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Angela Merkel

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Angela Dorothea Merkel
Angela Merkel

Incumbent
Assumed office 
22 November 2005
Preceded by Gerhard Schröder

Born July 17, 1954
Hamburg, West Germany
Political party Christian Democratic Union
Religion Lutheran

Dr. Angela Dorothea Merkel  (IPA /ˈaŋɡela doroˈteːa ˈmɛɐkəl/) (born in Hamburg, Germany on July 17, 1954) is the current Chancellor of Germany. As chairman of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) she leads a coalition with its sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), and with the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), formed after the 2005 federal election.

Merkel, elected to the German Parliament from Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, has been the chairwoman of the CDU since 2000, and Chairwoman of the CDU-CSU parliamentary party group from 2002 to 2005. She is the first female Chancellor of Germany, the first former citizen of the German Democratic Republic to lead the reunited Germany and the first woman to lead Germany since it became a modern nation-state in 1871. She is also, as of 2006, the youngest person to be chancellor since the Second World War. Merkel, considered by the Forbes Magazine to be the most powerful woman in the world, is only the third woman to serve on the G8 and, on 1 January 2007, will become the second woman to chair the G8 after Margaret Thatcher.

Contents

[edit] Background

Angela Merkel
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Angela Merkel

Merkel was born as Angela Dorothea Kasner in Hamburg, the daughter of Horst Kasner, a Lutheran pastor originally from Berlin, and his wife Herlind (née Jentzsch), a teacher of English and Latin, originally from Danzig. One of her grandparents was Polish. In 1954 her father received a pastorship at the church in Quitzow, East Germany, near Perleberg, and the family moved to Templin. Merkel grew up in the countryside only 80 km (50 miles) north of Berlin, in the communist German Democratic Republic.

Like most pupils, Merkel was a member of the official, communist-led youth movement Free German Youth (FDJ). Later she became a member of the district board and secretary for agitation and propaganda at the Academy of Sciences in that organisation. However, she did not take part in the secular coming of age ceremony Jugendweihe, which was common in East Germany, and was confirmed instead.

She was educated in Templin and at the University of Leipzig, where she studied physics from 1973 to 1978. Merkel worked and studied at the Central Institute for Physical Chemistry of the Academy of Sciences from 1978 to 1990. After graduating with a doctorate in physics she worked in quantum chemistry.

In 1989, she got involved in the growing democracy movement after the fall of the Berlin Wall, joining the new party Demokratischer Aufbruch. Following the first (and only) democratic election of the East German state, she became the deputy spokesperson of the new pre-unification caretaker government under Lothar de Maizière. At the first post-reunification general election in December 1990, she was elected to the Bundestag from a constituency which includes the districts of Nordvorpommern and Rügen, as well as the city of Stralsund. Her party merged with the west German CDU and she became Minister for Women and Youth in Helmut Kohl's cabinet. In 1994, she was made Minister for the Environment and Reactor Safety, which gave her greater political visibility and a platform on which to build her political career. As one of Kohl's protégées and his youngest cabinet minister, she was referred to by Kohl as "das Mädchen" ("the girl").

According to an article in Der Spiegel, her background in the former GDR has served her well in post-reunification politics. For the first thirty-six years of her life, she honed her skills at disguising her inner thoughts and feelings — essential for survival in a society where every room might contain a State Security Police (Stasi) informer, and especially for a pastor's daughter. Speaking near-perfect English and remarking on her background as an "ossi", she says: "Anyone who really has something to say doesn't need make-up". Besides being fluent in English, Angela Merkel speaks Russian fluently.

From 1977 until their divorce in 1982, she was married to physicist Ulrich Merkel. Since 1998, she has been married to Berlin chemistry professor Joachim Sauer. She has no children. She participated in the Bilderberg meeting once from 5th to 8th of May 2005[citation needed].

[edit] Leader of the Opposition

When the Kohl government was defeated in the 1998 general election, Merkel was named Secretary-General of the CDU. In this position, Merkel oversaw a string of Christian Democrat election victories in six out of seven provincial elections in 1999 alone, breaking the SPD-Green coalition's hold on the Bundesrat, the legislative body representing the Länder. Following a party financing scandal, which compromised many leading figures of the CDU (most notably Kohl himself and then-party chairman Wolfgang Schäuble, Kohl's hand-picked successor), Merkel criticized her former mentor, Kohl, and advocated a fresh start for the party without him. She was elected to replace Schäuble, becoming the first female chair of her party, on April 10, 2000. Her election surprised many observers, as her personality offered a contrast to the party she had been chosen to lead; Merkel is a Protestant, originating from predominantly Protestant northern Germany, while the CDU is a male-dominated, socially conservative party with deep Catholic roots, and has its stronghold in western and southern Germany.

Following Merkel's selection as CDU leader, she enjoyed considerable popularity among the German population and was favoured by Germans to become Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's challenger in the 2002 election. However, she was unpopular in her own party and particularly its sister party (the Bavarian Christian Social Union, or CSU), and was subsequently out-manoeuvred politically by CSU leader Edmund Stoiber, who had had the privilege of challenging Schröder but squandered a large lead in the opinion polls to lose narrowly. After Stoiber's defeat in 2002, in addition to her role as CDU chairwoman, Merkel became leader of the conservative opposition in the lower house of the German parliament, the Bundestag. Her rival, Friedrich Merz, who had held the post of parliamentary leader prior to the 2002 election, was eased out to make way for Merkel.

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[edit] Political platform

Merkel supported a substantial reform agenda concerning Germany's economic and social system and was considered to be more pro-free market (and pro-deregulation) than her own party (the CDU); she advocated changes to German labour law, specifically, removing barriers to laying off employees and increasing the allowed number of work hours in a week, arguing that existing laws made the country less competitive because companies cannot easily control labour costs at times when business is slow (see [1]).

She argued for Germany's nuclear power to be phased out less quickly than the Schröder administration had planned.

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. This led some critics to characterize her as an American lackey. She criticised the government's support for Turkish Membership in the European Union and favoured a "privileged partnership" instead. In doing so, she was seen as being in unison with an overwhelming majority of Germans in rejecting Turkish membership in the European Union, particularly due to fears that large waves of immigration may impose an unbearable burden on Germany and that there would be too much Islamist influence within the EU.

[edit] Comparisons

As a female politician from a centre right party, and a scientist, Merkel has been compared by many in the English as well as the German press to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Some have referred to her as "Iron Lady", "Iron Girl" and even "The Iron Frau" (alluding to Thatcher, whose nickname was "The Iron Lady"). Political commentators have debated the precise extent to which their agendas are similar, however (see [2]).

[edit] Candidacy for Chancellor

On May 30, 2005, she 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% lead over the SPD in national opinion polls, although her personal popularity lagged behind that of the incumbent. However, the CDU/CSU campaign suffered 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.

Merkel and the CDU lost ground after Kirchhof proposed the introduction of a flat tax in Germany, again undermining the party's credibility 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 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. Merkel was also criticized for plagiarizing a passage from a speech used by President Ronald Reagan in a 1980 US presidential debate for her own television election duel with Gerhard Schröder, the Social Democratic chancellor.

On September 18, 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 (see [3] and [4]). The coalition deal was approved by both parties at party conferences on November 14 (see [5]). Merkel was elected Chancellor by the majority of delegates (397 to 217) in the newly assembled Bundestag on November 22, but 51 members of the governing coalition voted against her (see [6]).

Reports have indicated that the Grand Coalition will 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 intends to cut public spending whilst increasing VAT (from 16 to 19 percent), social insurance contributions and the top rate of income tax. [7] Employment protection will no longer cover employees during their first two years in a job, pensions will be frozen and subsidies for first-time home buyers will be scrapped. On foreign policy, Germany will maintain its strong ties with France and eastern European states, particularly Russia, and will support Turkey for one day joining the European Union. However it is unlikely Germany will push for a lifting of the EU embargo on arms sales to the People's Republic of China, as Merkel has repeatedly stated her opposition to such a move.

Merkel has stated that the main aim of her government will be to reduce unemployment, and that it is this issue on which her government will be judged (see [8]).

[edit] Chancellor

Merkel with other G8 leaders in St. Petersburg
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Merkel with other G8 leaders in St. Petersburg

Her first foreign trip took place the day after she was sworn in as Chancellor, and went to Paris for a meeting with the French president, Jacques Chirac. In his speech, Chirac emphasized the importance of the Franco-German Companionship for Europe. After the meeting with Chirac, she travelled to Brussels for talks with EU leaders and the Secretary-General of NATO, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. She then traveled to London where she met with the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair. On November 28 she received her first state guest: President Pohamba of Namibia, a former German colony in Africa, who visited Berlin for five days. In her first government address on November 30, 2005, she announced her objective of improving the German Economy and reducing unemployment. In early 2006, polls showed that Angela Merkel, having been in office for only about 100 days, had the highest approval rate among Germans ever to be recorded for a chancellor since 1949. Many economic commentators have referred to the 'Merkel factor', which has apparently caused a rapid rise in consumer confidence and market spending.

However, Merkel's popularity has fallen since June 2006, when the sweeping health care reform that would lead to lower health insurance fees was scrapped, replaced with a compromise deal that led to higher fees. According to a poll taken by ARD in August, her party, the CDU, and Bavarian sister party CSU have a 31 percent approval rating. [9]


[edit] Merkel's Cabinet

The Cabinet of Angela Merkel was sworn in at 16:00 CET, November 22, 2005.

On October 31, after the defeat of his favored candidate for the position of Secretary General of the SPD, Franz Müntefering indicated that he would resign as Chairman of the party in November, which he did. Ostensibly responding to this, Edmund Stoiber (CSU), who was originally nominated for the Economics and Technology post, announced his withdrawal on November 1. While this was initially seen as a blow to Merkel's attempt at forming a viable coalition and cabinet, 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 November 14.

[edit] Trivia

  • In her office she has a picture of Russian Empress Catherine the Great, a German-born princess described by Merkel as "a strong woman".[1]
  • During the G8 Summit proceedings at Konstantinovsky Palace, United States President Bush strode up behind Merkel and clasped his hands upon her shoulders in a massage-like way. Bush's action startled Merkel, causing her to flail her arms. The awkward exchange became a popular viral video on YouTube[2] and was humorously referred to on The Daily Show in which Jon Stewart quipped that her reaction was a "move she learned in date rape prevention class."
  • In addition to being the first female German Chancellor, she is also the first one from East Germany (although born in Hamburg), the first one born after World War II, and the first one with a background in natural sciences. She studied physics, her predecessors law and business.

[edit] Selected published works

  • Der, R., A. Merkel, H.-J. Czerwon (1980). "On the influence of spatial correlations on the rate of chemical reactions in dense gases. I. Quantum statistical theory". Chemical Physics 53 (3): 427-435. DOI:10.1016/0301-0104(80)85131-7.
  • Der, R., R. Haberlandt, A. Merkel (1980). "On the influence of spatial correlations on the rate of chemical reactions in dense systems. II. Numerical results". Chemical Physics 53: 437-442. DOI:10.1016/0301-0104(80)85132-9.
  • Boeger, I., A. Merkel, J. Lachmann, H.-J. Spangenberg, T. Turanyi (1982). "An Extended Kinetic Model and its Reduction by Sensitivity Analysis for the Methanol/Oxygen Gas-Phase Thermolysis". Acta Chim. Hung. 129 (6): 855-864.
  • Merkel, Angela, Ilka Böger, Hans Joachim Spangenberg, Lutz Zülicke (1982). "Berechnung von Hochdruck-Geschwindigkeitskonstanten für Zerfalls- und Rekombinationsreaktionen einfacher Kohlenwasserstoffmoleküle und -radikale (Calculation of High Pressure Velocity Constants for Reactions of Decay and Recombinations of simple Hydrocarbon Molecules and Radicals)". Zeitschrift für Physikalische Chemie 263 (3): 449-460.
  • Merkel, Angela, Lutz Zülicke (1985). "Berechnung von Geschwindigkeitskonstanten für den C-H-Bindungsbruch im Methylradikal (Calculation of Velocity Constants for the Break of the Carbon-Hydrogen-Bond in the Methyl Radical)". Zeitschrift für Physikalische Chemie 266 (2): 353-361.
  • Merkel, Angela, Lutz Zülicke (1987). "Nonempirical parameter estimate for the statistical adiabatic theory of unimolecular fragmentation carbon-hydrogen bond breaking in methyl". Molecular Physics 60 (6): 1379-1393. DOI:10.1080/00268978700100901.
  • Merkel, Angela, Zdenek Havlas, Rudolf Zahradník (1988). "Evaluation of the rate constant for the SN2 reaction fluoromethane + hydride: methane + fluoride in the gas phase". Journal of American Chemical Society 110 (25): 8355-8359. DOI:10.1021/ja00233a012.
  • Mix, H., J. Bauer, K.P. Schroeder, A. Merkel (1988). "Vibrational Properties of Surface Hydrolysis - Nonempirivcal Model-Calculations Including Anharmonicities". Collect. Czech Chem. Commun. 53 (10): 21911-22.
  • Schneider, F., A. Merkel (1989). "The lowest bound states of triplet (BH2)+". Chemical Physics Letters 161 (6): 527-531. DOI:10.1016/0009-2614(89)87033-2.
  • Merkel, Angela, Lutz Zuelicke (1990). "Theoretical approach to reactions of polyatomic molecules". Journal of Quantum Chemistry 36: 191–208. DOI:10.1002/qua.560380214.
  • Merkel, Angela (1998). "The role of science in sustainable development". Science 281 (5375): 336-337. DOI:10.1126/science.281.5375.336.

[edit] References

[edit] External links

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Political offices
Preceded by:
Hannelore Rönsch
Minister for Women and Youth of Germany
1991–1994
Succeeded by:
Claudia Nolte
Preceded by:
Klaus Töpfer
Minister for the Environment and Reactor Safety
1994–1998
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Secretary General of the Christian Democratic Union of Germany
1998–2000
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Chairwoman of the Christian Democratic Union of Germany
2000– – present
Incumbent
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Chairwoman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group
2002–2005
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Volker Kauder
Preceded by:
Gerhard Schröder
Chancellor of Germany
2005 – present
Incumbent
Preceded by:
Vladimir Putin
Chair of the G8 (expected)
2007
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