Angela Merkel heckled during speech in German Bundestag
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Angela Merkel became Chancellor in November 2005, maintaining the country’s position at the European Union’s biggest economy and overseeing key policy decisions. She will step down from her position later this month. One of these key events was Brexit. Years of often extremely bitter wrangling over a number of issues relating to Britain’s departure from the EU ensued, some of which the two sides are still arguing on to this day.
Brexit is seen as a bitter blow to the EU, with campaigners from several other member states, including France, Italy and the Netherlands, pushing for their respective countries to follow Britain out of the bloc in protest at being shackled to the EU’s rules.
But when asked during an open and frank panel discussion in Dusseldorf what her hardest moment has been, Mrs Merkel opted for the devastating Eurozone crisis that threatened to bring the EU to its knees.
In 2009, EU member states Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Spain, and Cyprus found themselves unable to repay or refinance their government debt or to bail out over-indebted banks under their national supervision.
They consequently needed help from third parties like other eurozone countries, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The crisis hit Greece the hardest, with the country’s Government admitting early on its budget deficits were far higher than initially thought, and in 2010, Greece called for urgent external help received a huge EU-IMF bailout.
Eurozone members introduced a series of support measures throughout the course of that year, while the ECB lowered interest rates and provided cheap loans of more than 1trillion to maintain money flows between European banks.
In November 2010, Ireland received an EU-IMF bailout, followed by Portugal six months later in May 2011. Just two months earlier, Greece received its second huge bailout, while both Spain and Cyprus received rescue packages in June 2012.
Elsewhere during the revealing panel discussion, Mrs Merkel said one of her most satisfying moments in power was the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty, which was signed by EU member states in December 2007 and came into force two years later in 2009.
Predominantly it amended the Maastricht Treaty, implementing a number of political changes aimed at providing a much stronger foundation for the EU.
The German Chancellor also revealed one of her best moments was when the heads of state and government of the EU finally agreed to a huge coronavirus rescue package following months of bitter arguments.
When asked if she was leaving office with a clear conscience, Mrs Merkel replied with a very clear “yes”, adding to the applause from the audience: “I think I have made my contribution.”
Very little is known about what the German Chancellor will now fill her time with following endless days and long hours during her more than 30 years in politics.
When asked what her future now holds, Mrs Merkel replied: “Do I want to write? Do I want to do talks?
“Do I want to hike? Do I want to be at home? Do I want to travel the world?
“For this, I have decided I will not do anything for the time being and wait a minute to see what comes next. I think that’s very fascinating.”
Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg.
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