Angela Merkel is stepping down as German Chancellor today after 16 years in power, ending a term that has redefined not just the country but also the political make-up of Europe.
The 67-year-old once dubbed ‘das Mädchen’ (the girl), leaves office as ‘Mutti’ (mother) to the nation, a moniker she earned to reflect her empathetic but also formidable nature.
Merkel became Germany’s first female chancellor on November, 2005, and leaves office as one of its longest serving leaders, finally handing over power to Olaf Scholz and the centre-left Social Democrats.
Her departure marks the end of an era for Germany which saw the country establish itself as the de-facto leader of Europe, cement its status as an economic super-power, and wield considerable influence on the global stage.
She served alongside five British prime ministers, four American presidents, four French presidents, and eight Italian premiers.
Merkel has steered Germany through the 2007 recession and subsequent Greek debt crisis, the 2016 Berlin terror attack, Brexit, Trump’s presidency and Covid – winning widespread praise for her pragmatism and competence, despite the EU hamstringing her vaccine drive.
But her legacy also bears the stain of the 2015 migrant crisis – during which she threw open Europe’s doors to millions of refugees and asylum seekers while infamously declaring ‘we can do this.’
As people poured across the Mediterranean and Europe’s eastern border – including future terror attackers – Merkel watched her approval rating plummet while far-right parties such as the AfD capitalised on anti-migrant sentiment to return to the corridors of power after a decades-long absence.
During her tenure, Merkel has appeared in many memorable photos. Here MailOnline relives them all, from staring down Trump at the G7, being pecked by parrots and meeting with the Queen at Windsor Castle.
Leader of Europe: Angela Merkel leans on the table with both hands as she and her EU allies confront Donald Trump, who sits with his arms folded in defiance, at the G7 summit in La Malbaie, Quebec, Canada, June 9, 2018. In Trump, Merkel would find an insurmountable opponent and the damage done to relations between Berlin and Washington is still being repaired today. The TV showman was elected on an isolationist mandate, he continually attacked Germany for its meagre military spending and claimed that Berlin was beholden to Moscow because of a proposed new gas pipeline. Their first encounter was brutally awkward, with Merkel offering a ceremonial handshake for the cameras which Trump seemed to spurn. She had tried a charm offensive and failed. After the photographers left, Trump reportedly announced: ‘Angela, you owe me one trillion dollars.’ The pressure continued as world leaders attended the G7 summit in 2018, with Merkel wishing to unite the free world against Vladimir Putin. ‘What good is NATO if Germany is paying Russia billions of dollars for gas and energy? The U.S. is paying for Europe’s protection, then loses billions on Trade. Must pay 2% of GDP IMMEDIATELY, not by 2025,’ Trump tweeted. The president’s tweets exposed a bitter truth for Germany and Europe: they have long relied upon the United States and had allowed their armies to dwindle.
Merkel is glamorous at the opera: Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg (R) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) during the inauguration of the new opera building in Oslo, Norway, 12 April 2008. The photo was later used in campaign posters by the CDU, sparking outrage during the federal election campaign of 2009.
‘My closest ally’: Barack Obama looks relaxed in Merkel’s company as she hosts the American leader at Schloss Elmau hotel near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, during the G-7 summit, June 8, 2015. By the end of Obama’s second term the pair were speaking on the phone once a week and she even appeared to tear up when Obama visited Berlin in late 2016. The pair held a press conference at which Obama called her his ‘closest ally’ in what was widely interpreted as the passing of the baton of liberal democracy to Germany after Donald Trump won the general election. Obama’s final phone call as U.S. President was to Merkel, during which he thanked her for her ‘strong, courageous, and steady leadership’ and expressed ‘appreciation for their personal friendship.’
German Chancellor Angela Merkel feeds Australian lorikeets at Marlow Bird Park in Marlow, Germany, Thursday September 23, 2021. Outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel provided a rare splash of colour amid Germany’s staid election campaign while visiting a bird park where she posed with half a dozen parrots. Not content with the bird feed on offer, one of the rainbow lorikeets took a peck at the long-time German leader’s hand, prompting a theatrical scream from Merkel.
Brexit beginnings: David Cameron and Merkel pull faces as they prepare to pose for the ‘family photo’ at an EU summit in Brussels in December 2015. Some say the chancellor was one of the instigators of Brexit after refusing to throw David Cameron a lifeline on immigration ahead of the referendum. There followed years of wrangling, with both parties failing to compromise and settle on the future relationship between Britain and its biggest trading partner.
Prost! Merkel holds a beer mug after her speech at the Trudering fest on May 28, 2017 in Munich, Germany
Auf wiedersehen: Merkel arrives to take her seat followed by former German President Joachim Gauck and former President of the Bundestag Wolfgang Thierse (right) during the official handover of power at the Bundestag on Wednesday
Merkel pulls a face in a hand mirror during the reception of the members of the Homburger Carnival Club at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, 23 January 2017
Le Grand Séducteur: The famously romantic French President Jacques Chirac looks enamoured as he plants a kiss on Merkel’s hand at the chancellery in Berlin, May 3, 2007. At the time Merkel was perhaps underestimated as ‘shy’ by the French public compared to the ‘charmer’ Chirac.
Mutti cool: Merkel wears safety goggles while watching an experiment in the DLR_School_Lab Koln during a visit of the European Astronauts Center (EAC) of the European Space Ageny (ESA) on May 18, 2016 in Cologne, Germany
Merkel enters a submarine of type 212A in Rostock-Warnemuende, Germany, 31 August 2006
East meets West: Merkel purses her lips alongside Vladimir Putin as the pair meet for talks in Dresden, on October 10, 2006. Merkel, who grew up behind the Iron Curtain in Eastern Germany, perhaps knew much more than any of her predecessors about Russian culture. Although deeply strained, the relationship never snapped. As Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper put it ahead of their final meeting in August: ‘No other politicians on the global stage have been so good at getting on badly over such a long time as these two.’
Das Mädchen: Merkel as vice-chancellor alongside her former mentor Chancellor Helmut Kohl during a party conference in Dresden, Germany, 16 December 1991. In December 1990, Merkel won a seat in the Bundestag and was appointed minister for women and youth by Chancellor Helmut Kohl in January 1991. Kohl became her political mentor and referred to her as ‘mein Madchen’ (‘my girl’). But over the next decade Merkel would make fools of any who dared underestimate her, becoming Kohl’s political executioner and snatching the CDU leadership after a donations scandal.
The royal wiedersehen: Queen Elizabeth II receives Merkel at Windsor Castle in Berkshire in July. Merkel went to Windsor Castle for a last official audience with the monarch after talks with Boris Johnson at Chequers. It was the second time they met within a few weeks, after they were seen together at the G7 summit in Cornwall in June. She and the Queen posed for the cameras this afternoon, with Her Majesty telling the German leader they were ‘making history’
Die Mannschaft: Merkel congratulates the Mesut Ozil after Germany beat Turkey in a Euro 2012 qualifier at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin
Sports fan: Merkel celebrates Germany’s 2-0 goal during the FIFA World Cup against Portugal in Brazil in 2014. Die Mannschaft went on to win the tournament. And giving away soccer balls to children during a visit of the Kibbutz Sde Boker with Israeli President Schimon Peres in Israel in March 2008.
Fighting talk: Merkel holds her fists up as she chats with a soldier in heavy bomb disposal armour during a visit to the troops in Letzlingen, eastern Germany in November 2006
‘We can do this’: Merkel poses for a selfie with Anas Modamani, a refugee from Syria, after she visited the AWO Refugium Askanierring shelter for migrants and refugees on September 10, 2015 in Berlin, Germany. Her legacy bears the stain of the 2015 migrant crisis – during which she threw open Europe’s doors to millions of refugees and asylum seekers while infamously declaring ‘we can do this.’ As people poured across the Mediterranean and Europe’s eastern border – including future terror attackers – Merkel watched her approval rating plummet while far-right parties such as the AfD capitalised on anti-migrant sentiment to return to the corridors of power after a decades-long absence. Germany still lives in the shadow of that moment – with far-right terror groups and hate crimes on the rise – and must now find a way out without Merkel, who departs with no obvious successor to her legacy.
Merkel gets to know the robot Asimo (Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility) next to the museum’s director Mamoru Mohri at the Miraikan Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in Daiba, Tokyo, Japan, 09 March 2015
Boys club: Merkel, who became a role model for women as the country’s first female chancellor, sits with the most powerful men in the world at the G8 Summit in Heiligendamm, Germany, 07 June 2007. From left: French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Merkel, U.S. President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair
Peaceful embrace: Merkel hugs French President Emmanuel Macron as they visit Compiegne, north of Paris, in November 2018. The site is famous for where Germany signed the armistice in 1918 and Hitler forced France to accept defeat in 1940
‘Class and dignity’: President George W. Bush and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, laugh during a joint news conference at the White House on Jan. 13, 2006, in Washington. Bush, whose relationship with Merkel’s predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder, soured over the latter’s opposition to the U.S.-led war in Iraq, said that ‘Angela came in and changed that completely … Angela Merkel brought class and dignity to a very important position and made very hard decisions … and did so based upon principle,’ Bush told German broadcaster Deutsche Welle in July. He described her as ‘a compassionate leader, a woman who was not afraid to lead.’
Career politician meets showman: Merkel pulls a face as she listens to Trump speaking at a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, USA, 17 March 2017
Merkel (right) and her husband, Joachim Sauer, take a walk in the coastal town of Sant’Angelo d’Ischia on the Island of Ischia during their Easter holiday. She and the German quantum chemist married in 1998. Sauer has kept a very low profile throughout his wife’s political career
Ice cool: Merkel sits on a rock in front of the Eqi Glacier in lulissat, Greenland, Denmark, 17 August 2007
Barrels of fun: Bush gestures with a herring barrel in his arm next to German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the market square of Stralsund, Germany, 13 July 2006
Farewell USA: Merkel and U.S. President Joe Biden walk to the joint press conference at the White House on July 15, 2021 in Washington, DC, on what was her last visit to the States as German chancellor
‘Mummy’ May and Mutti: Theresa May and German Chancellor Angela Merkel share a joke at a round table meeting on April 10, 2019 in Brussels, Belgium. Their relationship was strained by the ongoing Brexit wranglings
She leads the way: Merkel, centre, is surrounded by other leaders as they walk to pose for a photo at the G8 Summit in Heiligendamm, Germany, June 7, 2007
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, walk through the garden of the government guest house Meseberg Palace during a meeting in Meseberg, about 43 miles north on Berlin, May 29, 2017
Johnson, left, greets German Chancellor Angela Merkel as she arrives at the COP26 U.N. Climate Summit in Glasgow, Scotland, on Nov. 1, 2021
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, talks to Chinese President Xi Jinping during a signing ceremony of various contracts between Germany and China at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, on March 28, 2014
Merkel presenting a tap-proof mobile phone of Blackberry at a booth of Secusmart during the opening round tour of the world’s largest computer expo CeBIT in Hanover, Germany, March, 2013
Merkel sits between Putin and Bush as world leaders posed for a family photo in front of the Kurhaus building in Heiligendamm, northeastern Germany, during their first working session of the G8 summit
Merkel smiles as she closes her eyes while holding a press conference in Berlin after conservatives and the Social Democrats sealed a deal on a new coalition in February 2018
Raining on her parade: Merkel holds up her hands as it begins to rain during her speech at an election campaign event on Norderney island, Germany, 17 August 2009