16 years Chancellor: Merkel and the art of compromise

Status: 23.10.2021 4:22 a.m.

Merkel’s style of government has always included the struggle for compromises – if necessary all night long, as happened at numerous EU summits. There was only one thing she never succeeded in doing in her 16 years as chancellor.

By Georg Schwarte, ARD capital studio

For Angela Merkel, the compromise is one of the essential prerequisites for political action. The search for compromises is an art – and a passion of a Chancellor who went into long nights of negotiations for 16 years, willing to compromise, and who fought for its image as a commercial traveler to compromise:

The compromise is partly mocked today. He is badly made. A compromise is always a lazy compromise. But when we are no longer able to make compromises, we are no longer able to act.

Georg Schwarte
ARD capital studio

But as a reality fanatic, this Chancellor always wanted to be able to act. At 107 EU summits alone, she has spread her credo again and again: “Don’t talk about one another, talk to one another.” This includes looking for compromises and, as she says, deciding things when they are ready to be decided: “That’s my passion. It’s the Merkelian type of passion, and it’s pretty intense.”

Until exhaustion

Whether the French Emmanuel Macron or Nicolas Sarkozy or the British David Cameron and Boris Johnson: Everyone experienced how intensely Merkel could struggle for compromises until everyone in the hall was exhausted. Merkel countered nocturnal arguments by leading the way at low volume. Always looking to find what is feasible in addition to what is desirable. “Politics is also the art of what is feasible. We wrestle again and again. It takes a productive impatience, which I muster,” said Merkel at the beginning of the Corona crisis.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Image: dpa

Merkel – a “compromise machine”

They have also experienced productive impatience on the international stage for 16 years. When nothing seemed to work anymore, the hour usually struck, remembers Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, who studied Merkel’s compromise art for eight years. “Most people don’t know that, but Ms. Merkel was a compromise machine. Very often, when things didn’t go further, Angela suggested something and then we still had ambitions after all.” He hoped, Bettel said to Merkel last on his farewell visit to Berlin, “that we will make it through the next few months without you”. Merkel’s “Spirit” will be there.

Basta is not Merkel’s style

German interest – for Merkel this also includes taking the interests of others seriously in order to find a compromise. Where others listen to their guts, Merkel stays with herself and her head: “I am me. My principle is not Basta. My principle is to advise, think and then decide.”

Obama raves about the principle of loyalty

Not every head of government receives a kind of declaration of love via video message. Ex-US President Barack Obama, however, has now sent her to Brussels for the EU summit and raved about the principle loyalty of a Chancellor who always put her values ​​above self-interest. “Thank you,” said Obama at the end in German to a Chancellor who once described, in addition to willingness to compromise, the ability to remain silent and curiosity as indispensable tools for good governance: “The most important thing in politics is: You have to like people and be curious about people. If you lose that curiosity, it’s all over. “

But she is still Chancellor. One who, at least as a compromise seeker, has achieved a lot along the way. There is only one thing, she said herself, that despite all the willingness to compromise, she has not learned to this day: to have a poker face. Your facial features: always legible without compromise. “I’ve given up on that. I can’t, that’s bitter. But I can’t.”

Compromise as passion: Merkel’s government armor – a balance sheet

Georg Schwarte, ARD Berlin, 10/22/2021 7:28 p.m.


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