Merkel’s decisive moments
As German Chancellor Angela seeks the blessing from her party to run for a fourth consecutive term in general elections next year, here are seven pivotal moments in her career.
Spokeswoman to Chancellor
Merkel, the daughter of a pastor, became politically active when opposition to the East German government grew in 1989. She briefly served as a deputy spokeswoman for the first democratically elected East German government, before winning election in 1990 to the reunified German parliament as a member of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party. Chancellor Helmut Kohl named Merkel minister for women and youth in 1991, but disparaged his youngest cabinet member with the patronizing nickname, “das Maedchen” (the girl). Merkel steadily climbed to the CDU leadership and Kohl’s insult came back to haunt him when “the girl” was the only one with the guts to tell him to quit when he got bogged down in a political slush fund scandal. She was elected party chief in 2000 with more than 95 percent of the vote. On November 22, 2005, Merkel became Germany’s first woman chancellor and has since won re-election twice. In the last round of elections in 2013, she led the CDU to its best ever score since reunification.
Nuclear power? Nein danke
Merkel stunned the world when she announced after the Fukushima nuclear meltdown in 2011 that German nuclear reactors would be phased out by 2022. Germany continues to use coal-fired plants until it can ramp up green energy initiatives. The country has invested heavily in solar and wind power, and aims to provide 80 percent of its needs with renewable sources by 2050.
All eyes turned to Merkel when Greece plunged into a sovereign debt crisis in 2010. She was vilified as a heartless penny-pincher as together with Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, she took a hard line against forgiving Athens’ massive debt. She backed three international rescue packages worth more than 300 billion euros ($320 billion) but only in exchange for deep budget cuts and steep tax increases. As the euro-zone struggled to kickstart growth, Merkel came under intense pressure to boost government spending. — AFP