In 2014, confronting protestors at a refugee asylum, Angela Merkel stands beside a mother holding her baby. Merkel too had grown up behind a fence. Her mother, Herlinde, carried her in a basket into East Germany to join Horst Kasner, her Lutheran pastor husband.
Fast forward to November 2005 when Merkel became the youngest ever Chancellor of Germany, and the first woman to hold that position.
Angela Merkel – Europe’s Most Influential Leader, by professor and author Matthew Qvortrup, charts the rise of this woman, fluent in German, Russian and English (Herlinde was an English teacher); scientist with a doctorate in quantum chemistry; almost failing the Marxism/Leninism subject; economically illiterate; and who had only committed to a political career in the wake of the fall of the Berlin wall.
Finding her political niche through the complexities of established and emerging political parties was Merkel’s first task. She rejected the idealism of grass roots organisations, saying that politics was about getting things done.
Merkel was renowned as a ‘Virtuoso of procrastination,’ analysing and calculating interminably the long game and the consequences, but when she finally acted she wrong-footed opponents and colleagues. She headed off the euro-crisis, held firm with Putin over the Ukraine war and showed compassion to the Syrian refugees.
A conservative politician, she held Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan in high esteem, and admired America for its support for reunification when London and Paris opposed it. However, rather than congratulate President Trump, she invited him to work with her on the basis of respect for democratic values and for all peoples regardless of origin, skin colour, religion and sexual orientation.
But politics is a game with brutal rules. How did Angela Merkel play this game? Was she, Professor Qvortrup asks, Mother Courage or Merkiavelli?
Read the book to decide.
Find Angela Merkel: Europe’s Most Influential Leader by Matthew Qvortrup in the SMSA Library Catalogue