Germany's Merkel starts 3rd term with new allies

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 17, 2013 at 1:37 pm •  Published: December 17, 2013

BERLIN (AP) — Angela Merkel has won over Germans once again.

The 59-year-old, no-drama leader has weathered turbulent economic times, firmly establishing Germany as Europe's financial taskmaster while preserving its welfare comforts and status as a reluctant world power.

Since entering politics in her mid-30s after a career as a physicist, Merkel has earned a reputation as an effective operator on the international stage, warming ties with the U.S. that had been frayed by German opposition to the Iraq war and brokering compromises among fractious European Union leaders.

She has already achieved a number of firsts: the first German chancellor from the former communist east and the first woman to lead the country.

"It is said of her that she doesn't specify what is at the end of the journey, but she governs with a steady hand," Lothar Probst, a political scientist at the University of Bremen, told Phoenix television. "People clearly like that. They have confidence in her and she is unpretentious."

It's a style has served her well with an electorate that doesn't yearn for radical change or charismatic leaders after the turmoil of the 20th century, which saw Germany defeated in two World Wars and then divided into two rival states.

Merkel was sworn in Tuesday for a third term as chancellor at the head of a "grand coalition" of her conservative Union bloc and the center-left Social Democrats, traditional rivals who together have a huge parliamentary majority.

At home, she has taken a relentlessly pragmatic approach, nudging her conservatives toward the center on issues such as an end to military conscription and her decision to phase our nuclear power after Japan's 2011 Fukushima disaster.

Instead of oratorical flair or talk of a grand vision, Merkel projects a nurturing image of someone who occasionally does her own grocery shopping, enjoys baking and buys clothes off the rack in Berlin department stores. She and her second husband, chemistry professor Joachim Sauer, live quietly in a Berlin apartment without the trappings of the White House or Britain's No. 10 Downing Street.

Merkel returns to the chancellery as Europe is still struggling from debt-fueled recession. Germany's relations with its chief ally, the United States, are strained over reports that the American spy agency monitored her cellphone and collected electronic information from ordinary Germans, a practice that harkens back to dictatorial rule by the Nazis and East German communists.

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