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Germany’s Merkel Prepares to Step Down with Record of Dealing with Crises


In this Monday, June 3, 2013 file photo, German Chancellor Angela Merkel stand behind a window with a reflection of the European flag as she waits for the arrival of King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands at the chancellery in Berlin. (AP Photo/Markus S
Germany’s Merkel Prepares to Step Down with Record of Dealing with Crises
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German Chancellor Angela Merkel is preparing to step down after leading the country for 16 years.

As she leaves office, she is seen as a leader with strong diplomatic skills who had to deal with a series of major crises in Europe.

In Germany, Merkel did carry out some major government programs. These included ending the country’s requirement of national military service and setting Germany on a path away from nuclear and coal power production.

She also enabled the legalization of same-sex marriage and took the lead on setting a national minimum wage and a program to provide assistance to fathers to take care of young children.

But one of her senior allies recently described what many see as her main service: an anchor of stability in stormy times. The ally told Merkel: “You protected our country well.”

In this Tuesday, July 10, 2007 file photo, predecessor German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, right, laughs during a speech by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, File)
In this Tuesday, July 10, 2007 file photo, predecessor German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, right, laughs during a speech by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, File)

Bavarian governor Markus Soeder similarly explained Merkel’s leadership. He said of the crises facing Germany, “they came overnight and you had to govern well.”

Merkel passed her first test in 2008, promising at the height of the world financial crisis that Germans' savings were safe. Over the following years, she helped lead efforts to save the euro from the debt crisis that hurt several European Union members. She agreed to government assistance plans, but also said painful spending cuts were needed.

In 2015, Merkel welcomed migrants as masses of people fleeing conflicts in Syria and elsewhere traveled across the Balkans. She permitted in hundreds of thousands and promised that “we will manage” the flow. The program later faced resistance both at home and among European partners.

In this Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016 file photo, the CDU board sings the national anthem in front of a screen showing German chancellor Angela Merkel on the national flag at the general party conference of the Christian Democratic Union, CDU, in Essen, Germany
In this Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016 file photo, the CDU board sings the national anthem in front of a screen showing German chancellor Angela Merkel on the national flag at the general party conference of the Christian Democratic Union, CDU, in Essen, Germany

Working with other international leaders, Merkel sought to seek compromises and explore a multilateral path to the world's problems. This continued through years of political developments. These included changes in the relationship between the U.S. and its European allies under President Donald Trump and Britain’s decision to leave the European Union.

Merkel led Germany’s COVID-19 response that saw the country do better than some of its neighbors.

The health emergency was just one example of a crisis Merkel had to manage. Ralph Bollmann is a reporter who also wrote a book about Merkel’s life and time.

“I think Ms. Merkel's most important legacy is simply that, in such a time of worldwide crises, she provided for stability,” he told The Associated Press. Merkel’s achievement, Bollmann said, “is that she led Germany, Europe and perhaps to some extent the world fairly safely through that…”

In this Friday, Oct. 1, 2010 file photo, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, and the former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, left, react during a 20 year reunification anniversary meeting of the German Christian Democratic Party in Berlin, Germany. (AP
In this Friday, Oct. 1, 2010 file photo, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, and the former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, left, react during a 20 year reunification anniversary meeting of the German Christian Democratic Party in Berlin, Germany. (AP

Crises took up so much energy that “not much time was left to deal with other issues,” he added.

In 2018, Merkel announced she would not seek a fifth term as chancellor. Her political longevity is already historic. Among democratic Germany's post-World War II leaders, she is only behind Helmut Kohl. Kohl served from 1982 to 1998 and led the country through reunification. Merkel could beat his record if she is still in office on December 17. That is possible if parties are slow to form a new government after the September 26 election.

Whether she gets there or not, Merkel can celebrate an unusual end to her political career: she is set to become the first German chancellor to leave power when she chooses.

I’m Bryan Lynn.

The Associated Press reported this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the report for VOA Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

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Words in This Story

anchorn. a person who provides strength and support

stabilityn. the quality of not being likely to change or move

manage – v. to have control of something, such as a business, department, organization, etc.

compromisen. an agreement that is reached to end an argument or dispute

legacy – n. a situation that was caused by something from an earlier time

achievement – n. something that is completed successfully

longevity – n. remaining popular or useful for a long time

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