8 Things that will shape Angela Merkel’s legacy: How will Germans (and the world) remember her?


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After 16 years in power, we have to say goodbye. What will Merkel’s legacy look like? How will Germany remember her era? A statistical look at her reign in power from 2005 to 2021

Defining Angela Merkel’s legacy is a conundrum. She has stewarded the biggest economy in Europe for so long that it’s hard to just focus on one thing. Below are 8 things that will surely define how we remember her:

1. Climate and environment

In the end, Merkel herself drew a conclusion on climate protection: measured against the two-degree target, “not enough happened” during her chancellorship, she said in July. She now called for more speed and praised the “Fridays for Future” movement as a “driving force”. Merkel was not the “climate chancellor” she portrayed at the beginning of her era.

For example, it slowed down stricter EU guidelines for CO2 emissions for the German auto industry. During her tenure, the SUV rose to become the best-selling car model. The Fukushima shock moves Merkel to quickly phase out nuclear power. But negotiations on phasing out coal are late, and the expansion of renewable energies is stalling. And in April even the Federal Constitutional Court had to condemn the government to a better climate protection law.

2. Wealth gap in Germany

The Merkel era began with a record unemployment rate of almost 12 percent and fell to less than half by 2019 – with a slight damper during the financial crisis of 2008/2009. The course for this development was set by the Hartz IV reforms of their predecessor Gerhard Schröder (SPD). This trend was only stopped for the time being by Corona.

Merkel consistently continued the reforms. The lows in unemployment were also bought at the cost of an increasing low-wage sector. The household income gap between rich and poor has grown during her reign. The introduction of the minimum wage from 2015 onwards eased this. But the risk of old-age poverty has also increased.

3. German citizen welfare

The state has withdrawn from many areas. Hospitals have been increasingly privatized and the health system has been trimmed to be more profitable. However, the corona pandemic has made the weaknesses in digitization particularly noticeable for many. All households should have access to 50 Mbit broadband internet by 2018 at the latest. But rural areas are further behind.

There is a lack of affordable housing in the cities. But for the financially weakest there was hardly any new one. On the contrary: almost a million social housing units were lost. However, Germany has invested heavily in the expansion of the daycare center – even if the waiting lists for a place are still long in many places. Today, three times as many children under the age of three go to daycare as at the beginning of the Merkel era.

4. Immigration

“We have achieved so much – we can do it!” Said Merkel on August 31, 2015, when hundreds of thousands of refugees came to Germany and presented the country with new challenges. And no sentence from the Chancellor has been as memorable as this one. In 2015 alone, 890,000 people seeking protection were initially registered and supported by thousands of volunteers.

Merkel’s initial policy of welcoming brings the AfD massive influx and almost breaks the relationship with its sister party, the CSU. The course in asylum policy is getting tougher – across Europe. The Chancellor presented the EU-Turkey Agreement back in March 2016. With the Erdogan deal, people are being held back from the EU borders. Europe is closing – also on the Mediterranean, the deadliest border in the world.

5. Political shift to the right

Attacks on asylum seekers’ homes, threats to local politicians, open hatred in social networks: criminal offenses from the right have reached new highs in recent years – with the attacks in Munich, Halle, Hanau and the murder of CDU politician Walter Lübcke as sad ones Highlights. Right-wing extremism is louder, more brutal and finds public platforms.

The German security authorities and the Bundeswehr also have the problem in their own ranks. Terrorist investigations against soldiers like Franco A. or the dissolution of the Frankfurt SEK clearly show the dangers. There is now a coordination office for right-wing extremist activities in the Bundeswehr. Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) rejected an explicit racism study for the police, but commissioned one to examine the everyday life of the police.

6. German society

Germany today is different from what it was 16 years ago. Under the Union of all places, conscription was suspended in 2011 after 55 years. But the image of the family in particular has changed. Merkel’s first term of office saw the introduction of parental allowance in 2007. The proportion of fathers who take advantage of this has increased from year to year since then.

And marriage has been possible for everyone since 2017 – including same-sex couples. Merkel explicitly declared the vote in the Bundestag to be a question of conscience without any group pressure, but voted no herself. The term gender was also discussed anew in Merkel’s time and the third gender entry “diverse” was introduced. The pay gap between men and women is slowly narrowing.

7. Foreign policy

First the euro rescue, lastly the withdrawal from Afghanistan: Merkel had to constantly switch to crisis mode in terms of foreign policy – and in doing so, she became a sought-after interlocutor. After all, she has consistently topped Forbes’ list of the 100 most powerful women in the world since 2006. She did not lose contact with difficult contacts, such as with Vladimir Putin. The list of official visits shows that their relationship has cooled down.

Germany’s exports show how strong China has become in its era. When it comes to arms exports, your government has been the subject of constant criticism. Others demanded significantly more spending on their own military. It is unclear how Germany will become militarily active worldwide in the future. The number of Bundeswehr soldiers on missions abroad has fallen since 2005, but there are more individual missions.

8. Everyday life

Merkel has been Chancellor for so long that short-term phenomena are celebrating their comeback – like bubble tea, which was a trendy drink as early as 2010. Now the hype is back again, which is also shown by the search queries on Google. The brightly colored teenage drink from Taiwan is now also available in an organic version. How long the demand for bubble tea will last this time is unclear. But “organic” is a constant trend in food – with steep sales curves.

In the age of streaming, on the other hand, video stores are no longer a business with a future and have long since disappeared from the street scene: the video store association IVD has lost 97 percent of its members since Merkel’s tenure began. But the iPhone didn’t even exist back then.



  • Das Interaktiv-Team der Funke Mediengruppe

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