“Now I am free,” says the former federal chancellor after 16 years at the head of the German government and 30 years of political career
Former Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel has defended the construction of the controversial Russo-German gas pipeline «Nord Stream 2», unopened due to the invasion of Ukraine, and recognized that her influence over the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, faded as the end of his term at the end of 2021. In a long interview published this Saturday by the German Newsroom Network (RND), the conservative politician also reveals personal details for the first time after his abandonment of power and the end of his long political career 30 years old, 16 of them as head of the German government. “Now I am free,” says Merkel relieved, who emphasizes that this is a great feeling. “I deserve it, because I think I have worked for a long time,” she highlights, while she acknowledges that at the end of her political stage “she was already quite exhausted”, although she did not feel like “a half-dead wretch” .
«The price is the renunciation to a large extent of the private sphere and the availability at all hours. Always, at any time of the day or night, it doesn’t matter if it’s Christmas or New Year. The position always had priority », she underlines when explaining the personal efforts that her position at the head of the German executive entailed, also the former president of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU). Even when her mother passed away in April 2019, just days before a European Union summit, she lacked time to mourn her death. “That is part of the disposition at all hours. When there is an EU council, there is an EU council. When there is a night session, there is a night session. And if I’m not in bed with a fever of 40, then I attend the EU council,” says Merkel, for whom these sacrifices are an inseparable part of the work of any ruler.
The former chancellor expressly defends the construction of the “Nord Stream 2” gas pipeline after Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014, thinking above all of the German economy. “I did not believe in changes through trade, but in relations through trade, specifically with the second nuclear power in the world,” he highlights, while explaining that he considered that gas pipeline defensible after the negotiations of the Minsk Peace Agreement for eastern Ukraine, although it was not an easy decision. “The thesis at the time was that when ‘Nord Stream 2’ came into operation, Putin would stop supplying gas through Ukraine or even attack it,” says the former chancellor, who then underlines that the West made sure that the gas continued to flow through Ukraine so that it would continue to pay transit fees. Putin then invaded Ukraine on February 24, despite the fact that ‘Nord Stream 2’ had not circulated even a cubic meter of gas. “In that sense the gas was not a weapon,” says Merkel.
He also assures that even then energy prices were high due to the promotion of renewables, the closure of nuclear plants in Germany and the beginning of the end of the coal era. “The German economy then decided to transport gas through gas pipelines from Russia, because economically it was cheaper than liquefied gas from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and later from the United States,” he adds, to point out that politically it was a matter of deciding whether to buy the more expensive and ecologically more controversial liquefied gas instead of Russian gas “against the wishes of the industry, against the industrial strength of Germany.” The lack of maritime terminals in Germany to receive liquefied gas is also due to the lack of interest of German companies due to its high price.
As for her personal influence over the head of the Kremlin, the former federal chancellor admits that this was significantly reduced at the end of her mandate. “It was clear that he was not going to be in office much longer and I had to verify that several attempts (to influence him) during the past year no longer had any effect,” says Merkel, who does not rule out that Putin waited for his retirement. of active politics to initiate its military offensive. “My march could have been a contribution, like the elections in France, the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and the break in the application of the Minsk Agreement,” says the conservative politician. “On the other hand, I did not manage to create, together with the Normandy Format, a supplementary format of Russian-European dialogue for a European security order,” admits Merkel, who was asked if she is willing to personally mediate in the conflict between Moscow and kyiv. he states bluntly that ‘that question does not arise now’.
Returning to her personal experiences, Angela Merkel reveals that the most stressful time of her mandate was the refugee crisis of 2015 and 2016, when Germany received more than a million asylum seekers who arrived via the Balkan route. . “It was an extremely hard time, but in which I felt strong inside,” says the former chancellor, who says that the debate that opened then was worthwhile and points out that she had proceeded inspired by the Christian values of the CDU and the German Constitution: «My performance in 2015 was based from my point of view on the C of my party and article one of the fundamental law». For Merkel, this is undoubtedly “the most emotional phase of my entire term as chancellor.” Despite the criticism received then from some sectors of society and from her own party, she rules out that it is “not at all the lowest point (of her mandate) for her. Some conflict over the coronavirus has affected me much more.”
Asked about her plans now that she has time at her whim, the East German politician explains that she wants to get to know and tour the western part of Germany. “I have rarely been in the old federal states without having to fulfill a commitment. I have not visited places like the Loreley, the meanders of the Moselle, nor have I been alone in the cathedrals of Trier and Speyer”, she comments, while acknowledging that in this new stage of her life she will be able to do many things that normal people do and she couldn’t because of her charge. «Now I access that part of my life that until now was closed to me. As a person,” says Angela Merkel, who considers it a great honor to have practiced as a politician for three decades and stresses that she will write, together with her personal secretary, Beate Baumann, a book in which she will address her childhood and youth in the former German Democratic Republic.