The Merkel Magic

Ten Years and Still Going Strong

German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends a session of the German lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, in Berlin, Germany, November 25, 2015. Fabrizio Bensch / Reuters

On November 22, German Chancellor Angela Merkel celebrated ten years in power. In her time at the helm of Europe’s most powerful country and economy, she has demonstrated a remarkable ability to lead when many of her peers have seemed helplessly overwhelmed by current events. Most recently, after the devastating attacks in Paris on November 13, which the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, later claimed as its handiwork, Merkel declared resolutely, “Freedom is stronger than terror,” and she pledged to join the French government in rooting out the attackers. In short, as could be expected from someone who is sympathetic to the European project, Merkel responded to the tragedy in Paris with a call for greater solidarity between Europe and its allies.

Even before the Paris attacks, Merkel managed to remain in office during a decade that saw the largest economic downturn in the West since the Great Depression. She leveraged Russian President Vladimir Putin’s grudging respect for her to help de-escalate the conflict in Ukraine and, among European Union powers, almost singlehandedly confronted what the United Nations has billed as the worst refugee crisis since the end of World War II. Merkel has helped Germany, Europe’s reluctant hegemon, to position itself as a country that can lead during a crisis. And all this is to say nothing of her ability to keep the EU stitched together at a time when its future hardly seems certain.

In Germany, only Chancellors Helmut Kohl and Konrad Adenauer have held longer terms. And in the region, such stability is almost unheard of; Europe is known for its parliamentary democracies and short-lived coalition governments. So how does Merkel do it?

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo each hold a white rose as they pay their respects to the victims of the November 13th attacks in Paris, France, November 25, 2015. Etienne Laurent / Reuters


Some argue that Merkel’s popularity rests on her strong economic performance.

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