Angela Dorothea Merkel (born Angela Dorothea Kasner, July 17, 1954, in Hamburg, West Germany), is the Chancellor of Germany and the first woman to hold this office. She is also the first German leader who grew up in the communist East. Merkel, elected to the German Parliament from Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, has been the chairwoman of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) since April 9, 2000, and Chairwoman of the CDU-CSU parliamentary party group from 2002 to 2005. She leads a Grand coalition with its sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), and with the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), formed after the 2005 federal election on November 22, 2005. In 2007, Merkel was also President of the European Council and chair of the G8. She played a central role in the negotiation of the Treaty of Lisbon and the Berlin Declaration. In domestic policy, health care reform and problems concerning future energy development have thus far been the major issues of her tenure.
Merkel is considered by Forbes Magazine to be the "most powerful woman in the world at the present time." In 2007 she became the second woman to chair the G8 after Margaret Thatcher. In 2008 Merkel received the Charlemagne Prize "for her work to reform the European Union": the prize was presented by Nicolas Sarkozy. Before entering politics in 1989 she earned a doctorate in quantum chemistry and worked as a research scientist. She published articles as author and co-author in scientific journals. She was Minister for Women and Youth in Helmut Kohl's 3rd cabinet then Minister for the Environment and Reactor Safety from 1994. After the 2002 election, she was leader of the opposition until the next election, when became Chancellor. Achievements so far include reducing unemployment and persuading European governments to reduce carbon emissions. As the first female leader of the world's third largest economic power, Merkel has secured her place in posterity. She has set out in her speeches a vision of a more unified Europe founded on common values, freedom and a commitment to extend freedom, to protect human rights and to nurture peace around the world. She is also committed to achieving ecological sustainability. It is by the multiplication of leaders whose visions are wider than the local or even the regional which consider the needs of all people and of the planet on which we live that will result in it truly becoming our common home, instead of a shared grave.
Angela Merkel was born as Angela Dorothea Kasner in Hamburg, as the daughter of Horst Kasner (b. August 6, 1926 in Berlin-Pankow), a Lutheran pastor and his wife, Herlind (b. July 8, 1928 in Elbing as Herlind Jentzsch), a teacher of English and Latin. Her mother is a member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany. Her grandparents on her mother's side lived in Elbing in East Prussia; one of them had Polish origin. She has a brother, Marcus (born July 7, 1957), and a sister, Irene (b. August 19, 1964).
Merkel's father studied Theology in Heidelberg and, afterwards, in Hamburg. In 1954 her father received a pastorship at the church in Quitzow near Perleberg in Brandenburg, and the family moved to Templin. Thus Merkel grew up in the countryside 80 km (50 miles) north of Berlin, in the socialist German Democratic Republic (GDR). Gerd Langguth, a former senior member of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union has said that the family's ability to travel freely from East to West Germany, as well as their possession of two automobiles, leads to the conclusion that Merkel's father had a 'sympathetic' relationship with the communist regime, since such freedom and perquisites for a Christian pastor and his family would have been otherwise impossible in East Germany.
Like most pupils, Merkel was a member of the official, socialist-led youth movement Free German Youth (FDJ). Later she became a member of the district board and secretary for "Agitprop" (agitation and propaganda) at the Academy of Sciences in that organization. However, she did not take part in the secular coming of age ceremony Jugendweihe, which was common in East Germany, and was confirmed instead.
Merkel was educated in Templin and at the University of Leipzig, where she studied physics from 1973 to 1978. Merkel worked and studied at the Central Institute for Physical Chemistry of the Academy of Sciences in Berlin-Adlershof from 1978 to 1990. Angela Merkel speaks Russian fluently, and even earned a statewide prize for her proficiency. After being awarded a doctorate (Dr. rer. nat.) based on a doctoral thesis on quantum chemistry she worked in research.
In 1989, Merkel became involved in the growing democracy movement after the fall of the Berlin Wall, joining the new party Democratic Awakening. Following the first (and only) democratic election of the East German state, she became the deputy spokesperson of the new pre-unification caretaker government under Lothar de Maizière.
At the first post-reunification general election in December 1990, she was elected to the Bundestag from a constituency which includes the districts of Nordvorpommern and Rügen, as well as the city of Stralsund. This has remained her electoral district until today. Her party merged with the west German CDU and she became Minister for Women and Youth in Helmut Kohl's 3rd cabinet. In 1994, she was made Minister for the Environment and Reactor Safety, which gave her greater political visibility and a platform on which to build her political career. As one of Kohl's protégées and his youngest cabinet minister, she was referred to by Kohl as "das Mädchen" ("the girl").
When the Kohl government was defeated in the 1998 general election, Merkel was named Secretary-General of the CDU. She was the first women and East German to serve in this capacity of with either of the two main parties. In this position, Merkel oversaw a string of Christian Democrat election victories in six out of seven state elections in 1999 alone, breaking the SPD-Green coalition's hold on the Bundesrat, the legislative body representing the states. Following a party financing scandal, which compromised many leading figures of the CDU (most notably Kohl himself, who refused to reveal the donor of DM 2,000,000 because he had given his word of honor and the then party chairman Wolfgang Schäuble, Kohl's hand-picked successor, who wasn't cooperative either), Merkel criticized her former mentor, Kohl, and advocated a fresh start for the party without him. She was elected to replace Schäuble, becoming the first female chair of her party, on 10 April 2000. Her election surprised many observers, as her personality offered a contrast to the party she had been chosen to lead; Merkel is a Protestant, originating from predominantly Protestant northern Germany, while the CDU is a male-dominated, socially conservative party with deep Catholic roots, and has its strongholds in western and southern Germany.
Following Merkel's election as CDU leader, she enjoyed considerable popularity among the German population and was favored by many Germans to become Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's challenger in the 2002 election. However, she did not receive enough support in her own party and particularly its sister party (the Bavarian Christian Social Union, or CSU), and was subsequently out-maneuvered politically by CSU leader Edmund Stoiber, who had had the privilege of challenging Schröder but squandered a large lead in the opinion polls to lose the election by a razor-thin margin. After Stoiber's defeat in 2002, in addition to her role as CDU chairwoman, Merkel became leader of the conservative opposition in the lower house of the German parliament, the Bundestag. Her rival, Friedrich Merz, who had held the post of parliamentary leader prior to the 2002 election, was eased out to make way for Merkel.
Merkel supported a substantial reform agenda concerning Germany's economic and social system and was considered to be more pro-market (and pro-deregulation) than her own party (the CDU); she advocated changes to German labor law, specifically, removing barriers to laying off employees and increasing the allowed number of work hours in a week, arguing that existing laws made the country less competitive because companies cannot easily control labor costs at times when business is slow.
Merkel argued for Germany's nuclear power to be phased out less quickly than the Schröder administration had planned.
Merkel advocated a strong transatlantic partnership and German-American friendship. In the spring of 2003, defying strong public opposition, Merkel came out in favor of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, describing it as "unavoidable" and accusing Chancellor Gerhard Schröder of anti-Americanism. This led some critics to characterize her as an American lackey. She criticized the government's support for the accession of Turkey to the European Union and favored a "privileged partnership" instead. In doing so, she was seen as being in unison with many Germans in rejecting Turkish membership of the European Union.
As a female politician from a centre right party, and a scientist, Merkel has been compared by many in the English language press to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Some have referred to her as "Iron Lady," "Iron Girl" and even "The Iron Frau" (both alluding to Thatcher, whose nickname was "The Iron Lady"—Thatcher has an undergraduate degree in chemistry). Political commentators have debated the precise extent to which their agendas are similar.
In addition to being the first female German chancellor and the youngest German chancellor after the War, Merkel is also the first from East Germany (although born in Hamburg), the first born after World War II, and the first with a background in natural sciences. She studied physics; her predecessors law, business and history.
Merkel topped Forbes magazine's list of "The World's 100 Most Powerful Women" in 2006, 2007 and 2008. 
On May 30, 2005, Merkel won the CDU/CSU nomination as challenger to Chancellor Gerhard Schröder of the SPD in the 2005 national elections. Her party began the campaign with a 21 percent lead over the SPD in national opinion polls, although her personal popularity lagged behind that of the incumbent. However, the CDU/CSU campaign suffered when Merkel, having made economic competence central to the CDU's platform, confused gross and net income twice during a televised debate. She regained some momentum after she announced that she would appoint Paul Kirchhof, a former judge at the German Constitutional Court and leading fiscal policy expert, as Minister of Finance.
Merkel and the CDU lost ground after Kirchhof proposed the introduction of a flat tax in Germany, again undermining the party's credibility on economic affairs and convincing many voters that the CDU's platform of deregulation was designed to benefit only the rich. This was compounded by Merkel proposing to increase VAT to reduce Germany's deficit and fill the gap in revenue from a flat tax. The SPD were able to increase their support simply by pledging not to introduce flat taxes or increase VAT. Although Merkel's standing recovered after she distanced herself from Kirchhof's proposals, she remained considerably less popular than Schröder, and the CDU's lead was down to 9 percent on the eve of the election. Merkel was also criticized for plagiarizing a passage from a speech used by President Ronald Reagan in a 1980 US presidential debate for her own television election duel with Gerhard Schröder, the Social Democratic chancellor.
On September 18 Merkel's CDU/CSU and Schröder's SPD went head-to-head in the national elections, with the CDU/CSU winning 35.3 percent (CDU 27.8 percent/CSU 7.5 percent) of the second votes to the SPD's 34.2 percent. Neither the SPD-Green coalition nor the CDU/CSU and its preferred coalition partners, the Free Democratic Party, held enough seats to form a majority in the Bundestag, and both Schröder and Merkel claimed victory. A Grand Coalition between the CDU/CSU and SPD faced the challenge that both parties demanded the chancellorship. However, after three weeks of negotiations, the two parties reached a deal whereby Merkel would become Chancellor and the SPD would hold 8 of the 16 seats in the cabinet. The coalition deal was approved by both parties at party conferences on 14 November. Merkel was elected Chancellor by the majority of delegates (397 to 217) in the newly assembled Bundestag on November 22 but 51 members of the governing coalition voted against her.
Reports had indicated that the Grand Coalition would pursue a mix of policies, some of which differ from Merkel's political platform as leader of the opposition and candidate for Chancellor. The coalition's intent was to cut public spending whilst increasing VAT (from 16 to 19 percent), social insurance contributions and the top rate of income tax. Employment protection will no longer cover employees during their first two years in a job, pensions will be frozen and subsidies for first-time home buyers will be scrapped. On foreign policy, Germany would maintain its strong ties with France and eastern European states, particularly Russia, and support Turkey for one day joining the European Union.
Merkel had stated that the main aim of her government would be to reduce unemployment, and that it is this issue on which her government will be judged. She had, says Clemens, worked her way in and up from the outside; "despite, and partly thanks, to being an agent of change."
On November 22, 2005, Merkel assumed the office of Chancellor of Germany.
In her first week in office, Merkel visited the French president Jacques Chirac, the EU leaders gathered in Brussels, the Secretary-General of NATO, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and received President Pohamba of Namibia.
On September 25, 2007, Chancellor Angela Merkel met the Dalai Lama for a "private exchange" in Berlin in the Chancellery amid protest from China and against the advice of senior officials. China afterwards canceled separate talks with German officials, including talks with Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries.
According to ‘Mail & Guardian Online’ and ‘Deutsche Welle’, Merkel in August 2006 informed the German news agency Mehr that she had received a letter from the Iranian president Ahmadinejad. She further told Mehr, that to her opinion this letter contained “unacceptable” criticism of Israel and “put in question” the Jewish state's right to exist, and that therefore she would not formally respond to the letter.
On March 16, 2007, Merkel, along with half her cabinet, arrived in Israel to mark the 60th anniversary of the Jewish state. She was greeted at the airport by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, an honor guard and many of the country's political and religious leaders, including most of the Israeli Cabinet. Until then, U.S. President George W. Bush had been the only world leader Olmert had bestowed with the honor of greeting at the airport. Merkel was granted special permission to speak before Israel's parliament, which is normally done only by heads of state. Merkel made her first visit to the Middle East as President-in-office of the European Council on April 1, 2007. March 25, 2007 she spoke at the official ceremony celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome. She offered Europe's help to get Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table, and tried to restart international efforts for renewed peace talks.
In her first government address on 30 November 2005 she announced her objective of improving the German Economy and reducing unemployment.
Following major falls in worldwide stock markets in September 2008, the German government stepped in to assist the Mortgage company Hypo Real Estate with a bailout which was agreed on October 6, with German banks to contribute €30 billion and the Bundesbank €20 billion to a credit line.
On Saturday October 4, following the Irish Government's decision to guarantee all deposits in private savings accounts, a move she was strongly critical of, Merkel said there were no plans for the German Government to do the same. However the following day, October 5, Merkel then stated that the government would guarantee the deposits in private savings accounts. However on Monday, October 6 it emerged that the pledge was of a political nature and that no legislation would be enabled. This confusion led to major falls in worldwide stock markets with the FTSE 100 and DAX stock exchanges falling 6 percent at one point. The German response led to other European governments either raising the limits or promising to guarantee savings in full.
The cabinet of Angela Merkel was sworn in at 16:00 CET, November 22, 2005.
On October 31, after the defeat of his favored candidate for the position of Secretary General of the SPD, Franz Müntefering indicated that he would resign as Chairman of the party in November, which he did. Ostensibly responding to this, Edmund Stoiber (CSU), who was originally nominated for the Economics and Technology post, announced his withdrawal on November 1. While this was initially seen as a blow to Merkel's attempt at forming a viable coalition and cabinet, the manner in which Stoiber withdrew earned him much ridicule and severely undermined his position as a Merkel rival. Separate conferences of the CDU, CSU and SPD approved the proposed Cabinet on November 14.
In 1977, Angela Kasner married physics student Ulrich Merkel. The marriage ended in divorce in 1982. Her second husband is quantum chemist and professor Joachim Sauer. He remains out of the spotlight. She has no children, but Sauer has two adult sons. 
Merkel is also prominent at German national football team's matches, and is an honorary club member of Energie Cottbus.
In 2007 Angela Merkel was awarded the honorary doctorate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She received the Karlspreis (Charlemagne Prize) for 2008 for distinguished services to European unity. In January 2008 she was awarded the Bundesverdienstkreuz (Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany). She was also awarded the honorary doctorate from Leipzig University in June 2008 and University of Technology in Wrocław (Poland) in September 2008.
It could be argued that for a country that describes itself as the "fatherland" to elect a woman head of government was a sharper break from tradition than was involved for the British, for example, when they elected Margaret Thatcher. A woman was monarch when Thatcher was elected and at earlier points in history Queens had also reigned over the island nation. Germany had not had a female monarch. When women gain high office, comparison with Margaret Thatcher dubbed the "Iron lady" often follows; Tansu Çiller, Turkey's first woman Prime Minister, was compared with Thatcher as was Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Liberia's President. Merkel has invited the same comparison. Women leaders may still need to prove that they are as tough as men in a world where relatively few women have yet held their nations' highest offices. Some women leaders have been accused of hindering rather than helping the role of women in politics. Thatcher, says a former Cabinet Minister, did not go "out of her way to help women" and had only one woman, apart from herself, in her Cabinet, leaving "talented figures … languishing in lesser posts". According to another woman Cabinet member, Patricia Hewitt, Thatcher actually undermined the position of women in society. In contrast, although Merkel has been criticized for not campaigning on women's issues, "The share of female ministers in the present government under Angela Merkel is 36 percent" although this is a little "shy of an all-time high of 46 percent women under the previous" government. This suggests that Merkel may self-consciously regard strengthening the role of women as a responsibility, even though she responded to criticism that she did not champion women's issues during her election campaigning by saying that "A chancellor has German interests." Ferree says that while she is "not in any meaningful sense a feminist" she is "not allergic to contact with feminism or incapable of trusting and promoting other women around her." She is, too, well aware of the strategies men use to demean and exclude women. Indeed, says Ferree, when women such as Merkel step into political prominence they "make all women visible as citizens, with interests that are sometimes distinctive and sometimes overlapping with those of men". On unemployment and the economy, the two issues on which Merkel said that her administration would be judged, she made progress at least until the global meltdown of 2008. Forbes cited her as having improved the economy, cut unemployment and as having pushed "through a later retirement age." When the presence of women in leadership positions becomes so commonplace that people no longer point out their gender, they may be freer to stamp their work with distinctively female qualities.
Merkel brings three distinctive commitments to her role as Chancellor. First, her commitment to what she describes as the "idea" of Europe can be summed up as freedom, peace and unity. She may have German interests but her vision for Germany is firmly rooted within membership of the European Union; "We, the citizens of Europe, have united for the better. For we know, Europe is our common future." Europe's greatest strength, says Merkel, is " the power of freedom, freedom in all its manifestations." "The European Union," she says, "is one of the most impressive works of peace on Planet Earth." "European unification" she continued "is a happy achievement for the people of Europe" which "safeguards their freedom and paves the way for prosperity". On human right, she has declared "Human rights are indivisible! "Speaking in Israel, she extended her vision to a world of "freedom, peace and cooperation." Second, her commitment to sustainable energy; "Europe must also lead the way in renewable energies, energy efficiency and protection of our climate." She has already succeeded in "getting G-8 leaders to agree to significant cuts in carbon emissions." Third, her desire for rapprochement between Europe and Russia alongside the existing trans-Atlantic Alliance; "We need both a strategic partnership with Russia and the transatlantic alliance." She rejoiced that the former "unnatural" division between East and West Europe has been "the consigned to the past."  Merkel's place in history is secure, although the full value of her legacy will depend on how she continues to conduct herself as Germany's leader. She has been praised for her efficient Presidency of the EU, especially for her willingness to listen to "willingness to listen to big and small alike." "She is," says one observer, "firm but not threatening."
Chemical Physics 53(3):437-442.
|Minister for Women and Youth of Germany
1991 – 1994
|Minister for the Environment and Reactor Safety
1994 – 1998
|Chancellor of Germany
2005 – present
|Chair of the G8
|President of the European Council
|Party Political Offices|
|Secretary General of the Christian Democratic Union of Germany
1998 – 2000
|Chairwoman of the Christian Democratic Union of Germany
2000 – present
|Chairwoman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group
2002 – 2005
|ALTERNATIVE NAMES||Angela Dorothea Merkel|
|SHORT DESCRIPTION||German politician|
|DATE OF BIRTH||17 July 1954|
|PLACE OF BIRTH||Hamburg, Germany|
|DATE OF DEATH|
|PLACE OF DEATH|
All links retrieved October 16, 2014.
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