Angela Merkel - Germany's Female Chancellor
Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor since 2005, is one of the most powerful people in the world. In 2013 Merkel won the country’s parliamentary elections for the third time and has strengthened the position of her ruling conservative party in Germany. In the past years Merkel has influenced Europe strongly and has become a leader in the continent’s battle to save the Euro. Last year she was ranked as the most powerful woman by Forbes magazine.
Angela Merkel was born in Hamburg, West Germany as the daughter of a pastor. The family moved to Eastern Germany when Angela was a child because her father felt sympathetic towards the Communists, who ruled the eastern part of the country. After school she studied physics in Leipzig and worked as a chemist in Berlin. She learned many languages, including Russian. In the 1980s she started to become interested in politics.
Angela Merkel supported the pro-democracy movement in Eastern Germany during the collapse of Communism. For a short time she served for the Eastern German government, just before its downfall. Surprisingly, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Angela Merkel joined Helmut Kohl’s conservative CDU party, where she served as a minister for youth, women’s issues and later on the environment.
In 1997 the Conservatives lost power to the Social Democrats. Following a party scandal, in which Helmut Kohl was accused of collecting illegal money for his campaign, Merkel fought for CDU leadership and became the party’s head in 2000.
In 2005 Merkel defeated Gerhard Schröder’s SDP and became chancellor in a coalition government with the Social Democrats. Merkel won re-election in 2009 and in her second term ruled together with Germany’s Freedom Party. In 2013 Merkel’s Conservatives were elected a third time in a landslide vote, but had to share power with the Social Democrats because the FDP did not make it into parliament.
Angela Merkel has grown to be a self-confident, pragmatic leader whom many Europeans respect. She is the driving force in leading Europe out of the financial crisis that has shaken the continent since 2008. She has proven to be very strict on government spending and a hardliner on money issues.
Germany is EU’s paymaster and the country that pays the most for the bailout of economically weak countries, like Greece, Ireland or Spain. Merkel’s recent election victory has not made citizens of these countries very happy because they fear she could push them even harder into austerity.
Most recently Merkel proposed the creation of a bank union controlled by EU governments, a measure that above all the British oppose because they fear it will limit the expansion of London as a financial centre.
Angela Merkel is often compared with Margret Thatcher, the conservative British Prime Minister of the 1980s, who challenged many EU decisions. While Merkel’s position in Europe is not welcomed by all, she remains a popular figure in Germany, where her political course has lowered unemployment and made the country a motor for European growth.
- Collapse of Communism
- Margaret Thatcher
- The Berlin Wall - 20 Years Later
- Global Financial Crisis
- Banks and Banking
- accuse = to say that someone has done something that is against the law
- austerity = here: to try very hard to reduce the money that you spend
- bailout = to give financial help to a country that has problems
- battle = fight
- campaign = speeches that a person holds to get elected into office
- challenge = refuse to accept things
- chancellor = leader of a government
- citizen = a person who lives in a country and has rights there
- coalition = a union of two or more parties to form a government
- collapse = to break apart; downfall
- compare with = to observe two things or people side by side
- cut = lower
- debt crisis = here: situation in which a country spends more money than it gets and cannot pay for its bills
- defeat = to win against
- did not make it = here: did not get into parliament, because it did not get 4% of the vote
- downfall = collapse
- draw = pull
- driving force = here: the person who is behind a movement or action and wants to have it done
- election = when people vote to choose someone for an official position in a country
- environment = nature and the world around us
- expansion = growth
- following = after
- growth= development; when the value of products and services become higher
- hardliner = a politician who wants to deal with problems in a strong way; without compromise
- head = boss
- illegal = against the law
- including = also
- influence = to affect the way something grows or develops
- issue = topic
- landslide vote=a victory in an election in which someone gets far more votes than all the others
- limit = to stop something from becoming bigger
- lower = reduce
- measure = act
- movement = group of people who have the same ideas and beliefs and want the same things to be done
- oppose = to be against
- pastor = priest in a Protestant church
- paymaster = the person who pays the biggest part
- politics = ideas and activities related to the government and parliament
- pragmatic = practical, realistic
- pro-democracy = here: to support democracy
- propose = suggest
- prove = to say that something is true
- rank = to be at a certain position in a list
- recent = a short time ago
- re-election = to become elected again
- remain = stay
- rule = govern, be in charge of the government
- self-confident = to be sure that you can do things well, the way people expect you to
- serve = here: to have a job
- shake = hit
- share = split, divide
- strengthen = to make stronger
- strict = exact and correct; to obey all the rules and expect people to do what you say
- support = to be for something
- surprisingly = do something that was not expected
- term = time in office
- unemployment = people who are out of work
- weak = not strong