Time magazine has named German chancellor Angela Merkel its Person of the Year, citing her resolve in leading Europe through this summer’s Greek debt crisis, and her encouragement of other countries to open their borders to migrants and refugees.
Merkel is only the fourth woman to ever be named Person of the Year, after Time opened up the contest to women in 1936. She is the first to be awarded the title since 1986.
By the beginning of 2015, Time said, “Merkel had already emerged as the indispensable player in managing Europe’s serial debt crises; she also led the West’s response to Vladimir Putin’s creeping theft of Ukraine”.
“But now the prospect of Greek bankruptcy threatened the very existence of the euro zone. The migrant and refugee crisis challenged the principle of open borders. And finally, the carnage in Paris revived the reflex to slam doors, build walls and trust no one.”
Merkel was described as a political climber, a practitioner of “the politics of baby steps”, either outlasting or outwitting rivals. She was born Hamburg in 1954, moved to eastern Germany as a small child, grew up behind a Soviet stockade and trained as a quantum chemist. After entering politics in her 30s, she rose through the ranks, to be elected chancellor in 2005. This is her 10th year in office. Her style of governance was described by Time as “resolutely dull”.
Nevertheless, this year, one of the most tumultuous in recent European history, has tested the German leader’s mettle, Time editors said.
“Leaders are tested only when people don’t want to follow,” Time editor Nancy Gibbs said in a statement issued Wednesday. “For asking more of her country than most politicians would dare, for standing firm against tyranny as well as expedience and for providing steadfast moral leadership in a world where it is in short supply, Angela Merkel is Time’s Person of the Year.”
“No one was tested more than her,” Gibbs said on MSNBC on Tuesday morning, in defense of Time’s choice. “She arguably could have been Person of the Year a number of times, but this year is the one I think that pushed her out in front. We call her the chancellor of the free world.”
Other finalists included the founder of Uber, the $62.5bn ride-sharing app that has been met with both resistance and enthusiasm; Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Isis terror cell; Iranian president Hassan Rouhani and Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump.