It will be former Chancellor Angela Merkel’s first major public appearance since she left office on December 8. Will the 67-year-old distance herself from her Russia policy?
Former Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) is answering questions from a journalist for the first time since the end of her chancellorship.
Among other things, it is eagerly awaited how she will comment on her Russia policy and her relationship with President Vladimir Putin against the background of the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine. According to the invitation, the 67-year-old wants to talk to the “Spiegel” reporter Alexander Osang about “the challenging questions of our time”. The event is organized by the Aufbau Verlag and the Berliner Ensemble. Osang has portrayed Merkel several times.
Merkel on the Russian war against Ukraine
After the disaster from Union chancellor candidate Armin Laschet (CDU) in the federal elections in September 2021, Merkel received her dismissal certificate on October 26. She was still in office until her SPD successor Olaf Scholz was sworn in on December 8th. At the time, the CDU politician had announced a rest period of several months and a public break for the period after the end of office. She had only made a few written statements about the Russian attack on Ukraine in the past few months.
Last Wednesday, Merkel ended her public reluctance and gave the eulogy when the long-time DGB boss Reiner Hoffmann said goodbye. As Chancellor off duty, she did not want to make any assessments from the sidelines, she said. But Russia’s invasion marked too much a blatant breach of international law in the history of Europe after the end of the Second World War. She supports all relevant efforts by the federal government, the EU, the USA, NATO, the G7 and the UN, “that this barbaric war of aggression by Russia is stopped”.
Relationship of the former chancellor to Putin
During her term in office, Merkel always made it a point not to let the thread of talks with Putin break. She wanted to keep a window open for diplomatic crisis solutions. In the small circle she had left no doubt about her assessment of Putin as a cold, calculating tactician who she knew also had to reckon with lies. In view of Germany’s dependence on Russian energy supplies, Merkel’s handling of the Russian-German Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline has been criticized. In the meantime, SPD Chancellor Olaf Scholz has stopped the project.
The time after Merkel’s departure from office
As early as mid-July 2021, Merkel had said at the award of an honorary doctorate from Johns Hopkins University in Washington that she wanted to take things slowly after the end of her 16-year term. She wanted to think about “what really interests me”. Merkel had been Chancellor since 2005 and did not stand again in the federal elections on September 26.
According to information from those around her, the ex-chancellor relaxed in the first few weeks after leaving office near Templin in the Uckermark, where she has a house, or on long walks on the Baltic Sea. She has developed into a fan of audio books and enjoys classics such as Macbeth, the tragedy by William Shakespeare. During a holiday in Italy with close confidants, Merkel had to realize how much she is still in the public interest and cannot go unnoticed.
It is said that Merkel wants to choose her post-office appointments in a targeted manner in order to give one or the other impetus. However, she will not make life difficult for the new federal government from the sidelines with smart-ass comments. Anyone who wants her advice can get it, but internally. Merkel has received many inquiries from the scientific community for guest professorships, but has so far turned them down. A planned book project with her memoirs is also likely to take several more years.
How the event came about
The appearance in the Berliner Ensemble is part of Merkel’s plan for a smooth return to public life. The background to the conversation is a book entitled “So what is my country?”, published in 2021 by Aufbau Verlag. It contains three of Merkel’s speeches: her speech on the Day of German Unity in 2021, the speech to the Israeli Knesset in 2008 and statements on her decision in 2015 to keep the German borders open in the refugee situation at the time. At the request of the former chancellor from East Germany, Merkel’s participation in the book will go to the Federal Foundation for the Reappraisal of the SED Dictatorship.
At the same time as the book was published, Merkel came up with the idea of a theater talk with a journalist.
According to reports, Merkel wants to avoid the impression that she feels like a side or shadow chancellor. She wanted to show how one could act as a former chancellor who, unlike her predecessors Helmut Kohl (CDU) and Gerhard Schröder (SPD), had not been voted out, but left office voluntarily. According to this information, Merkel does not want to take on supervisory board mandates like Schröder, for example, with Russian gas companies. However, it is quite possible that there will soon be further public appearances in talks with journalists and also interviews again.