The two faces of Angela Merkel

November 19, 2009
The German chancellor was described by Forbes last month as the world’s most powerful woman, listing her as 15th overall in its ranking of the World’s Most Powerful people. 
Certainly, Merkel has been known to bare her teeth when it comes to castigating others like Zimbabwe’s leader Robert Mugabe and she even rebuked Russia’s Vladimir Putin on foreign trips. She did also raise her voice against Pope Benedict, calling on him to make clear the Vatican does not tolerate any denial of the Holocaust.   


But at home in Germany, Merkel has been surprisingly timid on many key issues – especially when they involve her conservative Christian Democrats. Her tendency to avoid clear positions has driven her coalition partners mad. Merkel might be a lion when she’s on foreign stages but she tends to be a lamb at home. One of her favourite sayings is: “If you try to beat your head into a wall, the wall will usually win.”


Merkel’s latest evasive action centres on another woman in her party, Erika Steinbach. Ostensibly, it’s a relatively minor issue about a seat on the board of a new museum about the plight of German World War Two refugees. But in reality it is an issue that reverberates deeply in Merkel’s conservative party as well as across Germany’s eastern border in Poland. 


The League of Expellees, a powerful force in Merkel’s party, wants their leader Steinbach, who is a conservative member of parliament, on the museum’s board. Merkel’s past and present coalition partners have vetoed Steinbach (pictured above with Merkel) because of Poland’s objections to the woman with controversial views in the past on the German-Poland border and Poland’s membership in the European Union.    


So what does Merkel do?  She sits it all out and puts off any decision. That was her strategy when the issue came up earlier and this is now the sequel to the earlier round of the unfinished business.


Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a leader in the opposition Social Democrats who was Merkel’s foreign minister for the last four years, understands well her reluctance to take a stance on controversial issues at home. In a German TV interview on Thursday he put the finger in the wound and said: “Mrs. Merkel has to make up her mind.”


The situation is turning into a farce. Both Merkel and the League say it is the other side that has to make a decision.

There have been a number of other occasions where Merkel’s voice went oddly silent. She calls on other countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions but ducks questions about introducing a speed limit on Germany’s motorways that could cut emissions by 5-10 percent overnight. She first agreed to introduce a minimum wage in Germany with her Social Democrat coalition partners but did a quick U-turn when her party refused to go along.


 A year ago as the financial crisis was engulfing Europe and the world, Merkel faced withering criticism for her overly cautious response initially. Der Spiegel called her “Angela Mutlos” (Angela Faint-hearted) and acussed her of “dangerous dithering”. It wrote: “Merkel has always been quiet, reticent, cautious. Merkel has failed to lead her country through a time of uncertainty.” At the time she also first refused to consider cutting taxes to stimulate growth but reversed course under pressure from powerful barons in her party with a series of small steps and was suddenly in favour of tax cuts a few weeks later.


Last month, in coalition talks for a new centre-right government, Merkel kept going out the back door to avoid journalists each evening and remained silent when a controversy erupted over her government’s short-lived proposal to create a shadow budget to borrow 50 billion euros. This week Der Spiegel published a story on her powerful Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who said that Merkel’s weakness is she likes to surround herself with yes men.

So is Merkel really the world’s most powerful woman?


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Posted by What health care coverage does a congressman have? What happens to it when they leave office? « Mickmurp | Report as abusive

Dear Writer,What you have written two faces of this upcoming woman in international arena.What you said is purely for some appreciation and questioning of her policies to her country and rest of the world.Happily saying here once again, my prediction of winning in recent Chancellor election became reality to this world.All your tactical writings of her election speech and your prediction as a journalist went wrong.I am a not world known journalist or world known writer to these subjects.With some self earned ,acquired knowledge, i am writing of my views after some analysis for our users ,staff and readers for broader perspective.Yes. She is open minded ,thats why, she appreciated her previous government bail out packages for economic revival and adjustment to her co-politician for pure survival on political counts.She had passed some her saying on Pope!s views, and to social democratic politicians.She had produced results and got back Germany as a talking point to entire world.Germany!s exports, and enrollment of university students to German colleges are increased.She is not a Iron lady, But real thinker, and well understanding what to do to Germany and rest of this worldIf the same trend ,and lucks are in her favor, She will be well known and recognized German leader and will sit with Mr.Bonn in near future to German history.

Posted by krishnamurthi ramachandran | Report as abusive

Hey Angela Merkel you just delivered another Dolphin class submarine with Nuclear capabilities to Israel.Gifted in part by the German taxpayer.Several years ago convicted US Navy analyst,Jonathan Pollard sold highly classified sattelite targetting information on former USSR and European capitols to Israel.Do ya think Israel holds a grudge???

Posted by bruce | Report as abusive

What would you expect from a politician? They only look after their interest.

Posted by mapleleaf3 | Report as abusive

All of this isn’t easy to explain. Politics have more deep reasons that we think.

Posted by ilona@israel | Report as abusive

She is terrific!

Posted by Camron Barth | Report as abusive

Dear Sirs.So the second face of Angela Faint Hearted is that of the woman on the fotograph who with her friends of the League of Expellees is discussing the border in between Poland and Germany???? I am aan interested historian…Claudia

Posted by Claudia Rohde | Report as abusive