Germany: Chancellor Angela Merkel  

Angela Merkel became the first female chancellor of Germany in 2005 as head of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU).  Her oft-repeated slogan that in Germany anyone can be anything drove her popularity, especially in light of her childhood spent in East Berlin.  Angela Merkel was elected to her fourth term as chancellor in 2017.  All four of Merkel’s terms have been characterized by a firmly centrist approach.  Accordingly, some have criticized her for her seeming lack of ideology, while others have lauded her pragmatism and stout leadership. Her supporters included the United States, and she was awarded the U.S. Presidential Medal of Honor in 2011.  Angela Merkel remains to many across the world a beacon of hope for liberal democracy in an uncertain time.

In light of Merkel’s pragmatic approach to the leadership of Germany, it is unsurprising that her four terms have been most clearly shaped by the global crises she has navigated, rather than the policies she has created.  Early in her first term, Merkel faced the global financial crisis and the corresponding Eurozone debt crisis.  Merkel responded by forcefully advocating severe austerity measures, mostly directed at Greece. As the debt crisis deepened, Merkel was successful in crafting a fiscal compact that obligated signatories to conform to balance-budget benchmarks, leading some to criticize Merkel for the severity of her austerity measures.  In 2011 the international community faced the consequences of the failure of Fukushima’s nuclear power plant.  In response, Angela Merkel phased out nuclear power in Germany. In response to the forceful annexation of Ukraine by Russia in 2014 Merkel spearhead the E.U. effort to impose strict sanctions on the Russian regime. Finally, in response to the refugee crisis stemming from the Middle East, Merkel responded by opening Germany’s borders, allowing more than one million refugees enter Germany and garnering praise from humanitarian aid advocates.  Although she paid a steep political price domestically, Merkel remains a clear leader in the region.

Leading up to the summit, Merkel stated that she expected debate and controversy throughout discussions among the world leaders.  However, she also noted the importance of the summit to keep communication going.  When Trump retracted his support from the communiqué regarding trade, Merkel described his actions as “sobering and somewhat depressing.”  Merkel and Trump have had a tense relationship since Trump’s decision pull out of the Iran Nuclear Deal and the Paris Climate Accord. Merkel posted a photo on her Instagram account which soon went viral, featuring the G7 leaders gathered together with Merkel standing, with her arms pressed into a table, which was between her and Trump, who was seated with his arms crossed (see below). Many have noted the power dynamic between Merkel and Trump evident in this photo taken at the G7 Summit.

“The euro is our common fate, and Europe is our common future.” – Angela Merkel

“It doesn’t make sense to arbitrarily plaster over differences.” – Angela Merkel

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