petro Poroshenko and Joe Biden, 7 February 2015

On 18 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 the U.S. remained Germany's most important ally.[150]

In August 2014, Merkel visited Ukraine to show her support for Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.[151] Human Rights Watch said that "Merkel's visit is an opportunity for her to denounce violations of international humanitarian law by the Ukrainian military."[152]

Her statement "Islam is part of Germany" during a state visit of the Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoğlu in January 2015[153] 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.[154]

In October 2015, Horst Seehofer, Bavarian State Premier and leader of CSU, the sister party of Merkel's CDU, 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."[155] 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 voices dissatisfaction with Merkel.[156] 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.[157]


In 2015, an open letter the ONE Campaign had collected signatures for was addressed to her and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, urging them to focus on women as they serve as the head of the G7 in Germany and the AU in South Africa respectively, which will start to set the priorities in development funding before a main UN summit in September 2015 that will establish new development goals for the generation.[158]

In the arts and media

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.[159]

See also


  1. The English pronunciation of her first name is /ˈæŋɡələ/, and that of her last name is /ˈmɛərkəl/, or alternatively /ˈmɜːrkəl/.[1][2] In German, her last name is pronounced [ˈmɛɐ̯kl̩].[3][4] There are several different ways to pronounce the name Angela in German. The Duden Pronunciation Dictionary[5] lists [ˈaŋɡela] and [aŋˈɡeːla]. According to her biographer, Merkel prefers the pronunciation with stress on the second syllable[6] ([aŋˈɡeːla] with a long /eː/). This pronunciation is more common in Austria.[7][8] Other pronunciations, such as [ˈaŋɡəla] and [ˈaŋəla] are also heard from native German speaking people.[2]


  1. J C Wells (2008) Longman Pronunciation Dictionary. Pearson Education Limited.
  2. 1 2 "Angela Merkel pronunciation: How to pronounce Angela Merkel in German, English".
  3. Mangold, Max, ed. (1995). Duden, Aussprachewörterbuch (in German) (6th ed.). Dudenverlag. p. 548. ISBN 978-3-411-20916-3. Merkel ˈmɛrkl̩
  4. Krech, Eva-Maria; Stock, Eberhard; Hirschfeld, Ursula; Anders, Lutz Christian; et al., eds. (2009). Deutsches Aussprachewörterbuch (1st ed.). Walter de Gruyter. p. 739. ISBN 978-3-11-018202-6. Merkel mˈɛʶkl̩
  5. Mangold, Max, ed. (1995). Duden, Aussprachewörterbuch (in German) (6th ed.). Dudenverlag. p. 156. ISBN 978-3-411-20916-3. Angela ˈaŋɡela auch: aŋˈɡeːla.
  6. Langguth, Gerd (2005). Angela Merkel (in German). Munich: dtv. p. 50. ISBN 3-423-24485-2. Merkel wollte immer mit der Betonung auf dem 'e' Angela genannt werden. (Merkel always wanted her first name pronounced with the stress on the 'e'.)
  7. Duden, ed. (1996). Duden, Die deutsche Rechtschreibung (in German) (21st ed.). Dudenverlag. p. 112. ISBN 978-3-411-04011-7. ˈAn|ge|la (österr: aŋˈɡeːla)
  8. "Angela". Duden Online. Retrieved 21 March 2015.
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  159. Michael Paraskos, In Search of Sixpence (London: Friction Press, 2016)

Further reading

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Ursula Lehr
Minister for Women and Youth
Succeeded by
Claudia Nolte
Preceded by
Klaus Töpfer
Minister for the Environment
Succeeded by
Jürgen Trittin
Preceded by
Gerhard Schröder
Chancellor of Germany
Party political offices
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Peter Hintze
General Secretary of the Christian Democratic Union
Succeeded by
Ruprecht Polenz
Preceded by
Wolfgang Schäuble
Leader of the Christian Democratic Union
Diplomatic posts
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Vladimir Putin
Chair of the Group of Eight
Succeeded by
Yasuo Fukuda
Preceded by
Herman Van Rompuy
José Manuel Barroso
Chair of the Group of Eight
Succeeded by
Shinzō Abe
Academic offices
Preceded by
Jerzy Buzek
Invocation Speaker of the College of Europe
Succeeded by
Giorgio Napolitano
Order of precedence
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Norbert Lammert
as President of the Bundestag
Order of precedence of Germany
as Chancellor
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Stanislaw Tillich
as President of the Bundesrat
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