Who is Angela Merkel? Not just the candidate, but the person. She’s certainly one of the most successful politicians in modern European history, and even her critics credit her as a shrewd political operator.
Shortly after her birth in Hamburg in 1954, Frau Merkel’s father (a Lutheran pastor) moved the family to East Germany. She did well at school (earning prizes for her fluency in Russian and mathematics) and studied physics at the University of Leipzig. When the East German regime collapsed, Angela Merkel was already politically engaged, and she would later enter the Bundestag and rise rapidly to the rank of minister under Chancellor Helmut Kohl.
Her ambition within the German Christian Democrat Party (CDU) would eventually take her all the way to the top, when she became the first female Federal Chancellor of Germany in 2005. Today, she is in her third term, and is considered one of the most powerful women in the world. In 2016, she announced her intentions to run a fourth time for chancellor, was elected as CDU party chair for the ninth time at their party congress.
What has she achieved so far? The challenges she’s faced during her time in office have not been simple: the financial crisis, the Greek debt crisis, the refugee crisis, Brext… the list goes on and on. How well has Chancellor Merkel weathered these storms? Has her response been carefully considered or overly cautious? She was awarded the Charlemagne Prize in 2008 for her contribution to European integration and overcoming the Eurozone crisis. President Obama presented her the Freedom Medal for her global commitment in 2011. In the same year, the Federal Government decided to comprehensively reject nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster in Japan. However, Merkel’s approach to the 2015 refugee crisis caused a political backlash at home. This was also the reason for the only real decline in her popularity (although by now most German polls suggest he popularity has returned to its pre-crisis level).
Has Angela Merkel been a good German Chancellor? The Schwarzkopf Foundation, as part of its “Understanding in Europe” project, has collected questions and comments from pupils from across Germany. We’ve taken these questions and put them to EU politicians and experts to get a response.
The first student question was: Was Angela Merkel a good chancellor?
We first put this question to Christoph Herwartz, who has written many articles about Chancellor Merkel as a journalist. How would he respond to this question?
The second question was: Can Angela Merkel basically do what she wants?
What would Mr. Herwartz say?
For another perspective, we also talked with the EU blogger Manuel Müller, who, as a “European Federalist” on his blog, analyzes EU politics. What would he say to this question?
Has Angela Merkel been a good German Chancellor? Should she have a fourth term in office? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!