A.When faced with a conference room-sized auditorium packed with national and international press for the last time in his 16-year tenure, he had the feeling that the room was simultaneously listening to two very different people in Angela Merkel.
One was Merkel, the politician, who was not afraid to speak out about her achievements, who patted herself on the back for diplomatic victories and deftly manipulated the answers to difficult questions. The other was Merkel, the scientist, who found it difficult to avoid uncomfortable truths and instinctively wanted to scrutinize her doppelganger’s record.
Merkel’s training as a quantum chemist has always set her apart from the male lawyers, economists and journalists who held the highest office in German politics before her, as she reminded her audience Thursday morning in the latest issue of her press. annual summer. conferences before she resigns in two months.
At best, the scientific background has made Merkel a politician with an unusually high awareness that there is an objective reality that, at best, political language can mimic but rarely touch.
One of the recent trends in Western democracies that concerned him most, he said, was a “mix of feelings and facts” fueled by social media, a phenomenon that he felt had the potential to unleash the achievements of the Enlightenment. “These are two separate categories: feelings are feelings and facts are facts.”
Her inability to let politics turn into slogans is surprising, even more so when compared to some British prime ministers.
When asked if there had been a distinctly feminine quality to her leadership, politician Merkel briefly smelled a catchy line. “At the end of the day, women have a certain yearning for efficiency.”
But even when her joke drew laughter in the room, Merkel, the scientist, began to row backwards, imagining the headlines in horror: You couldn’t generalize about male and female behavior as such, she clarified, women were more different than usual. they looked alike.
At worst, as when addressing the controversial Nord Stream II pipeline between Germany and Russia, Merkel speaks like a scientist about what political decisions are, presenting options as unavoidable procedures.
The agreement with the US, which commits Germany to sanction Russia if it tries to use the energy supply as a geopolitical lever but allows the completion of the gas pipeline, was “a good step that does not overcome all the divergences,” Merkel said, making make it look like a dispute resolution workshop rather than a concrete project that places Germany’s industrial interests above the concerns of its eastern European and Baltic neighbors.
However, on climate change, the issue is likely to dominate her last two months in office, Merkel, the scientist, is making herself heard against Merkel, the politician, stronger than usual.
“Germany has done a lot,” he insisted, advocating the expansion of renewable energy and the reduction of carbon emissions under his supervision.
But the scientist did not let her finish. Measured against the target for limit global warming Well below 2 ° C, preferably 1.5 ° C, above pre-industrial levels, he said: “What has been achieved is not enough.”
Then, as a policy, he added: “I am of the opinion that I have invested a lot of energy in protecting the climate.” The scientist continued: “And yet I am equipped with enough sense for science to see that objective circumstances demand that we cannot continue at the current rate, but must accelerate the rate.”
A true political animal would have used his last major press conference to defend the designated successor who will continue his legacy or verbally sabotage his competitors. However, Merkel indirectly distanced herself from Armin Laschet, the new leader of her Christian Democratic Union, when she insisted that overall rates of new Covid-19 infections should continue to play a central role when considering pandemic restrictions; Laschet wants intensive care bed occupancy to become a more important indicator.
When a journalist suggested that her potential successor had not understood the challenge of the climate crisis or the mechanics behind the growth of the pandemic, Merkel responded without using Laschet’s name. “I think everyone has already understood how exponential growth works.” It sounded like the opposite of enthusiastic endorsement.