When it comes to great women – in the modern era or throughout history – one name that increasingly comes to mind is the first female Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel. If the respected Forbes list of ‘the most powerful women in the world’ is anything to go by, then it’s certainly no wonder.
Having taken out top position on this list for the last ten years and ranked as the fifth most powerful person in the world in 2013, Angela Merkel is a very influential person regardless of her nationality, role, or gender.
The Grand Chancellor of Germany, political leader and head of the federal government, Angela Merkel has been responsible for guiding both Germany and the European Union through some tight spots during her time in politics. It seems that whatever is thrown at her, Angela Merkel remains cool, calm and collected.
Life Before Politics
Born in Hamburg, Germany, in 1954, Angela Merkel grew up in a small East German town. The family moved so her father could take up a position as a Lutheran pastor and teacher. A talented student, Merkel attained a doctorate in physics from the University of Leipzig and worked as a chemist at the East Berlin’s Central Institute for Physical Chemistry, Academy of Sciences.
At the age of 36, after the Berlin Wall came down, Angela Merkel joined the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party. Just four years later, she became the Federal Minister for Women and Youth and then the Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety.
Following the defeat of the CDU, Merkel became Secretary-General of the party. Then, in 2000, she became CDU leader. It was in 2005 that Merkel became the first female Chancellor of Germany. In 2013, Merkel was re-elected as Chancellor for the third time.
Perhaps one of Merkel’s greatest achievements to date has been her role during the European debt crisis. As the situation unfolded, Germany with Merkel as leader, was the key strength behind the European Union (EU) and the stabilising influence needed in this period.
Germany is the most powerful country in the European Union (participant countries that use the Euro currency and ten others), and Merkel is often called the “EU’s defacto leader”.
Merkel’s Latest Role: The Ukraine / Russian Crisis
As if Angela Merkel hasn’t taken on enough in recent years, her role as leader of Germany and its prominent position in the European Union has thrust her into the middle of another significant event – that of the currently unfolding Ukraine crisis. Merkel’s involvement in being a ‘voice of reason’ needs to accommodate the relationships of Germany and the EU with both Russia and the Ukraine.
While the stance has changed somewhat since the beginning of the 2014 Crimean crisis, where pro-Russian forces gradually took control of the Crimean peninsula, Merkel, as always, has remained a steadfast leader. At first, in retaliation to Russia’s actions, Merkel stopped granting licenses for arms exports to Russia and suspended the selling of $973 million worth of satellite technology to Russia – all of which sent a clear signal to President Putin.
Since then, Merkel has asked Russia to move its troops away from the Ukraine border and subdue its inflammatory language. On the back of this, and in response to the unrest in Ukraine, Merkel began talks with President Obama, arriving at the decision that Russia should use its influence on armed groups in eastern Ukraine to deflect the situation.
Most recently, President Putin called Chancellor Merkel to warn of impending civil war in Ukraine. In response to this, talks between EU, US, Russia and the Ukraine are taking place to try to peacefully resolve the situation.
Once again, Angela Merkel has stepped up to the plate, playing a key role in one of the world’s most significant events. If this outstanding woman’s past record of accomplishment and achievement is anything to go by, Merkel, a calm and respected leader, will be at the centre of a well-considered and peaceful solution.