Student Op-Eds

Angela Merkel – a Powerful Actress on the World Stage – and the UK

Lynn Hatcher ’17  Women in Leadership

As Chancellor of Germany, one of the most powerful countries in the world, Angela Merkel is a role model for women leaders across the globe.  Merkel knows that in order for the European Union to remain strong, especially with the current turmoil in the Ukraine, the United Kingdom must have a stronger voice.  Merkel, as a female leader appealing to the UK, a dominant state, is crossing a social boundary that would have been completely unimaginable just a few decades ago.  According to one of Germany’s international broadcasters, Deutsche Welle, “[Merkel] said London is needed to help bring reform to the bloc”.  Merkel addressed both the upper and lower houses of British Parliament at Westminster late February.  This high honor was monumental.  It made her the first German leader to do so since 1986 and the first chancellor to do so from a reunited Germany.

Chancellor Merkel leads her key nation in the European Union, and she represents her nation well.  As a woman, she is both respected and well liked, and her address to the British Parliament is proof. Charles Grant, director of the London-based Center for European Reform, expressing the strength of Merkel as a leader, stated:  “They [the UK] think Merkel is the savior, the great white hope”.

As a leader, Merkel objectively looks at many different viewpoints when she takes into account political, economic, and social issues.  According to The New York Times, many German policymakers see Britain’s strong attachment to free markets as a vital counterbalance to the more statist approach of countries like France.  The Chancellor’s new coalition partners, the Social Democrats, favor greater European integration. Yet, she also is perceptive enough to know that closer integration among eighteen European nations could strain relations with the union’s other ten members who share the same single market (though not currency).  Although she stresses her policies, as a leader must, she is ready to listen to other ideas and take all into account.

There are various policy differences between Germany and Great Britain, and between Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister David Cameron.  According to The New York Times, the gap between what Mr. Cameron’s Conservative party hopes for from Angela Merkel and what she is prepared to deliver may be growing.  On the other hand, looking at BBC news discussing the same event, there seems to be a desire for cooperation: “He [Cameron] regards Mrs. Merkel as a key figure in achieving his aim and has organized several events to welcome the German leader during her one-day visit to London, including tea with the Queen at Buckingham Palace”.  Merkel was treated with the utmost respect during her visit to Parliament in hopes of a stronger EU force in Europe.  Although this was not an official state visit (because Merkel is not head of state), the trip had been planned for months.  Both governments — and the rest of the world — were aware of its political significance at a time of looming change in Europe.

Merkel praised the “unparalleled success” of the EU free market and the freedoms that came from European integration.  Still, she stressed that “we need to change the political shape of the EU in keeping with the times”.  Germany is willing to go to many lengths to ensure that the UK remains a strong voice within the EU.

“United and determined we can serve as a model for other regions of the world.  This and nothing less than this, should be our common goal, I regard it as the task of our generation… Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” Merkel said.  This statement is true testament to Merkel’s determination for strength and cooperation as a model for the world.