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Angela Merkel

German 20-year-olds barely can remember life before Merkel. She has been Germany's leading political figure for 12 years and was set to rack up another four. Yet Germany has quite a tradition of long chancellorships.

Angela Merkel was sworn in as Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany on November 22, 2005. She is the first woman and the first East German to hold this office. Angela Merkel (CDU) has been Federal Chancellor of Germany since 22 November 2005. She is the first female head of government. Angela Merkel, who has a PhD in Physical Chemistry, grew up in East Germany. Following the elections to the Bundestag in 2005, Germany for the second time had a Grand Coalition made up of the CDU and the SPD. It was faced with urgent challenges: Nearly five million people were registered unemployed; national debt was worryingly high.

The September 2005 election was incredibly close. Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) got 35.2% - just three seats more than Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats (SPD). Following the election, the moderate-to-conservative Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU), headed by Chancellor Angela Merkel, and the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), headed by Kurt Beck, which are normally bitter rivals, joined forces in an unusual "Grand Coalition" when neither was able to form a majority with its preferred coalition partner.

Merkel was often derided as a less-than-inspiring public speaker, and it was true that her speeches contain no high-flying rhetoric or emotive outbursts to work up the crowd. She simply layed out in calm, measured, perhaps even dull terms, her party's platform. Her secret was meticulous preparation spiced with a dash of gentle humor. But there was little to be heard of a grand plan for a shining future – this is pragmatic stuff, which was always what Merkel had been concerned with.

Merkel was born Angela Kasner in Hamburg on 17 July 1954 to a Protestant pastor and a teacher. Just weeks after her birth, her father moved the family to East Germany, where he took a job. She spent most of her childhood in Templin, in Brandenburg, East Germany. While it is thought that her family had friendly enough relations with the communist regime, her father's profession did raise suspicions.

Merkel learned to be careful, Langguth said, and to think before she spoke. She knew that to get ahead, she had to excel. Because for political reasons, she was only able to study and go to high school because she was best in her class. This was her goal to always be the best she could be. The twice-married, childless woman from the east has held her own in a party dominated by powerful family men from western Germany. But there are those who think Merkel has fallen short of her best, and that the caution she learned early in life has made her too timid to make big policy decisions. Especially when it comes to reforming Germany's welfare state.

After reading physics in Leipzig (1973-1978) she conducted research into quantum chemistry at the Central Institute of Physical Chemistry at the Academy of Sciences in Berlin. She obtained her doctorate in 1986 with a thesis on the calculation of speed constants from elementary reactions using simple hydrocarbons.

In late 1989 she joined the Demokratischer Aufbruch (Democratic New Beginning) and was appointed Press Spokeswoman in February 1990. Following the first free elections for the People's Chamber on 18 March 1990 she became Deputy Government Spokeswoman for Lothar de Maizière's Government.

She has been a member of the CDU (Christian Democratic Union of Germany) since August 1990 and a member of the Bundestag since December 1990 for the constituency of Stralsund, North Western Pomerania and Rügen. From 1991 to 1994 she was the Federal Minister for Women and Youth andsubsequently held the position of Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety until 1998. From December 1991 until her election as General Secretary of the CDU on 7 November 1998 she was Deputy Chairwoman of the CDU and Chairwoman of the CDU Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania from May 1993 to May 2000. In April 2000, Merkel was chosen to lead the CDU after a party slush fund scandal. From September 2002 up to her election as Federal Chancellor in November 2005 she chaired the CDU/CSU (Christian Social Union) Parliamentary Group in the German Bundestag.

The government under Angela Merkel quickly began with the task of gradually consolidating its budget. At the same time it reduced corporate taxes and thus made it easier for companies to create new jobs.

The economy started to boom. Germany extended its lead as the world’s leading export nation and registered the lowest unemployment figures since reunification. The Grand Coalition government also invested in long-term projects: in research, better education, the new parental allowance and new kindergarten places for small children.

They managed a sea change as regards reducing national debt: At no time since reunification had Germany’s financial situation been so good.

This positive development came to an abrupt end in late 2008. As a result of the financial crisis that spilled over from the United States into the rest of the world, the global economy found itself in drastic trouble in the autumn of 2008. Being an export nation, the crisis soon hit Germany, too. Thanks to resolute action and forward-looking investments the government under Angela Merkel continuously worked at mitigating the consequences of the crisis and getting the country back on the road to economic recovery. It did not want Germany simply to get through the crisis but to emerge stronger and more future-proof than before.

The goal of the grand coalition between the CDU/CSUand the SPD (Social Democratic Party of Germany) was to boost economic progress in Germany, create jobs, bring the federal budget in order and make the social security system fit for the future. To achieve this the Federal Government is pursuing a threefold concept of retrenchment, reform and investment. It adopted a 25-billion-euro program to boost growth andemployment and reduced tax concessions. The federalism reform and the reforms of the health service and corporate taxation were key components of Government policy.

Her ambitions were checked by the "grand coalition" government she presided over, an uneasy partnership between Merkel's conservative Union bloc and the left-of-center SPD. But others who wanted to see more market-friendly reforms have complained that Merkel is risk averse when it comes to unpopular moves that could alienate her domestic audience. But it was precisely her penchant for steering a path around potential minefields – such as deeper tax reform, further labor-market or health-care reforms – that kept her poll numbers far above those of the SPD. As the world staggered through a severe recession, there was a sense of Merkel being the mother to the nation in troubled times.

The Federal Government assumed international responsibility in the area of foreign policy and remains a reliable partner for security, peace and human rights in the world. German Chancellor Angela Merkel took office in November 2005 promising a foreign policy anchored in a revitalized transatlantic partnership. Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel's aim of having the German EU Council Presidency make a substantial contribution to the further development of transatlantic relations, and her personal commitment to this aim, were clearly expressed in documents, political speeches, and media appearances. As Germany's foreign and security policy continues to evolve, some experts perceive a widening gap between the global ambitions of Germany's political class, and a consistently skeptical German public.

As Germany's voters went to the polls on 27 September 2009, surveys indicated that Chancellor Angela Merkel would win a second four-year term, though by a narrower margin than originally predicted. Merkel hoped for a big win so it could cut its ties with the center-left Social Democrats. This seemed open to question as the Chancellor's main rival for the post, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, was gaining ground. After four years of co-dependency, the two parties main were more alike than different, leaving the electorate without a clearly defined choice.

During the elections to the Bundestag in autumn 2009 the CDU/CSU and FDP won the majority of the seats in the Bundestag. The members of the coalition elected Angela Merkel as Federal Chancellor for the second time. She was able to jettison the uncomfortable alliance with her traditional rivals, the Social Democrats (SPD), and replace them with a new governing partner, the liberal Free Democrats, or FDP. The big win by Merkel allowed the Chancellor to break up with the Social Democrats, which had frustrated her efforts to push through economic reforms. The Chancellor would team up with the small pro-business Free Democratic Party, which would be more open to her economic policies. The business-friendly party of tax cuts and less regulation fits more closely with Merkel's own ideology than that of the left-of-center SPD.

Shortly after that, in late 2009, the European sovereign debt crisis shook the global economic and financial world. To get a grip on this crisis, Angela Merkel worked and continued work to strengthen European economic and currency union.

Sound finances and incentives for more growth were the guideposts of the German Government’s policy on the euro. Reducing the high levels of youth unemployment in many EU countries was a particular matter of concern for Angela Merkel. The government continued to pursue the policy it embarked upon during its first term in office of budget consolidation aimed at achieving a budget without the need for new debt. Despite the euro crisis, the government strictly adhered to its goal of a balanced budget.

The turnaround in energy policy was the second biggest challenge the CDU/CSU/FDP coalition faced. Following the nuclear accident in the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan in March 2011, the German Government decided to phase out nuclear power by 2022. To drive forward the turnaround in energy policy, Merkel’s government adopted a wide-ranging package of legislation to promote renewable energies, expand the power grid and improve energy efficiency.

The German Government under Angela Merkel pushed for more climate protection at international level: Both in Europe and in the United Nations it supported fighting global warming as it believed that future generations have a right to a liveable environment. At international level the Chancellor also supported sustainable economic stability. In the face of globalisation she is, for example, urging countries to cooperate more closely to find common rules for the global economy.

Merkel's popularity maintained virtually miraculous levels throughout her decade-long tenure at the head of Germany's biggest economy. Angela Merkel's press in Germany worsened even more rapidly after the assaults in Cologne on New Year's Eve 2016. Much of this so-called "post-Colognialism" criticism was due to the heightened reaction and newly-feverish media attention to the refugee crisis following the sexual assaults and thefts that took place at Cologne's main railway station on New Year's Eve.

Public opinion of Merkel's handling of the refugee crisis dipped sharply following Cologne. A much-publicized poll by state broadcaster ZDF found that the percentage of people who considered her refugee policy "good" dropped from 47 to 39 percent in the month between 15 December 2015 and 15 January 2016.

But analysts doubted whether any other party leader would handle the refugee crisis better. Christian Democratic Union MPs had become Merkel's fiercest critics in her government. She also took criticism from her center-left coalition partners, the Social Democratic Party. But there was a lack of an alternative - there was no reasonable and actionable alternative to her policy, or to her.

The September 2017 election result demonstrated that, even after suffering considerable losses in the CDU's worst result since 1949, Merkel was still comfortably able to govern. As a long-term chancellor and the first woman to hold that office, she has already earned herself a place in the history books. What she hasn't yet done is pull off a really big political coup that could be her lasting legacy. Adenauer integrated the old Federal Republic into the West. Brandt's Eastern bloc policies led to Cold War rapprochement. Kohl oversaw German unification. Schröder reorganized the welfare state. How is Merkel going to make her mark?

One after another, all the alpha males in her own party came to naught. Merkel's triumph over her political rivals has been even more impressive. Between 2005 and 2017 she defeated a Social Democratic quartet of four "S" chancellor candidates (Schröder, Steinmeier, Steinbrück, Schulz) more or less single-handed. Policy-wise, too, she has seamlessly absorbed the opposition. The Social Democratic Party has been permanently diminished by her social-democratization of the CDU: Even die-hard SPD voters were defecting to Merkel.

The German chancellor was seen slightly shaking 10 July 2019 while greeting Finland's prime minister in Berlin. It's the third time in recent weeks that this has been noticed during public appearances. Her office dismissed concerns about the chancellor's health, saying that the prior instances were due to the heat and dehydration.

"I am doing well. As I have recently said, since the military honors with [Ukrainian President] Volodymyr Zelenskiy, I have been in a processing phase. That is apparently not yet completely finished, but progress has been made. And I have to live with it for a while now. I am fine," Merkel said just an hour after she was seen shaking uncontrollably again.

There are many reasons a person may suffer bouts of shaking or cramps, though hydration and rest can often alleviate the affliction. Uncontrollable shaking is not necessarily a sign of serious illness, but it can be. The most common form of such resting tremors is Parkinson's disease. So-called essential tremors are hereditary, neurological motor disorders that appear between the ages of 20 and 60 and become worse over time. The symptoms of essential tremors are most readily seen when an individual is forced to maintain a stressful body position for a long period of time.

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Page last modified: 18-07-2019 12:16:40 ZULU