Monday

26th Aug 2019

Merkel: 'I don't feel like I'm chancellor when cooking'

  • 'I am not a feminist. Rather an interesting case,' says Merkel (Photo: Valentina Pop)

Chancellor Angela Merkel is not renowned for her humour and skills in smalltalk.

And yet the people who filled the Maxim Gorki theatre in Berlin on Thursday (2 May) were surprised to discover a light-hearted self-confident Merkel who could talk about those moments when she forgets she's a chancellor.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"Of course there are such moments. I don't feel like a chancellor when I'm stirring the (cooking) pot," she said, at the event organised women's magazine Brigitte.

Asked if she considered herself to be a feminist, the first-ever female chancellor of Germany said: "A feminist, not. Perhaps an interesting case of a woman in power, but no feminist. Real feminists would be offended if I described myself as one."

When talking about how difficult it still is for women to achieve equality, Merkel replied, smiling: "I don't think men have it easier than women these days. Fathers who take paternity leave have to fight against the same kind of stereotypes as women did."

Putting all women into one big stereotype of "woman politician" would be wrong, Merkel said. Women are very different and sometimes also very unpleasant to one another. She recalled being photographed by a female photographer when she environment minister in the 1990s . "I was shocked when I noticed that she was pointing her lens to my dirty heels. A woman, doing that. I was speechless."

And what does she like in a man? "Beautiful eyes."

If she envies men for anything, it is their deep voice. "It matters in politics. And I tend to use deeper tonalities more often," said Merkel, who as a young politician and protegee of former Chancellor Helmut Kohl was known as "Kohl's girl."

Asked by a six-year old why she wanted to become chancellor, Merkel said she entered politics during Germany's reunification: "I thought people from the ex-German Democratic Republic should take responsibility, but I didn't go into politics to become a chancellor. That question came up later, when I became head of the Christian Democratic Union."

Since she was 34 years old and already had a career as a chemistry scientist before entering politics, Merkel appreciates people who have already had some "real-life experience" before becoming politicians.

"I never wondered whether I can also do something else besides politics, because I had already done something else," she said.

Eight years into her chancellorship and with record-high popularity rates ahead of her re-election bid in September, Merkel exudes the self-confidence of someone enjoying her work.

"These meetings like the one we're just having, I am enjoying them very much because I can meet people, and I am a curious person. The thing I like best about my job is that every day brings something new."

Could a woman with small children do the job? "I hesitate to answer, because as a chancellor you have to be available all the time. Some things you just can't delegate. The same goes for small children. And if two emergencies overlap.. But then again, the father could take care of the children," said Merkel, who has no children.

She speaks fondly of her family. Her husband, Joachim Sauer, who sometimes "speaks up" about political issues. Her mother, whom she likes to visit at short-notice to avoid disappointing her by cancelling. Her siblings and friends, who act normally around her, even though it was a "learning process" not to ask her too many questions about her job.

Daughter of a protestant pastor of Polish origin, Merkel still describes herself as "religious." Christian virtues such as 'loving thy neighbour' or forgiveness are, to her mind, guiding principles in politics, too. "Faith is not something that is allocated to one day in the week when you go to church."

Often criticised as too rational and too slow in taking big decisions, such as bailing out Greece, Merkel said she simply needs time to weigh all arguments. "It is never 0-100 percent, rather 40 percent on one side and 60 percent on the other. I try to look at the whole range of arguments and then once I made up my mind, that's it, I stick to it."

Silence and time to think are often "in short supply", Merkel said. "Silence is becoming a rarity in our society. I think it was much quieter in the old days. But, of course, I come from the countryside," she quipped.

Though she might enjoy being silent, it does not mean her face is completely non-committal. "Sometimes I wish I had a poker face. But I wouldn't be human if I did. It's true my face gives me away, but I stand by it."

And if she were to be reelected?

She would spend more time on demographic challenges. Germany is ageing. People retire in their mid-sixties. But then they enjoy another 10-20 years of good health, and society does not have a role for them.

"There are all these questions about quality of life. Jobs and economic growth are important, of course. But just as important is how many people will take care of you if you are sick."

At one point, a picture projected above the stage showed her and her Social-Democrat challenger, Peer Steinbrueck. "Ah, it was from the time we were in the grand coalition. But I don't want people here to draw any conclusions," she joked.

A grand coalition with the Social Democrats is seen as a possible outcome of the elections, if neither of the camps has enough votes to govern with a junior partner.

Merkel spends family weekend with Cameron

A family week-end at a German castle allowed the German Chancellor and the British Prime Minister to seek common ground on an EU-US trade agreement and the fight against tax evasion.

Merkel shows softer side on Italian holiday

Germany's Angela Merkel - for many the incarnation of EU austerity and German rigour - has shown her softer side by visiting a waiter who lost his job.

Orban praises von der Leyen after first face-to-face

The EU Commission president-elect said she had a "good talk" with Hungary's controversial premier. Orban returned the praise, saying said the former German defence minister "thinks with [a] central Europeans' head".

Von der Leyen aims to 'rebalance Europe'

The German EU Commission president-elect hopes to bridge divisions within the EU, as she meets with EU leaders setting up her team of commissioners.

Johnson's call for new Brexit deal hits EU 'no'

The UK will not nominate a new EU commissioner, the new British PM said in his first address to parliament, and insisted that the Irish backstop can be renegotiated - without giving any specifics on alternative solutions.

News in Brief

  1. Ocean Viking to disembark in Malta after ordeal
  2. Germany joins France in world outcry on Brazil fires
  3. British people lose faith in Brexit deal
  4. Brexit hardliners want further changes to EU deal
  5. German manufacturers confirm fear of recession
  6. Belgian socialists and liberals scrap over EU post
  7. Fall in EU migration leading to UK skills shortages
  8. Switzerland makes post-Brexit flight preparations

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. Spain heading for yet another general election
  2. EU to discuss Brazil beef ban over Amazon fires
  3. 'Our house is burning,' Macron says on Amazon fires
  4. What happens when trafficking survivors get home
  5. EU states and Russia clash on truth of WW2 pact
  6. EU considers new rules on facial recognition
  7. EU to pledge Africa security funds at G7 summit
  8. Letter from the EESC on per diem article

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us