•   
  •   

World How Germans will look back on Angela Merkel

04:25  23 september  2021
04:25  23 september  2021 Source:   bbc.com

EU's queen with a tarnished crown

  EU's queen with a tarnished crown Germany's outgoing leader has steered the EU through several crises but her European legacy is mixed.True: Angela Merkel is, by far, the longest-serving amongst current EU leaders. She's participated in an estimated 100 EU summits, not infrequently being described as "the only grown-up in the room".

Germans vote on Sunday in elections that will ultimately bring down the curtain on Angela Merkel's final term as chancellor of Germany.

Angela Merkel posing for the camera: Angela Merkel is standing down after 16 years in office © Getty Images Angela Merkel is standing down after 16 years in office

When Mrs Merkel steps down after 16 years in power, how will history remember her?

We asked four experts to assess her style of leadership and track record.

  How Germans will look back on Angela Merkel © BBC

What is Merkel's main legacy as chancellor?

She has turned German politics into a discussion about policy rather than politics, says Matt Qvortrup, professor of political science at Coventry University, and author of Angela Merkel: Europe's Most Influential Leader.

The Merkel rhombus: How a hand gesture became a brand

  The Merkel rhombus: How a hand gesture became a brand Hands clasped in front of the stomach, thumbs and fingertips touching to form a diamond shape -- Angela Merkel's "rhombus" hand gesture has become almost as famous as the German chancellor herself. It has its own Wikipedia page and even its own emoticon, "", and the German leader has been immortalised adopting the pose at London's famous Madame Tussauds waxworks museum. And with Merkel about to bow out of politics following an election this month closing the door on her 16 years in power, the hand gesture has been catapulted to the spotlight once again after a candidate from a rival party adopted it on a magazine cover.

German politics used to be a testosterone-fuelled männerclub - a club of men. Under Mrs Merkel, things have become much more policy-oriented.

The problem with that, I suppose, is that it ends up being quite mechanical and scientific. Mrs Merkel trained as a physicist, and has a PhD in quantum chemistry. So, for someone like her, she has an approach that is very factually based.

Mrs Merkel has a doctorate in quantum chemistry and worked as a research scientist © Getty Images Mrs Merkel has a doctorate in quantum chemistry and worked as a research scientist

That's not the sort of thing that is barnstorming. But in her own sort of way, she has staged a bit of a revolution in German politics and world politics generally.

At a time when politics has become more polarised, she's tried to depolarise them by depoliticising issues.

What Merkel, the belated feminist, did for women

  What Merkel, the belated feminist, did for women As Germany's first female chancellor, Angela Merkel smashed the glass ceiling and became a leading player in global politics. Merkel, who is bowing out of politics after Germany's September 26 election, admitted she had been "shy" about the label but said her thinking on the issue had evolved. "Essentially, it's about the fact that men and women are equal," the 67-year-old said. Ines Kappert, head of the Gunda Werner Institute for Feminism and Gender Democracy in Berlin, called Merkel's belated realisation "a slap in the face" for women.

Charlotte Galpin: Senior lecturer in German and European politics at the University of Birmingham

Mrs Merkel has been proclaimed by Forbes as the most powerful woman in the world for 10 years running. There is a whole generation in Germany that has never known anything other than a woman leader.

Her position has been symbolically important for women's representation, and she is known for bringing women into key positions. For example, she supported Ursula von der Leyen, the first female German defence minister and European Commission president.

Mrs Merkel, pictured here with Ursula von der Leyen, supported the political ascent of women © Getty Images Mrs Merkel, pictured here with Ursula von der Leyen, supported the political ascent of women

Yet, such symbolic representation doesn't automatically mean wider change, especially for non-white women and the LGBT community.

The targeting of Muslim women and rallying against so-called gender madness is widespread in Germany, driven in part but not only by the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party. This election cycle, the issue of gender-appropriate language has become a politicised issue, over which Mrs Merkel has stayed largely silent.

Austerity, far-right, Uyghurs: Merkel's ambivalent legacy

  Austerity, far-right, Uyghurs: Merkel's ambivalent legacy Crises have a knack for felling leaders. But Germany's fixation with balanced budgets has left a sour taste, particularly among southern Europeans battered by the financial and eurozone debt crises. Video: German left-wing coalition would likely make EU recovery fund permanent: Signum Global (CNBC) Your browser does not support this video Merkel appeared to ignore pleas for debt relief when Greece was on the brink of economic collapse, triggering huge demonstrations in the country.

Dr Rüdiger Schmitt-Beck: Professor of political science and political sociology at the University of Mannheim

Her policy legacy is a somewhat bizarre mix of modernisation and backwardness.

Many of the modernising features - such as same-sex marriage, phasing out nuclear energy, and welcoming immigration policies - would not be expected from a Christian Democratic chancellor.

However, the country is almost grotesquely lagging behind on big, pressing issues like digitalisation, climate policy, and demographic change.

a group of people around each other: The AfD party opposed Mrs Merkel's liberal policy towards taking in migrants and refugees © Getty Images The AfD party opposed Mrs Merkel's liberal policy towards taking in migrants and refugees

As Angela Merkel leaves office, the political landscape is much more volatile. This concerns, in part, the increasingly complex party system and the AfD, which thrives on anti-immigration sentiment.


Video: Top Ukrainian aide: attempt on my life is intimidation (Reuters)

There is, of course, the simple fact that she was the country's first female chancellor. I'm sure her pragmatic, quasi-presidential style of governing will serve as a role model for her successor, whoever it may be.

Angela Merkel: How a poor girl from East Germany rose to become the 'Empress of Europe'

  Angela Merkel: How a poor girl from East Germany rose to become the 'Empress of Europe' It's the end of an era for Germany as the woman called the 'Iron Chancellor' by her critics and 'Mama' by her fans prepares to retire after 16 tumultuous years in power.With her class waiting below, the nine-year-old stared down into the swimming pool for 45 minutes, hesitating on whether to take that next step.

  • ANALYSIS: Angela Merkel - Germany's shrewd political survivor

Dr Katrin Schreiter: Lecturer in German and European studies at King's College London

Her legacy is a determined and silent one. Her leadership is based on sober evaluation and projecting reliability. She's always been criticised for not being a visionary. But voters knew what they were getting with her.

She is brilliant at reading the room and taking the temperature of the electorate. For that, she has earned a lot of trust from international partners.

Mrs Merkel developed a close relationship with France's President Emmanuel Macron © Getty Images Mrs Merkel developed a close relationship with France's President Emmanuel Macron

The other legacy that she leaves is that she liberalised the agenda of her party, the conservative Christian Democrats. She has moved the conservatives closer to the centre, and also closer to the left-wing Greens in certain aspects.

  How Germans will look back on Angela Merkel © BBC

What were the key moments of her time in office and why?

Matt Qvortrup: Her main legacy is rescuing the euro, and dealing with the financial crisis of 2008.

I remember talking to her in Brussels at the time. In response to the crisis, she said she wanted as much market economics as possible, but as much state intervention as necessary.

The German Social Democrats used that line as a slogan in the 1960s. When I put that to her, she said, "I'm not a historian, I'm a pragmatist".

Merkel warns against socialist swing as Germans head to the polls

  Merkel warns against socialist swing as Germans head to the polls Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned voters Saturday that a socialist government could “strangulate” businesses and isolate Germany on a global scale. "It’s about keeping Germany stable. It’s about your future," she told conservative supporters, first reported by Politico. Speaking from an event in western Germany in support of Armin Laschet – the lead candidate of her party, the Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU) – Merkel took a serious tone.

Mrs Merkel had a turbulent relationship with former US President Donald Trump © Getty Images Mrs Merkel had a turbulent relationship with former US President Donald Trump

The second moment was her response to the Trump years. She kept the powder dry for liberal internationalism. Former US President Barack Obama actually convinced her to run for a fourth term. Immediately after Trump won the election, Mr Obama flew to Berlin to meet with Mrs Merkel.

After the meeting, Mr Obama recounted that he saw a tear in her eye. She was all alone.

She kept the ship afloat and, in a way, she's now done her duty. She can go.

Charlotte Galpin: Mrs Merkel's tenure is usually described as one characterised by crises.

A key moment was the refugee crisis. Facing a humanitarian crisis in the Balkans, Mrs Merkel opened Germany's borders and accepted almost a million refugees during 2015 proclaiming "wir schaffen das" - we can manage this.

Germany had a big role in easing the refugee crisis, which peaked in 2015 © Getty Images Germany had a big role in easing the refugee crisis, which peaked in 2015

Germany stood out as one of the few European countries that gave refuge to Syrians fleeing the civil war. Yet, 2015 saw the AfD move from an economically liberal, anti-Euro party to a far-right, Islamophobic one.

The AfD's success in the last Bundestag election saw the country's first far-right MPs since the 1960s.

Dr Rüdiger Schmitt-Beck: Three [moments] in particular come to mind.

First, when Mrs Merkel and her finance minister addressed citizens in 2008 to assure them that the government would guarantee their savings, to prevent a much-dreaded bank run.

Second, the high-stakes EU negotiations about debt relief for Greece during the Euro crisis.

'Eternal' chancellor: Germany's Merkel prepares to leave the stage

  'Eternal' chancellor: Germany's Merkel prepares to leave the stage She was called "the leader of the free world" as authoritarian populists were on the march in Europe and the United States, but Angela Merkel is wrapping up a historic 16 years in power with an uncertain legacy at home and abroad. In office so long she was dubbed Germany's "eternal chancellor", Merkel, 67, leaves with her popularity so resilient she would likely have won a record fifth term had she sought it. Instead, Merkel will pass the baton as the first German chancellor to step down entirely by choice, with a whole generation of voters never knowing another person at the top.

And finally, Mrs Merkel's decision not to close the border to refugees stranded in Hungary in 2015. One should not overlook that Mrs Merkel did not open the border, as this decision is often framed, but decided not to close it.

Dr Katrin Schreiter: One of them was in 2017, when she paved the way for same-sex marriage to go through parliament.

Shortly before the election, she gave an interview to a women's magazine. In it, she said voting on these issues was a matter of individual conscience. She basically broke the party line and that opened up the opportunity to pass that law after years of delay. That was a major achievement.

Same-sex marriage in Germany has been recognised since 2017 © Getty Images Same-sex marriage in Germany has been recognised since 2017

One of my favourite quotes is an early one. Once, when asked about what she felt when thinking of Germany, she said: "I think of well-sealed windows. No other country can make such well-sealed and nice windows."

That shows her humility and pragmatism. She broke it down to something very practical. That encapsulates it for me.

The responses to these questions have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Germany’s (sort of) change elections .
Olaf Scholz and the center-left defeated Angela Merkel’s party, but this election was a fight for the center.It would take quite a few more hours, but early Monday, German election officials released results for the parliamentary elections, putting the Social Democrats (SPD) ahead with 25.7 percent of the vote. They narrowly beat the conservatives Merkel had helmed for almost two decades, who won 24.1 percent.

usr: 3
This is interesting!