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Angela Merkel

(b. 1954) German Christian Democratic Union stateswoman


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Helmut Kohl (b. 1930) German statesman

Gerhard Schröder (b. 1944) German Social Democratic Party statesman

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(b. 17 July 1954).

German Chancellor, 2005– 

Early career

Born in Templin (East Germany), the pastor's daughter studied physics and became a scientist at the Academy of Sciences. During the revolution in 1989, Merkel entered politics, becoming a member of the CDU in 1990. A member of the last East German parliament, she became the spokesperson of the first and last freely elected leader of the GDR, Lothar de Maizère. In this capacity, she attracted the attention of Helmut Kohl. Following German unification in 1990, she retained her seat in parliament, advancing into the party leadership as ‘Kohl's girl’ in 1991. Merkel served as a minister under Kohl from 1991 to the end of his government in 1998. Following the revelation of corruption practices under Kohl in 1999, the CDU was in a period of shock. She was one of the first to openly call for a break with Kohl. She had thus distanced herself sufficiently from him to be elected head of the party in 2000. A Protestant woman from the east, she struggled to establish her authority in a party dominated by alpha males. She persisted and, like her mentor, benefited from her opponents' constant underestimation of her cunning and her ability to learn from her mistakes.

In office

In 2005, Merkel succeeded her rival, Schröder, despite poor election results. She was well suited to leading a grand coalition with the SPD, because the large majority of the combined parties made her relatively independent of her own party. Merkel presided over an economic resurgence, while at EU level she became noted for her constructive leadership. Under her leadership when Germany held the EU presidency in 2007, the EU agreed to reduce carbon emissions by 20 per cent by 2020, beyond the stipulations of the Kyoto Protocol. She also pushed the other EU governments to agree to reform the European Constitution and revitalize the process of European integration.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).


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