Lessons from Merkel

Always be more than you appear and never appear to be more than you are  – Angela Merkel

Two years ago Time magazine declared her the Person of the Year. She holds a record of being named by Forbes as the world’s most powerful woman for ten consecutive years. All this was before Angela Dorothea Merkel announced her re-election bid as German Chancellor for a fourth consecutive term. With ever increasing signs of her victory at September polls the world is sure to run out of titles to bestow on the lady.

The invitation Merkel got from Vladimir Putin for a visit to Moscow, hot on the heels of her meeting with Donald Trump in Washington, in March this year, only went to show the power she wields in global politics.

Last Thursday saw a youthful Emmanuel Macron veering off a handshake from Donald trump to make a beeline to greet Merkel and that too on a day that she met two US Presidents almost back to back, Barack Obama followed by Donald Trump both in Germany. The day earned her the title of uncrowned queen of global politics.

However Merkel’s supremacy is not something that she earned on a platter.

Till recently the German Chancellor was dubbed the last defender of Western liberalism by a world that was coiling into protective cocoons following a wave of right wing victories like the election of Trump and Brexit. Europe was mulling over the prudence behind the liberal policies of Merkel. The far right policies appeared to be too tempting to try a shot at.

Her opening of flood gates of refugees and a plethora of EU reforms made Merkel look vulnerable and isolated. However, never the one to compromise her principles for populist politics Merkel held on to the policies aimed at greater good of humanity above all however much it ate into her vote base in the interim.

It was providence or good karma that saw her fan and fellow liberalist Macron winning French polls comfortably early this month. His victory coincided with the win of Merkel’s party at state elections signalling that the Germans had refused to be given into the pressures of global wave of protectionism.

Today with young Macron as her man Friday, Angela Merkel is out to put a world that was precariously wobbling on a precipice of ominous protectionist patriotism, back on track.

Angela Merkel’s success formula is no secret. Merkel herself has spelt them out in no uncertain terms. Among them is her famous maxim, ‘Always be more than you appear and never appear to be more than you are’. The German Chancellor had never appeared too good or too smart. There’s an air of childish cheerfulness about her that belies her steely grit. She never lost her cool demeanour even when she sounded tough. The speech she made at the end of the NATO summit a few days back expressing her disappointment over the US stand on climate-change reforms, speaks volumes of this. She proposed that the EU should move ahead on reforms without US support. Hers was not a bitter, catty statement. Instead it had all the ingredients of a rational stateswoman.

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“I have never allowed myself to be bitter,” Merkel is known to have said. Ever the optimist she will stay the course even all alone if she wants. That’s how she got respite for Syrian and Romanian refugees despite strong protests from fellow countrymen and EU nations. “When it comes to human dignity we cannot make compromises,” is something Merkel is known to have said. She stood for humanity when nobody was willing for that leading role in EU and finally even her own countrymen came around. Merkel believes that, “it is nonsense to say Germans are unable to change”. How right she is. Seven decades after World War II, Angela Merkel has steered Germany on a course which has today made it the greatest global stabilizer.