Merkel vows not to become political ‘troubleshooter’ in retirement

BERLIN — Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she isn’t planning to remain on standby to help out with the crises of the day once she leaves her position at the top of Europe’s largest economy.

“I will no longer be involved in politics,” Merkel said during an interview on her political legacy with Deutsche Welle released Sunday. “I won’t be a troubleshooter for political conflicts. I’ve done that for many years, 16 years as federal chancellor.”

Merkel said her immediate plan after leaving office once a new government is formed — at this stage likely to be in early December should three-way coalition talks go to schedule — is to sleep and read.

“It’s simply the case that I was, for many years, very much preoccupied with the agenda that was set for me and I always had to be on standby,” said Merkel. “You have to do that as head of government, if something happens, so that you can always respond to it immediately. Now I’m going to look at what I’d like to do by choice. But that will become clear only in a few months from now.”

During the 20-minute interview, Merkel repeatedly stressed her commitment to multilateralism and said she will miss French President Emmanuel Macron and other leaders.

On climate policy, Merkel — who served as federal environment minister in the 1990s — said she understood pressure from young people to move faster on tackling climate change.

“Never before has the gap between scientific estimates and reality widened still further. That has to change now in this decade,” said Merkel, while discussions on meeting climate targets continue in Glasgow at the COP26 summit.

“We’re not doing too badly in Germany compared with other countries,” she added.

Merkel also said one of her most challenging moments came in 2015 when the country saw a major influx of refugees from war-torn countries like Syria and Afghanistan. She famously said at the time “we can do it” (wir schaffen das), opening the country’s borders to asylum seekers in a controversial decision.

“Yes, we did it,” Merkel said in the Deutsche Welle interview, but acknowledged that “not everything went exactly as it should.” 

“Of course, we are not out of the woods yet when it comes to fighting the root causes of displacement and migration,” she said. “We have not yet managed to give Europe a common system for addressing asylum and migration.”

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