Angela Merkel Thinks Big and Speaks Clearly
Byline: Beth Day Romulo
AS the world grows increasingly interconnected and more complicated, a number of women have risen to high positions politically. Most women can't climb the top rung of the political or business ladder without being some powerful man's protA[c]gA[c]e or heir so the question is, once they reach the top, can they handle it? Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice appears to play her cards well but her main strength is having her boss' ear, in contrast to Madeleine Albright who was willing to take strong stands, popular or not, on important public issues. One of the most fascinating women to observe in action today is Germany's first woman chancellor, Angela Merkel. Friends visiting from Europe have verified my impression that she is one strong lady, perfectly comfortable in taking strong positions. She, too, was a protA[c]gA[c]e in her access to power. Chancellor Helmut Kohl assessed her capabilities correctly and made her his minister for women's issues.
Today, she is probably the most powerful women on the political scene in Europe, as Chancellor of Germany, Europe's major economic power, chairman of the G-8 group of leading economic nations, and President of the European Union. One of her projects before she leaves that office is to come up with a Constitution that members will accept. The last constitution offered was vetoed by both France and the Netherlands.
Happily for the US, which had prickly relations with her predecessor, Gerhard Shroeder, who was outspoken in his opposition to the Iraq war, she is interested in mending transatlantic relations. As opposition leader in parliament in 2003, she visited Washington and said, among other things, that "neither the US nor Europe could solve the problems of the modern world alone." She went on to say that European nations must increase their defense spending and not simply leave military operations to the United States.
Since she has become chancellor, Merkel has made it clear that she wants to strengthen economic ties with the United States, revive the Middle East peace process and get serious about climate change. When she visited President Bush in Washington this past January he agreed with her request to revive the Israel/Palestine consultations with the Quartet (the EU, UN, Russia, and the US) a promise that was subsequently followed up by Secretary Rice's visit to the Middle East which was concluded with a meeting with Merkel in Berlin, and a meeting of the Quartet was scheduled for February 2nd. …