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.”
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.
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…”
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
anchor – n. a person who provides strength and support
stability – n. the quality of not being likely to change or move
manage – v. to have control of something, such as a business, department, organization, etc.
compromise – n. 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