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Angela Merkel's Exit From Politics: Europe's Last Defender and Lady Germany's Final Bow

Updated: Jun 14, 2021

There are certain people who generate a presence over time which builds them a well-earned reputation. In politics, such an enigma, who has been present over decades, can almost literally represent a country. This is an honor few claim throughout history, and it is certainly true about Angela Merkel. There is something every western meeting of international leaders has in common, i.e. Angela Merkel. Since 2005, Merkel has been the face of Germany on a worldwide stage, and she has taken the oath of office as Chancellor of Germany four times. Her party has won four times. However, in 2018, Merkel made an announcement that no one anticipated. She announced that she was at the end of her career. She announced that she would not stand for re-election, and she stood down as head of her party, the Christian Democratic Union, or CDU, which she has headed since 2000. This means a great deal for the future of Germany. To understand the future of Germany without her, one must delve deeper into Merkel, Europe, and the Germany of today.

Angela Merkel was born in 1954 in West Germany. She wasn’t a well-known figure in politics until 1990, when, following 45 years of being split in two, Germany was reunified, and Angela Merkel was elected into the new Parliament in 1990. Over the next 10 years, she became a rather interesting political success story; she quickly rose through the hierarchy of her Party, the CDU, as well as the German Government, until 2000. For in 2000, she became the leader of her party. Finally, in 2005, Merkel’s party won the federal elections by a comfortable margin, and, as head of the Party, Merkel became the new Chancellor, the highest office in Germany.

During this time, as Angela Merkel rose through the ranks in Germany, as a united nation, she rose through the ranks globally, especially in Europe and the European Union, of which Germany was now a leading member. By the time Merkel was elected Chancellor, one of the highest positions in the European Union and after years of political experience, she was able to engineer a coalition and, in effect, unify Germany’s three largest parties from both the right and left, bringing together the CDU, the Christian Social Union, and the Social Democratic Power. This created an almost unbeatable front in German politics. With this front, Merkel was able to usher in the change she campaigned on. In other words, she could now better the German economy, which she did successfully, furthering her popularity. This was a skill which would become essential in 2008.

As many may recall, there was an event - a game almost - where the stakes became the world’s economy. This led to the recession of 2008. With the EU’s member states being so tied to each other economically under a single united currency, the Euro value was sure to take a blow. However, when Greece, an EU member state, nearly went bankrupt, the Euro’s value plummeted. Because of Merkel, Germany was still on top of all other European nations economically, and that meant she needed to fix the present situation.

She used some similar economic strategies which included government spending cuts to rescue the economy in Greece. This was harsh and unpopular, but she gained the Euro-Zone nations’ approval and became the un-arguable and yet still

incredibly controversial, leader of Europe. Germans even called her “Mutti,” meaning Mother, as a gesture of their love for her. This was, for lack of a better phrase, the Golden age of Merkel; the years when she was considered Number One. Following her re-election for a third term in 2013, this would all change.

As migrants began entering Europe from North Africa, the EU was divided once more on how to greet them. Some countries greeted them openly, others with barbed Were and called for them to return to their own lands. Merkel was pro-immigration, but she had no way to build the famed consensus as nationalist politicians in their respective countries made pleas against immigration. This created a humanitarian crisis as immigrants and refugees “...began to pile up in Europe’s Southern Borders.” Without her consensus, Merkel did a very non-Merkel thing, she acted alone saying she would welcome refugees to Germany, more than any other nation in fact, and things did go smoothly, with a great deal (33%) of Germans saying the country could welcome more. But then came the crisis. A rash of sexual assaults and robberies occurred, with the tip of the iceberg being in Cologne, and the refugees, who had just months before been largely welcomed, were now coming under fire and being blamed for a sudden crime spree. After this, only 18% said Germany could welcome further refugees, badly damaging Merkel’s popularity. At this point, a new party of more nationalistic-leaning Alternative-For-Germany Party, or AFD, used the sudden sentiment and won over a million new voters that had previously been Merkel supporters.

With this sudden crisis, in 2018, Merkel won by a much smaller margin than ever before. She stepped down as head of her party, announcing she would not run again. Her party then elected Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, a much more moderate Merkel ally and who could very well be the new Chancellor of Germany. But what must be remembered is that Merkel’s

exit means a great deal for the EU, many nations of which, just like Germany, face a sudden uptick in nationalist sentiment for the first time in 75 Years on account of Merkel being praised as the last defender of EU Democracy. With Merkel’s exit from politics only months away, the EU’s future as a whole may truly depend on the future of Germany, and the exit of Merkel.

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