Angela Merkel eyes bigger role for Germany
Germany took over the rotating presidencies of the EU and the G8 in January. We profile the key players and the issues facing them in a series of reports
Merkel is regarded as ruthless
The first woman head of government in Germany's history has helped put Europe's biggest economy back on track after six years in the doldrums, winning her admiration abroad and grudging respect at home.
Among her many admirers is US President George W. Bush, who has called her 'smart and appealing.' Bush was impressed with her meteoric rise from an obscure physicist in East Berlin to leader of a united nation of 82 million.
*quote1*A ruthless streak
Born in Hamburg in 1954, Merkel grew up in Communist East Germany where her father was a Protestant clergyman. After unification in 1990, she was elected to the first all-German parliament and brought into the cabinet a year later by Chancellor Helmut Kohl as minister of health and women's affairs.
During her rise to the top she showed a ruthless streak that belied her quiet manner, engineering Kohl's downfall after he became involved in a scandal over funding for their Christian Democratic Party (CDU).
Other victims included Lothar de Maiziere, the only freely-elected prime minister of East Germany, and former CDU leader Wolfgang Schaeuble, who was later brought back to serve as interior minister in her grand coalition with the Social Democrats.
Criticized at home by some for showing a lack of leadership, the chancellor defends her consensus style of politics, which is strikingly different to the macho approach of her predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder.
Merkel wants a realignment of foreign policy
'She thinks systematically, observes people, analyses them and tries to steer them,' wrote columnist Jens Schneider in the newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung.
Wanting a realignment
During her 13 months in power Merkel has sought to realign Germany's position, moving it slightly away from France and closer towards the United States.
*quote1*A fluent Russian speaker, she has not been afraid to stand up to Russian President Vladimir Putin, raising the issue of slain Moscow journalist Anna Politkovskaya with him when he visited Germany in October.
During her first EU summit less than a month after taking office, Merkel brokered a last-minute deal to salvage the bloc's 2007-2013 budget, which had been held up by months of squabbling.
In keeping with Germany's growing international profile, the chancellor has set out an ambitious programme for the six-month EU presidency beginning Jan. 1.
Among the cornerstones are efforts to revive the flagging Mideast peace process and a new push to resurrect the proposed EU constitution, which has been in limbo since its rejection by French and Dutch voters in 2005.
January 17, 2007
Copyright DPA with Expatica 2007
Subject: German, Germany, EU, G-8, Angela Merkel