by Chris Scarr
Recently, there’s been a lot of talk about a woman named Angela Merkel. However, many people, especially Americans, might not be aware of who she is, where she is, or what she does. This can cause problems for many people hoping to understand current events. So, who is Angela Merkel?
For starters, Angela Merkel is the Chancellor of Germany. The position of Chancellor is the equivalent of Prime Minister in the UK. She runs the show, but the President of Germany, Joachim Gauck, is like the Queen of the UK- more ceremonial compared to the Chancellor. If the fact she’s the Chancellor of Germany doesn’t amaze you already, her backstory will.
Born in Soviet-controlled East Germany in 1954, she was the daughter of a Lutheran pastor and an English teacher. At a young age, she was introduced to politics (she watched in 1961 as the Berlin Wall was being built), and her life was changed. Life in East Germany was difficult, especially due to her physical clumsiness. However, when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, she used her high education to fly through the ranks of the German government; elected Minister for Women and Youth 1991, Minister for the Environment in 1994, and Chancellor in 2005. She was also leader of the Christian Democratic Union Party of Germany by 2000. She also won the TIME Magazine Person of the Year Award in 2015, being described as “Chancellor of the Free World”. This brought her pulled public attention, and generated interest in her throughout the world.
One of her major (and most recent) accomplishments has been her dealing with the Migrant Crisis in Europe. Instead of her normal, slow-paced integration that she often does, she simply threw the doors of Germany open to immigrants. Over 1,000,000 immigrants have entered Germany since then, many of them from Middle-Eastern war zones like Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. Despite the harsh backlash from far-right parties such as Alternative für Deutschland, she has stood her ground and continued to allow migrants in. When asked about the seemingly overwhelming number of migrants flooding into the country, she simply said “We will cope.”
Another, less popular accomplishment of hers is the handling of the Greek Debt Crisis. The crisis began when Greece overspent after adopting the Euro, the official currency of the European Union. After a newly-elected center-right government took a look at the debt, they decided to say nothing about it, and let it continue to grow. In Merkel’s eyes, this was completely Greece’s problem, and their problem alone. She consistently tightened the restraints on Greece, forcing them into ever-growing extravagant bailout payments, barely even looking at the agreement until it fit her desires. This has led to 3 debt bailouts over the course of almost 10 years, each numbering in the billions. Some have criticized her handling of the crisis, including the Greek government itself. However, many others have praised her for not allowing Greece to get off easily.