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Merkel: The end of an era

After 16 years at the helm of Germany and the European continent, Angela Merkel will leave politics after the German elections in September
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Angela Merkel has not only been a political figurehead in Germany, but also in the European Union. Since 2005, Merkel has held the German chancellorship and has shown significant leadership across the continent. During her years in power, she has experienced events that have had a profound impact on European society and are now part of the history of the old continent. Events such as the great economic crisis, the exodus of refugees, the rise of extreme right-wing and populist parties, the climate crisis or the current coronavirus pandemic.

While in other countries these challenges have been faced by different leaders, Merkel has been the visible face of Germany during all these difficulties. Moreover, on most occasions she has emerged victorious from the difficulties, gaining international prestige.

During her last address to the German parliament in June, she called for EU unity and coordination in the face of external threats and challenges, such as relations with China, Russia and Turkey. In the case of Beijing, he called on Brussels to adopt a stance based on 'common European values' and to present the international community with a 'better' offer than that of the Asian giant.

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With Moscow, he advocated a role independent of that of the US in dealing with "provocations". On the other hand, she expressed her desire to continue talks with Ankara on migration issues, although she also pointed out the "serious differences", especially in the area of human rights protection.

Asylum policies, one of Merkel's most characteristic measures, were also present in her latest statement in the Bundestag. The German chancellor reiterated the need to cooperate with countries of origin and transit countries.

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"If Europe fails on the refugee issue, it will not be the Europe we want"

Since 2015, Europe has been experiencing a refugee crisis from countries in conflict such as Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other African states. This exodus was the worst refugee crisis since the end of the Second World War and caused great divisions between European states. While some countries closed their doors to the thousands of people fleeing the war, Germany, led by Merkel, opened its borders to the largest displacement of people since 1945 on 'humanitarian grounds'. Between 2015 and 2016, more than one million asylum seekers arrived in the country. "If Europe fails on the refugee issue, it will not be the Europe we want," Merkel declared as she urged other European partners to develop common asylum policies.

But this move not only cost her criticism in Europe, especially from countries such as Hungary and Poland, but she also faced a faction in her own political party, the Christian Democratic CDU. Some of his voters joined the ranks of the Alternative for Germany (AfD), a far-right, Eurosceptic party that has gained support by exploiting the refugee crisis.

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Unfortunately, the populist wave swept through several European countries, empowering those politicians who have traditionally been against the social policies set by Brussels. "There are serious problems in Hungary and Poland, and we must continue to address them," Merkel told the EU's latest summit on the post-pandemic economy. The German leader was referring to the rollback of LGBT+ rights in those countries through measures developed by the governments.

On social issues, Merkel's Germany has taken a big step towards progress. In 2017 it approved same-sex marriage and has also endorsed the principle of gender parity in government bodies.

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He has also developed important measures on the climate issue. In one of her most recent appearances she expressed her wish that the future German government would continue to move away from nuclear energy. "Nuclear energy is not sustainable in the long term," Merkel argued.

Washington, her last trip as chancellor

Angela Merkel has travelled to the United States to reach an agreement with US President Joe Biden on Russia's Nord Stream 2 pipeline. Biden has allowed the infrastructure to be completed in exchange for support for Ukraine. The two countries also agreed on the possibility of imposing sanctions on Russia if it uses energy as a political weapon to pressure Europe.

This meeting was also Merkel's last official trip as German chancellor. After the Donald Trump years, with whom Merkel had a tense and difficult relationship, the Biden administration had become a great ally of Berlin. "I know that the partnership between Germany and the United States will continue to strengthen on the basis that you helped build. On a personal note, I must tell you that I will miss seeing you at future summits," Biden said.

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After 16 years at the helm of a nation and one of Europe's key leaders, Merkel will retire from power after the 26 September elections. At the age of 67, she is ending her long political career, leaving behind measures that have strengthened Europe, making it a more united, united and free continent.