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Germany sans Angela Merkel


66 year old Angela Merkel, first female Chancellor of Germany from 2005, will step down in September 2021. Merkel has been synonymous with Germany and the EU.
We look at her achievements.
MERKEL NEVER THOUGHT of politics to be her true calling. A graduate of physics and chemistry, she was working with the German Academy of Sciences. She entered politics in 1989 just as East and West Germany were reuniting, She took after her parents, who had moved from democratic West Germany to a Soviet-controlled East Germany because of their religious beliefs, when Merkel was just a child. This move and earlyexperiences and capabilities moulded her decision-making, especially in times of the several crises that Europe and Germany faced during her tenure. She claims that her upbringing in the East was “almost comfortable”, but as she joined the Communist Free Germany Movement when she was young, she realised that East German leadership was not sustainable.
Merkel established herself as a leader of Germany and de-facto head of Europe during the recession and economic crises of 2008. She introduced various reforms, strongly going against pumping money into the markets. She developed special economic stimulus packages, reduced working hours, enabled steady income to workers with supportive policies by the government. Merkel carved a niche for herself.
Immediately after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, Merkel ordered phased shut down of 18 nuclear power-plants across Germany that then contributed 23 per cent of Germany’s power capacity.
Merkel is known to be a ‘crises leader’ – calm and collected and brutally honest. This was evident during the refugee crisis in allowing all asylum seekers into Germany. She overturned Dublin Regulation of the EU by welcoming close to a million refugees and checking their paperwork later. The decision divided people in Germany and hardened ties with other EU leaders.
In more recent times, the manner in which Germany has handled the pandemic has proven to be more
successful than the South European nations and the United States. Merkel has followed a more scientific approach of studying epidemiological models and success rates of low spread in South Korea and Taiwan and kept the death rate much lower than other European countries.
Although successful on some fronts, the lack of German advancements in technology, climate change
policies and infrastructural gaps question Merkel’s long term vision for the country.
2020 threw a curveball for the world and it did to Merkel’s succession plans as well. Annegret Kramp-
Karrenbauer was the successor picked by Merkel, but she dropped out leading the field open for three men to compete. In December, Armin Laschet was voted the next leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and would have to prove his mettle in 2021 in three state elections before Merkel officially steps down in September 2021.
Armin Laschet’s nomination has been dubbed as a ‘Merkelism even after Merkel.’ Laschet has a lot on his plate. Still the leading economy in the European Union, he would have to sustain Germany’s number one position in a post pandemic era. Germany is currently the largest contributor to the EU economy (at 3400 bn Euros), the most populous and having the largest representation in the EU parliament. He has also to lead the nation within a fragmented EU in a post-Brexit era. The UK was one of Germany’s strongest allies and with the country out of the union, the power centre in Europe could move down south. With new leadership  emerging across the Atlantic, this is his opportunity to forge better relations with the USA. The new leader would have to balance the party’s Western liberalists on one hand and Eastern conservatives on the other.

Merkel never had much of a strong presence like Margaret Thatcher or Indira Gandhi, but led Germany
through 15 solid years. She is definitely one whom girls have to look up to and learn from. We will be having a close look at Germany and how its new leadership will shape global politics in the years to come!
– Sahaana Sankar

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