14 July 2006

Who is Angela Merkel?

As is well known, the President has been in Germany visiting with Chancellor Angela Merkel.  As a politically minded Christian, I find her and her party very interesting.

Merkel grew up in the former German Democratic Republic (East Germany), the daughter of a Protestant (and Socialist) minister.  (Interesting fact: When she came of age in communist East Germany, she did not go through the secular, state ceremony; she elected to be confirmed in her faith instead.)  A physicist by education she is the first woman to lead the modern German nation-state since its inception in 1871, and the youngest Chancellor since World War II.  Next year she will be the first woman to chair the G8.

Her party, the Christian Democratic Union (party principles here), part of the international Christian Democracy movement.  (Incidentally, Mexico’s National Action Party—the party of President Vicente Fox and President-elect Felipe Calderon—is also part of the movement.)  The worldwide CD movement generally is characterized as being socially conservative and in favor of free markets with a government-enforced social conscience.

Merkel has been in favor of reforming Germany's economic and social system and has been thought to be more pro-free market and pro-deregulation than her party is.  She has advocated changes in German labor law, such as  removing barriers to firing employees and increasing the number of work hours in a week on the grounds that current law makes the country less competitive because companies can’t control labor costs when business is slow.  (I happen to know from personal experience that this is true.)

Merkel has also been an advocate for German-American friendship. In the spring of 2003, she went contrary to  strong public opinion and came out in favor of our invasion of Iraq.  The invasion was, according to her,  “unavoidable.”  She also went to far as to accuse Chancellor Gerhard Schröder of anti-Americanism. Some of her  critics have called her an American lackey for that position.  Merkel has criticized the government's support for Turkish membership in the European Union, arguing instead for a “privileged partnership.”  Now, on that matter, she was in unison with an overwhelming majority of Germans, who rejected Turkey’s membership in the European Union because of fears that large waves of immigration would impose a heavy burden on Germany and that there would be too much Islamist influence within the EU.

In many ways, Christian Democracy and the President’s “compassionate” conservatism share some important similarities.  (It should be noted, however, that Christian Democracy in Europe tends to be a bit right of center, while it is a bit left of center in Latin America.)  So there’s a reason why the President and the German Chancellor look so friendly in all the photos.

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James Frank Solís
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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