These days, you don’t hear about many big European political stories that don’t involve Angela Merkel. For the fifth year running, Angela Merkel has been named the most powerful woman in the world by Forbes. She didn’t appear in Forbes’ records in 2011 – since 2006, it was only in 2010 that she was not named the world’s most powerful woman. With 2015 marking ten years as Chancellor of Germany, Merkel is without doubt a household name not just in Germany but in other European countries, with her strong presence on the continental stage in foreign affairs being well-remembered.
Like our Margaret Thatcher, Angela Merkel was a scientist before taking up politics, working as a chemist after gaining a Physics degree in 1978 at the University of Leipzig; she is also the first woman leader of Germany since 1871. A socialist when she was young, growing up in East Germany (bizarrely her family moved from West Germany to the East, the opposite to plenty of Germans at the time!), Merkel got involved with the Christian Democratic Unionists as the Berlin Wall fell. Working in positions in the CDU, Merkel took a prominent position as Secretary-General after Helmut Kohl’s government lost the election in 1998. In 2005 Merkel became Chancellor of Germany when the CDU entered government in coalition with the Social Democratic Party. Her party has won the elections of 2009 and 2013, albeit not as a majority government. She has received particular praise for her handling of the Eurozone crisis and economic problems that Germany and neighboring countries have faced.
Merkel has been the recipient of several honorary degrees and awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Indira Gandhi Peace Prize. She continues to be an icon for international relations, democracy and German pride and will no doubt continue to be successful for many years to come.