The German Iron Lady


Credits: Tobias Kleinschmidt via Wikipedia Commons // Creative Commons

Yearly, the well-known American magazine, Time, selects “The person of the year”; a type of an award created to reward the most influential person, group, or idea of the year. The famous American Magazine has awarded famous figures, including Adolf Hitler, since 1927. For their 2015 “Person of the year” edition, the Time magazine has chosen Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany. Merkel enters a select hall of famous individuals, as she becomes the fourth German, and the fifth woman to be chosen.

Merkel was raised in East Germany during the midst of chaos, where she acquired one of her greatest attributes: patience. The Time magazine writer, Karl Vick, says: “Patience, blandness, intellectual rigor and an inconspicuous but ferocious drive […] changed not only her life but the course of history.”.

With extreme rigor, Merkel was able to overcome not only two of the greatest crisis of the decade, but also an national existential dilemma. Since Germany is the leader, richest country, and the most financially stable nation, it was responsible for the negotiation of the Greek Economic crisis early in 2015. The chancellor dealt with the economic doubt that threatened the European Union and the strength of the year with great rigor. In the midst of countries imposing different opinions, and ideologies, Merkel was the one to integrate opposing sides and initiate the necessary dialogue. When Greece bankrupted due to inefficiency, welfare, state expenses, politics and numerous other factors, Europe knew it would have a burden on its shoulders. Time editor, Karl Vick, summarizes in a concise sentence: “The country that gave the world democracy was supplying it with headaches.”

As Greece asked for loans in the IMF and in the European Union, with large amounts of money and the crisis of confidence, it had no way to repay the debt, either to the IMF or to the European Union. In 2012 the Greeks had the biggest sovereign debt default in history, and in 2015 Greece became the first developed country to make loan repayments to the IMF.

This is not to mention the inherent political crisis. There were several instances where the parliament was dissolved, and once, there was even a referendum for the public to decide whether it would bail the debt or not. In the midst of this apocalyptic scenario, Angela Merkel had the guts to do what was the best for her country. “I come from a country in which I experienced economic collapse,” she said. The German chancellor led the way in negotiations between the European nations. With a tough attitude Merkel required the Greeks to cut governmental spending and in a long term deal, pay the debt. The German chancellor’s attitude regarding the Greek crisis became a verb: ‘Merkel-ing.’

Patience, blandness, intellectual rigor and an inconspicuous but ferocious drive—and changed not only her life but the course of history.

— Henrique Souza

As if keeping the EU together wasn’t enough, Merkel was gifted with a second crisis in the same year – the immigration crisis. Representing a country with nationalist and conservative historic background, and also a Christian party, for more than a decade; Merkel truly broke some taboos, by how she dealt with the immigration crisis. As of December 2015, over one million immigrants have arrived in Germany, in search of a better life. As opposed to what Hungary, Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, and Turkey have done, Germany decided to welcome these refugees. Despite some uneasy conflict in Cologne, and also a high retaliation by the ultra right-wing parties, Merkel has stood firmly in favor of free borders and integrating these refugees within society. During the economic crisis, she was snubbed by the left-wing, and during the immigration crisis,  by the right wing. It’s exactly her iron backbone of standing up for what she believes despite the forces against her, that makes her the most influential person of the year. Merkel had to go against her own party, the Christian Democratic Union, which in its essence is conservative. A total of 1 million asylum seekers are expected in the country by the end of December. It was an audacious act that, in a single motion, threatened both to redeem Europe and endanger it. That arrangement had worked well enough that it raised an existential question of its own, now being asked by the richest country in Europe: What does it mean to live well?

In essence, Angela Merkel fit the shoes of the leader, not only for her country, but for a whole continent. Even with the most apocalyptical scenario and in-between two great crises, she didn’t let the pressure of desperate mold her ideals. From the German woods of East Germany, to the chemistry labs, to the leadership of a continent, Angela is a true taboo breaker and demonstrates she is worthy of being nominated “Person of the Year”.


Sources: CNN, Time