Angela Merkel

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Dr. Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany, in 2010

Angela Merkel, born as Angela Dorothea Kasner (Hamburg, 17 July 1954), is a German Christian Democratic politician and present chancellor (prime minister) of Germany. Since April 10, 2000 dr. Merkel has been chairwoman of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU). On 22 November 2005 she was appointed as first ever female head of government of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG).

[edit] Biography

Angela Merkel is the daughter of the Lutheran pastor Horst Kasner and the language teacher Herlind Jentzsch. A few weeks after Angela's birth, the family moved from Hamburg in West Germany to the village of Quitzow (now part of the small town of Perleberg) in Brandenburg, at that time in the communist German Democratic Republic (GDR). Here Horst Kasner received a pastorate at the Evangelical Lutheran congregation of Berlin-Brandenburg. Later he accepted a leading position in the Pastoral Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Berlin-Brandenburg. In this position Kasner cooperated with the GDR authorities faithful to the church policy of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED).

In 1957 the family moved to Templin, 70 kilometers north of Berlin, where Angela and her younger brother Mark (1957) and sister Irene (1964) grew up. Angela was a member of the FDJ (Freie Deutsche Jugend, free German youth), like most young people in the GDR. From 1978 to 1990 she held a position in this movement, which, according to her own testimony, was secretary for culture. During these years she made several trips to the Soviet Union where she learned to speak fluent Russian. After finishing high school in 1973 she went to the University of Leipzig (during the communist era called Karl-Marx-Universität) to study physics. In 1986 she obtained a doctorate on a quantum mechanical study in chemistry.

In 1977, Angela Kasner married the physicist Ulrich Merkel and started carrying his last name. Although they divorced officially in 1982, she retained the name of her ex-husband. In December 1998 she married the Berlin professor of theoretical chemistry Joachim Sauer. Angela Merkel has no children, Sauer has two grown-up children.

[edit] Political career

In the East-German political turmoil of 1989, just before the fall of the Berlin wall on 9 November 1989, Merkel joined the new party "Democratic Awakening" (Demokratischer Aufbruch). For about half a year—from February 1990 until the party merged into the CDU on August 5 1990—she served as the party's spokesperson.

In the elections for the Bundestag (House of Representatives) of December 2, 1990 (the first general elections after the reunification of Germany) Angela Merkel entered as the CDU candidate for Nordvorpommern/Rügen and the city of Stralsund—until today this area is her constituency. She was elected and became member of parliament. Almost immediately (January 18, 1991) chancellor Helmut Kohl (CDU) chose her as Cabinet Minister for Women and Youth. Soon she gained Kohl's respect for her expertise and quick grasp of complicated matters. It was to her advantage, too, that she was an Eastern German woman, protestant and relatively young. She received the nickname Kohls Mädchen (Kohl's girl), that clung to her until the end of 1999, when she openly disavowed Kohl.

In December 1991 she was elected as one of the vice-chairpersons of the national CDU. From June 1993 until May 2000 she served also as chairwoman of the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern section of the CDU. After the 1994 federal elections, she succeeded Klaus Töpfer as Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation, and Nuclear Reactor Safety.

The elections of September 1998 were a disaster for the CDU: Helmut Kohl had to step down as chancellor and the party went into opposition. On November 7, 1998 Wolfgang Schäuble, CDU's chairman, moved Angela Merkel forward as Secretary General of the CDU, a key position in a party that is in opposition.

During the period 1999–2002 the CDU was under investigation for illegal party funding. Many leading figures of the CDU were compromised and most notably Helmut Kohl, who refused to reveal the name of the donor of DM 2 000 000, claiming he had given his word of honor to keep the name secret. The party chairman Wolfgang Schäuble, Kohl's crown-prince, wasn't forthcoming either. Angela Merkel distanced herself early from the scandal and her mentor Kohl. Already on December 22, 1999, she wrote a guest column in one of Germany's foremost newspapers, the Frankfurter Allgemeinen Zeitung. She called for a fresh start of the party and that it re-entered the political arena without the aid of the "old warhorse", the former chancellor Kohl. The end of the affair was that Kohl lost his honorary chairmanship of the CDU and left politics; Schäuble stepped down as CDU chairman in February 2000. On April 10, 2000 Angela Merkel was elected CDU chairwoman at a party conference in Essen with 897 votes out of a total of 935.

During the 2002 election campaign Merkel supported the candidacy of Edmund Stoiber of the Bavarian sister party (CSU) of the CDU. However, in a close call the CDU/CSU lost the elections again and stayed in opposition. Merkel managed to become leader of the conservative opposition in the Bundestag, outmaneuvering Friedrich Merz who held the post earlier.

Victories of the CDU in several Länder (states) strengthened Merkel's position as opposition leader considerably. A majority of states elected CDU governments. In addition, Merkel's prestige got a boost when her personal candidate for the office of Federal President, Horst Köhler, was elected by the Federal Convention.

Angela Merkel with US president George W. Bush in the White House (2006).

On May 22, 2005 the largest party in government, the Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (SPD), lost the elections in the industrialized state North Rhine-Westphalia, traditionally the power base of the SPD. Immediately after this hard blow, the SPD chancellor Gerhard Schröder announced new elections for the Bundestag. On May 30, 2005, the CDU/CSU nominated Angela Merkel candidate for chancellorship. As the first female chancellor candidate in history, she entered the elections of September 2005 with Gerhard Schröder as her direct opponent. The outcome of the general elections of 18 September 2005 was not decisive, both Schröder and Merkel could claim victory. The SPD and the CDU/CSU formed a "grand coalition" and after prolonged negotiations it was decided on November 22, 2005 that Merkel become Bundeskanzlerin (female form of "federal chancellor") of Germany, the first female chancellor ever. With her 51 years she was also the youngest ever and the first to come from former East Germany.

The parliamentary elections of 2009 were not bad for Chancellor Merkel. Although her party lost some, the coalition party FDP (Freie Demokratische Partei ) won some, so that Merkel became the leader of a CDU-CSU-FDP coalition. The twenty-second cabinet of the FRG was sworn in on October 28, 2009 with Angela Merkel as head.

The crisis of the European monetary unit, the Euro, that started around 2010, forced Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy, the heads of the economically strongest European nations, Germany and France, to meet so often that the name Merkozy was coined for the two.

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