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Arrival in power of Angela Merkel


Angela Merkel, cjancellor
Angela Merkel, cjancellor

Following the September 11 attacks on the United States by terrorists in 2001, Chancellor Schröder backed a bill to deploy nearly 4,000 German troops for use in the U.S.-led war on terrorism. To win the support of pacifists within the Green Party, Schröder linked the bill to a vote of confidence in his leadership, which he survived. The deployment of German army personnel in Afghanistan to support the campaign against terrorism marked the largest deployment of German troops outside Europe since World War II.

Germany’s struggling economy had entered recession by early 2002 in the wake of a global economic slowdown. In February 2002 Germany narrowly avoided an official warning from the European Union (EU) for running a budget deficit approaching 3 percent. Budget deficits exceeding 3 percent are not allowed under the rules established by the Maastricht Treaty for adoption of the euro, the currency of the EU.

In the 2002 national elections Chancellor Schröder’s SPD-led coalition retained power by a thin margin, despite the flagging economy and persistently high unemployment. Schröder defeated his conservative challenger, Bavarian leader Edmund Stoiber of the CDU/CSU, after a contentious campaign in which Schröder’s forceful opposition to a looming U.S.-led war against Iraq became a central issue.

Schröder’s stance, which made him the first German leader since World War II to publicly oppose the United States, appeared to resonate with voters but invited strong criticism from the United States and some European members of the NATO alliance. Part of the credit for Schröder’s victory went to the Green Party, which received 8.6 percent of the vote, its best-ever showing. During the U.S.-buildup to war in Iraq, Germany sided with France and Russia in requesting further time for weapons inspectors in Iraq to complete their jobs.

Schröder declared that war should only be regarded as a matter of last resort. In March 2003 the three countries announced that they would withhold support for a United Nations (UN) resolution authorizing the U.S.-led war on Iraq; the war began later that month without UN authorization.

In late 2003 Schröder introduced Agenda 2010, a package of welfare reforms intended to boost economic growth. The package included measures to liberalize the labor market, restructure health services, and reduce unemployment benefits. A compromise deal with the CDU allowed Schröder to win parliamentary approval for the reforms, although they remained unpopular in Germany as a whole. In 2004 Schröder stepped down as leader of the SPD, saying he wanted to focus on his responsibilities as chancellor. Schröder’s move came amid sharp criticism within SPD ranks of his economic reforms. He was replaced as SPD leader by Franz Muentefering. CDU candidate Horst Köhler narrowly won election as Germany’s president, succeeding Johannes Rau of the SPD in 2004. Köhler had previously served as managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In 2005 the SPD lost a key regional election to the CDU in North Rhine-Westphalia, traditionally a stronghold of the SPD.

Analysts attributed the defeat to the country’s soaring unemployment and Schröder’s controversial reforms. Schröder said the defeat left him no choice but to seek a voter mandate for his reforms. President Köhler agreed to dissolve parliament, paving the way for a general election in September, a year ahead of schedule.

In the fall 2005 elections the Christian Democrats won a narrow victory over the Social Democrats. The close result meant that neither party was able to form a majority government with their traditional allies, forcing the two sides to enter into a so-called grand coalition. Such a government, in which the country’s two major political parties share power, had last occurred in Germany from 1966 to 1969. As part of the coalition agreement, Angela Merkel, a longtime leader of the CDU, became Germany’s new chancellor. Merkel was the first woman and first politician from the former East Germany to ascend to the position, signifying symbolic change for some Germans. Under the coalition agreement, however, Merkel appointed Social Democrats to half of the positions in her cabinet. Under the grand coalition, the economy began to rebound and unemployment dropped. However, Merkel followed a policy of budgetary restraint even as Germany headed into recession during the financial crisis of 2008. "Germany" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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