Goodbye Mrs Merkel, you are going to be missed

German Chancellor Angela Merkel leaves the official farewell ceremony (Grosser Zapfenstreich) held in her honor in Berlin with a shy smile. Odd Andersen / Pool via REUTERS (POOL /)

Angela Merkel was eight years old when a swimming teacher lined up all the girls and ordered them to jump off the diving board. Angela scrambled out of line and stepped to the side. She watched her companions do it. Every move. Until when the last one was thrown, he ran and she did too.

“She jumped, but only when she had to,” said Wolfgang Schäuble, the minister who accompanied her in her government for 12 years. “She has a leadership style that is characterized, as she herself has once said, by not commit until the last moment. Keeps all possibilities open”.

The girl who watches and only makes decisions after analyzing all the negotiation variants, first became a Ph.D. in quantum chemistry and then he rode the democratic wave of the Fall of the Berlin Wall and the unification of the two Germanies. He came from the East, from the Democratic Republic, from the “socialist camp” that revolved around the Soviet Union. Veteran Helmut Kohl had his eye on her and drawn her to the Christian Democratic Union. The daughter of a Lutheran pastor immediately found her people in the West. And Helmut found the fleece from the East that communed with the ideas of the West and could become the symbol of the new Germany. He was not wrong. Merkel ended up ruling for 16 years not only her country but all of Europe.

Merkel, young, in East Germany.

In Berlin political circles she is known as “The little tractor”, nothing stops her. Also for her good humor, despite the fact that they made her a reputation as an “iron lady”. Of course, it’s not cute. It does not pass that way. Always austere, with her little suits of colored jacket and black pants, no children, no passion for cooking or those domestic things, although she was once seen leaving the government headquarters and going to buy vegetables for dinner. He has a sarcastic humor that he only uses with his intimates. AND He loves to make football jokes. She is passionate about the game of ball number 5.

When Germany hosted the soccer world cup in 2006, the chancellor went to the stadium to watch all the games played by the Mannschaft and every time one of her idols managed to score a goal, she did not hide her emotion and jumped from her seat, raised her arms , he fervently shouted the goal and hugged Franz Beckenbauer. The former German player and honorary president of Bayern Munich always sat next to him. Merkel also spoke a lot with the then team captain, Phillip Lahm, and with Bastian Schweinsteiger. With the coach, Joachim Löw, regularly exchanged impressions on the national team’s game. The players of that moment still remember how he surprised them when he went to congratulate them in the dressing room and Turkish-German Mezut Özil had to run to cover himself with a towel. Merkel was unperturbed, she opened beers for everyone and toasted to the victory while the players jumped and showed their parts.

He took his scientific training to politics. Always analyzing the arguments in detail and obsessively seeking consensus. “In meetings, she always started by listening to the other party, responded and a discussion ensued. At the end of that discussion he asked What have we learned today? and summarized what had happened in that meeting, 1, 2 and 3 ″. This is how a close associate of hers describes it. They say that before making any important decision, he called the representatives of the people who could be affected. The chancellor has “an exceptional ability to listen and take into account the points of view of all possible interlocutors.” He talks a lot with scientists, trade unionists and businessmen. He never makes decisions from emotion.

Merkel, soccer fan.
Merkel shouting a goal for her country’s soccer team together with the FIFA authorities.

This “Calculated prudence and slow reflection” that are Merkel’s brand, on the one hand, they exasperated politicians many times who wanted her to make a quick decision, on the other they led her to make few mistakes, at least those so common ones of promising something in the campaign and not fulfilling it shortly after. He does not believe in utopian ideas that can mobilize masses or in the story to build an epic of management. Although he knows how to communicate his ideas very well and is able to convince the most skeptical of Germans. It always has arguments based on accurate data. Although many times it is exceeded. “At times I thought we all had a Ph.D. in Physics”commented one of the leaders of the Social Democratic opposition. Former Spanish President Mariano Rajoy said in an interview with the newspaper El País that, in the meetings of leaders of the European Union, of the 28 partners (now there are 27 with the departure of Great Britain) only 10 or 12 knew in depth the topic being discussed. “It is something very common. We cannot all know everything. But there are some who know almost everything. And in that Merkel stands out, who always came well learned and that it was followed, in general, by two or three of us, “said Rajoy, who became friends with Merkel and her husband Joachim Sauer -also a prominent chemistry professor-, He took them for a walk through his Galicia and they enjoyed magnificent fresh fish and some good albariños.

The first “Teflon President” was Ronald Reagan. Nothing stuck to him, everything slipped. Merkel has that same thick, Teflon skin that allows her to stay focused despite criticism. “His skin is tough and he doesn’t let things get to him personally”, said the former Danish Prime Minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, in a report with Der Spiegel. And she recalled a situation that she lived with during the Euro crisis in which photos of Merkel were burned in the streets of Athens. “I told Angela that my 13-year-old daughter, seeing how she was attacked in Greece, was in shock. I could see in that moment how she felt affected, but I also felt that the only way for her to be able to make difficult decisions was to keep her distance from criticism of her person and seeing it as a criticism of her public figure ”.

Merkel in the supermarket.
Angela Merkel at the Stamm supermarket in the Mitte in Berlin. Many nights, on leaving the chancery, I would shop for dinner. (Bild Bund) (./)

Its pro-European stamp is undeniable. He handled the union with the same relish as his country, they say it saved the Euro and prevented the disintegration of the European treaty. But most analysts agree that it also accentuated division and mistrust during the economic and migration crises, and it failed to avoid Brexit – rather, it allowed itself to be done. Some critics believe it did not do much to prevent the growth of European far-right and populist movements either. For now, Merkel is walking that fine line of history in which she is still it’s too early to tell if you actually let the bomb go off or did your best to reduce the damage. “He was an anchor for Europe,” says former Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, who came to the government thanks to Merkel and then French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who forced the resignation of Silvio Berlusconi to try to calm the financial storm that was falling over Italy. The euro zone crisis was a defining moment for Merkel who combined extraordinary economic success in Germany with a social debacle in much of the EU, especially Greece.

He had a “good chemistry” relationship with Barack Obama. They got along well from the first meeting and Merkel chatted a lot with Michelle Obama. I couldn’t even see Trump. There are several photos where she is seen next to him with a face like “what is this man saying ?!”. He has a love-hate relationship with Putin. He believes that a good channel of communication must always be maintained with the Kremlin. And he cultivated that relationship with the Russian leader. Every end of the year she sends him a case of Radeberger beer – Putin’s favorite since he was a KGB agent in East Germany – and receives back Russian smoked fish, who adores. Despite European and American criticism, Merkel always supported the construction of the second gas pipeline through the Baltic, Nordstream 2, to guarantee the supply of Russian gas without going through conflictive areas such as Ukraine. Precisely, the crisis in that country created by the Russian invasion of the Crimean peninsula in 2014 shaken his theory of good relations with the Russian Bear. She felt betrayed by Putin. They say that he had promised not to. Even today that thorn continues between the two of them while the conflict is still latent.

Merkel on vacation.
Angela Merkel on vacation on the Italian island of Ischia. (AFP)

He is leaving this Wednesday after 16 years of government. Yes, there are many, but he achieved them all under strict democratic norms and through different political alliances. He submitted to the will of the Bundestag every time they asked him to. You may leave feeling frustrated. She is leaving her country in the middle of a serious outbreak of the pandemic, which she called “The most serious crisis since World War II.” Although she has already announced that she will always be around if they need her. He said that for now he is going to rest and read novels. But a woman like her who was chosen 14 times by Forbes magazine as the most powerful on the planet, it doesn’t seem like it’s going to stay down for a long time.


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