Ex-Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) answered questions from a journalist for the first time since the end of her chancellorship.
In an interview with “Spiegel” reporter Alexander Osang, the 67-year-old stated that she “imagined things differently” after leaving the Chancellery. However, after February 24, 2022, the Russian invasion of Ukraine marked a “break” that “sometimes depresses them”. According to her, the war of aggression found “no justification whatsoever”. Rather, this is a “brutal, people-disregarding attack for which there is no excuse.”
Merkel generally described the transition to government after her departure as “successful”.
The CDU politician states that, looking back on the Ukraine war, she occasionally asks herself “What was missed?” or “Could it have been prevented?”. But she also emphasized: “I don’t have to blame myself, I tried too little.”
She also clarified that “My heart has always beaten for Ukraine”. She also hopes “that Ukraine will come out of it as well as possible”.
Angela Merkel had only made a few written statements about the Russian attack on Ukraine in the past few months. Last Wednesday, the CDU politician ended her public reticence and gave the eulogy when the long-time DGB boss Reiner Hoffmann said goodbye. As Chancellor off duty, she did not want to make any assessments from the sidelines, she said.
During her farewell visit to Moscow to see Russian President Putin, the ex-Chancellor had already realized that when it came to critical questions, “you couldn’t get any further at all”.
Today the 67-year-old sums it up: “Putin’s hatred goes against the western, democratic model”. Critics, on the other hand, do not accuse her of being naïve. She has already said to various people, “You know that he wants to destroy Europe. He wants to destroy the European Union because he sees it as a precursor to NATO.”
When asked by journalist Alexander Osang whether the ex-Chancellor could explain Russian President Putin, Merkel answered evasively. In the end, however, she made it clear, “He thinks democracy is wrong.”
During her term in office, Merkel always made it a point not to let the thread of talks with Putin break. She wanted to keep a window open for diplomatic crisis solutions.
In the interview, however, the ex-chancellor was confronted with criticism from the Ukrainian ambassador Andriy Melnyk that Merkel had still not spoken to Putin on the phone since the Russian invasion began. The CDU politician replied that she would not do anything that the German government had not expressly asked her to do.
The ex-Chancellor made it clear that she “did not want to hide away” after leaving office. Rather, she said from the beginning that she would only take a break. After 16 years as chancellor, she also wanted to “do something that makes me happy”. To critics who accused her of only attending “feel-good appointments,” she replied, “Only feel-good appointments? I say yes!”
As early as mid-July 2021, Merkel had said at the award of an honorary doctorate from Johns Hopkins University in Washington that she wanted to take things slowly after the end of her 16-year term. She wanted to think about “what actually interests me”. Merkel had been Chancellor since 2005 and did not stand again in the federal elections on September 26.
According to information from those around her, the ex-chancellor relaxed in the first few weeks after leaving office near Templin in the Uckermark, where she has a house, or on long walks on the Baltic Sea. She has developed into a fan of audio books and enjoys classics such as Macbeth, the tragedy by William Shakespeare.
During a holiday in Italy with close confidants, Merkel had to realize how much she is still in the public interest and cannot go unnoticed.
It is said that Merkel wants to choose her post-office appointments in a targeted manner in order to give one or the other impetus. However, she will not make life difficult for the new federal government from the sidelines with smart-ass comments. Anyone who wants her advice can get it, but internally. Merkel has received many inquiries from the scientific community for guest professorships, but has so far turned them down. A planned book project with her memoirs is also likely to take several more years.
The appearance in the Berliner Ensemble is part of Merkel’s plan for a smooth return to public life. The background to the conversation is a book entitled “So what is my country?”, published in 2021 by Aufbau Verlag. It contains three of Merkel’s speeches: her speech on the Day of German Unity in 2021, the speech to the Israeli Knesset in 2008 and statements on her decision in 2015 to keep the German borders open in the refugee situation at the time. At the request of the former chancellor from East Germany, Merkel’s participation in the book will go to the Federal Foundation for the Reappraisal of the SED Dictatorship.
At the same time as the book was published, Merkel came up with the idea of a theater talk with a journalist.
According to reports, Merkel wants to avoid the impression that she feels like a side or shadow chancellor. She wanted to show how one could act as a former chancellor who, unlike her predecessors Helmut Kohl (CDU) and Gerhard Schröder (SPD), had not been voted out, but left office voluntarily.