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Angela Merkel

The Chancellor and Her World
Stefan Kornelius
Alma Books

Merkel seems to be at ease with herself because she has managed to rise above the pettiness of everyday politics in what are difficult circumstances. She now rules largely unchallenged, particularly in foreign policy. While her first election in 2005 put her under an enormous amount of pressure, physically as well as mentally, she looks forward to the run-up to her potential second re-election in an intriguingly relaxed mood. She has nothing more to prove. She wants to be seen as a safe harbour in stormy seas. The PR strategists and spin doctors are lucky: at last they can use their candidate's qualities to their advantage.In this disregard for the duties of electioneering, Merkel appears almost dull. And yet that has been the secret of her success for at least eight years. Perhaps needs will change and people will yearn for a voluble, exuberant chancellor. That would not be Merkel's style. No one can imagine her being photographed in a victorious pose, like Gerhard Schroder, with all the trappings of success, such as a cigar and a long, flowing coat. The most important thing is self-control, keeping things in check, moderation. Money is not important to her, and she dislikes ostentation - whether in her predecessor or the former President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy. All she needs is the privacy of her country cottage and her rented apartment in Berlin. At the centre of this private world is Joachim Sauer, one of the best quantum chemists in the country, and renowned as such throughout the world. If in spite of the public exposure Merkel still exudes a certain mystery, Sauer really does live in a different world. This is exemplified by the way he greets any unwanted enquiries about himself: "I made the decision to have no conversations with journalists that are not about my work as a university lecturer and researcher, and which concern only my wife's political activities."

This leaves one with no choice but to respect his decision, because Sauer shuns all publicity. His political views are unknown: it is impossible to estimate what influence he might have on his wife's work. His scientific CV is nonetheless impressive, bearing witness to considerable creative powers. For example, he might be happy to talk about the interaction between gold atoms and thio-aryl-ligands on a gold surface. Angela Merkel has hardly ever mentioned the part played by Joachim Sauer in her political life. If we remember her preference for calm, analytical men who keep their distance, men like the Indian Prime Minister Singh, then her husband embodies all these qualities. She once called conversations with him "vital" in her life, and has described him as a "very good adviser". Because of the code of discretion they impose upon their lives, as a couple Merkel and Sauer have set new standards for political relationships. In doing so they have also brought the diplomatic protocol of international statesmanship into the twenty-first cen­tury. Long gone are the days when a politician and his wife had to go on foreign trips together. One reason for this might be because the politician is no longer necessarily a man, and the politician's partner not necessarily of the opposite sex. During Merkel's time as Chancellor the requirements of protocol have decreased even further, particularly regarding the antiquated tradition of "first ladies' entertainment", which is now called "spouses' agenda" - if it still exists at all...