Who was Angela Merkel?
As Europe draws a breath from Angela Merkel’s decision to call it a day and retire at 67, we decided to take a look at Europe’s true leader.
For the past 16 years, the trouser-suited German Chancellor has been unquestionably the most powerful female politician since Thatcher.
We in Ireland owe her our heartfelt and sincere thanks as she publicly acknowledged Ireland’s exit from the bailout programme as a ‘’tremendous success story.’’
So who is Angela?
The world’s most powerful woman is from a tiny German town, Templin. Merkel was the name of her husband from her first marriage when she was in her early twenties. Angela’s father was a Lutheran clergyman and moved the family from Hamburg in West Germany to Templin, a small town in the district of Brandenburg in East Germany.
Her dad ran an institution for young ordinands and people with disabilities. When in school, she quickly topped her grade. When attending university in Leipzig, she was reprimanded for reading physics schoolbooks during an important lecture on Marxist Leninism.
She quickly excelled in her studies and received a doctorate in quantum chemistry, spending a short period of time as a research scientist. During her academic years, she won a critical post at the Academy of Sciences and was acknowledge for being the only woman in the building.
While in politics, her knowledge of communism allowed her to provide a counterbalance when she had to turn to democratic politics. She brought very little baggage to the table.
In 1998, when her party was booted out of power, she seized her moment and quickly outmanoeuvred her counterparts and won the backing of her party to become leader.
She succeeded Gerhard Schröder when she led a grand coalition of CDU, CSU and the SPD. Following the federal elections of 2005, one of her campaign slogans was ‘’You Know Me’’. However, very little is known about Angela. Very little news emanates from her inner circle, unless she wants it to leak.
What is known about her is that she likes to make potato soup and listen to Wagner and Springsteen. She has a great fear of dogs. Many of us remember the time she met Putin and he brought his dog to the meeting, a rather nasty gesture considering her fears.
Other areas of enjoyment include mimicking and doing impressions of other world leaders. Today, she lives with her second husband Joachim Sauer, a renowned chemist in a simple setting in Mitte, Berlin’s museum quarter, where she once lived as a student in a squat.
Over the past sixteen years, we gotten to know everything about her, and yet nothing at the same time. Europe will certainly miss what we do know, especially her strength, leadership, pragmatism and willingness to work with others in everyone’s best interest.