Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • Annette, if I do this, who do you think of?

  • Of course, Angela Merkel.

  • Angela Merkel is so well-known that simple things, such as that hand gesture,

  • have pretty much become synonymous with the German leader.

  • In fact, her party used the gesture, known as the Merkel-Raute,

  • Merkel Diamond or Triangle of Power

  • on a massive poster in Berlin during the 2013 election campaign.

  • The idea? To convince voters that Germany was in good hands.

  • Even her name has led to a new German verb: Merkeln, defined as holding off on a decision,

  • alluding to her cautious style of leadership.

  • But after three decades in politics and a 16-year-reign as Chancellor,

  • it is time to move on. So, what legacy will Merkel leave behind?

  • Annette Weisbach has been  CNBC's German correspondent for over a decade.

  • I caught up with her to learn more about Merkel's time as the German chancellor.

  • Let's start with the very basics.

  • Where did Merkel come from, and how did she become chancellor of Germany?

  • She was born in Hamburg, but the family moved to eastern Germany when she was very little

  • because her father was a pastor, and so she was raised with these very strong Christian beliefs.

  • In eastern Germany she had to hold her head down, in a way because there was no openness

  • when it comes to political discussions, so it was a very strong political regime.

  • Between the end of World War Two and the fall of the Berlin Wall,

  • Germany was split into two countries. West Germany was aligned with the U.S.

  • and the rest of Europe, sharing similar democratic and capitalist values,

  • but the eastern side was governed by a socialist regime aligned with the USSR.

  • Just to give you an idea of  how non-political she was

  • the night when the wall came down in 1989,

  • she went to the sauna and afterwards headed out to have some beers.

  • So she was not standing outside like many people just to wait until this wall was drawn down.

  • She first of all started an academic career. And she graduated in the field of physics,

  • but then gained a doctorate in quantum chemistry. She was working all the way through

  • the end of the social democratic republic, eastern Germany, in 1989 and only then she entered politics.

  • When those two Germanys came togetherthere was also a new upswing in political movements.

  • In 1989, there was a new movement where she was elected as the spokeswoman.

  • It was called Alliance for Germany. Afterwards, she entered the CDU,

  • and there she was supported by the former, long-term, chancellor in Germany, Helmut Kohl.

  • He made her serve in very  different roles, and she really 

  • excelled in those and made a very  successful start in politics.

  • But he, in the end, had a problem with rewarding party funds to friends,

  • and Angela Merkel, even though he was the person who supported hershe publicly called for his resignation.

  • But in the end, she succeeded in her strategy, and in 2000, she was elected as the chairwoman of the CDU.

  • In 2005, she was actually elected in the general election as the chancellor of Germany.

  • And that was her first federal election win, but then in total she actually managed

  • to win four national elections. From a domestic perspective,

  • what would you say has been her biggest legacy for the German population?

  • Back in 2005, you don't remember that probably,

  • Germany was in a very weak position economically, but also the society was very much torn apart.

  • People in the East were very much disgruntled with the West.

  • And the West didn't understand the East. So, it was a very vulnerable situation.

  • She moved the party to the middle of the society, away from the very conservative camp,

  • where the CDU was traditionally anchored. She enacted, for example, same sex marriage.

  • She also enacted a very radical U-turn on nuclear policy after the Fukushima accident.

  • To sum it up, I would say she has left a mark, to modernize and liberalize Germany

  • away from being very conservative. And also, she made it more diverse.

  • She is sometimes referred to  Mutti and I was just wondering 

  • if you could explain to us how that came about,

  • and do you think that the Germans do really see her as maternal figure?

  • Rumor is that one of her former economy ministers Michael Glos came up with that term Mutti

  • because she sort of supported him that much inside the chancellery,

  • but the term really rose to prominence during the refugee crisis

  • when loads of refugees across Europe have seen her as a motherly figure.

  • In 2015, Europe faced a severe refugee crisiswith many of the new arrivals fleeing war in the Middle East.

  • The topic divided European nations. Some were reluctant to take in a

  • high number of refugees, while others were more open to supporting them.

  • Merkel decided to keep the German borders open, a decision that ended up

  • shaping how Europe responded to the crisis.

  • It's not that she has a very motherly character, but she is  driven by these very strong Christian beliefs in humanity,

  • that we need to help each other, and we need to stand by each other, especially in times of crisis.

  • However, Merkel's stance has been linked to a rise in support

  • for anti-immigrant politicians in Germany in the following years.

  • And her decisions also provoked a rift within her own party.

  • Critics said she failed to understand the magnitude of the crisis.

  • But abroad, Merkel's bold decision was applaudedand she was named Time magazine's Person of the Year.

  • Do you think there's a different perspective when Germans look at their Chancellor

  • and when the international landscape looks at Merkel?

  • Very much so. I think internally, we are much more critical

  • with Angela Merkel than the international observers.

  • Domestically she is often criticized for not having a big vision for Germany,

  • for just managing Germany but not revolutionizing or modernizing Germany.

  • At the same time, if you look at how she is praised on the international arena,

  • it is a completely different thing. There, she is something like an outstanding leader,

  • she is praised for outstanding  capacities in managing crises

  • that is not what is the dominant theme when we are talking about her here in Germany.

  • When looking at Merkel's role in international politics, it's impossible not to mention the European Union.

  • Her supporters say that Merkel's interventions were crucial in saving the single euro currency

  • at the height of the debt crisis that developed in the aftermath of the Great Financial Crisis.

  • However, her opponents say that she failed to provide a vision to the embattled region.

  • During the debt crisis, she was more or less the leader of Europe because clearly she was brokering the deals.

  • These were endless meetings, endless discussions.

  • I remember being present at the G-20 in Cannes

  • Greece was really on the  verge of being pushed out,

  • to leave the euro zone and that would have been a potential threat to the euro.

  • She was really fighting so hard also here in Germany in parliament for all these rescue packages

  • because they were not very much liked by the German electorate.

  • Germans really were thinking they are throwing their taxpayer money into a country where money is just spent.

  • So she was reiterating that if the euro fails

  • Europe will fail and that will  be very bad for Germany as well.

  • By her consistency to  reiterate that again and again

  • but also by putting constraints  on the rescue money,

  • I think she convinced Germans that this is the right way to go.

  • So to sum it up, this will be seen, from an historical perspective,

  • most likely her biggest legacy. That she has kept the euro zone and Europe together.

  • Having led Germany through the financial crisis, the sovereign debt crisis, and the refugee crisis,

  • Merkel faced her biggest challenge yet in 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic hit.

  • At the beginning, she gained a lot of popularity

  • because Germany came through the first wave of the corona crisis very well,

  • but then came the second wave and this was a big mess in a way here in Germany as well.

  • And then came the late start of the vaccination.

  • So the first 4 to 5 months of this year were not really successful for her.

  • This crisis was the biggest crisis, because again, it was touching people's lives,

  • she was very much touched by the fact that she couldn't prevent this crisis to spread.

  • I think people will miss her in a waybecause we are so much used to having her around

  • and having her sober attitude to politics and also handling difficult situations.

  • What made her also outstanding is that she was able to broker deals with everybody.

  • She speaks Russian. She can speak on the same level

  • with Vladimir Putin, and that's something not a lot of people can do,

  • and at the same time she is a very close friend to the U.S. as well.

  • Annette, when I was doing my research, I also found out you have something in common with Merkel,

  • not just the fact that you are a woman and German. Do you know what it is?

  • No

  • That you also speak Russian!

  • Yes, I do.

  • Where did you learn Russian?

  • In Russia. So, when I started my studies, I wanted to do something different.

  • My father was born in Kalingrad, I have Russian ancestors in a way,

  • I thought I would go there and learn Russian.

  • Maybe you can be the next chancellor and meet Putin?

  • I don't think so. I don't like working that much.

Annette, if I do this, who do you think of?

Subtitles and vocabulary

Operation of videos Adjust the video here to display the subtitles

B1 merkel germany crisis chancellor german angela merkel

What will Angela Merkel's legacy be? | CNBC Explains

  • 1 1
    Summer posted on 2021/07/22
Video vocabulary