Europe’s new Iron Lady

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from Fortune Magazine,

There are few better ways to gauge Germany’s unique place in history, past and present, than to take a spin in one of its latest engineering marvels up a street named for the founding father of Communism, where Soviet tanks shot dead dozens of unarmed protesters in 1953. Sixty years later, both Germany’s era of Nazi dictatorship and the Cold War that followed are fading from consciousness. Berlin is now the pulsating heart of Germany and home to the single most critical person in resolving Europe’s economic crisis: German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Merkel could scarcely have imagined that role for herself in 2005 when she moved into her seventh-floor office in the postmodern Chancellery building on the Rhine. Then the unemployment rate topped 12% and the country was still reeling from the staggering cost of reuniting East and West Germany, which occurred in 1990, a year after the Berlin Wall fell. Now Germany is Europe’s biggest and strongest economy, and its 5.4% unemployment rate is the lowest in 19 years. Merkel’s initial job of stabilizing the country has given way to a far more epic task: deciding how to bail out Europe’s debt-ridden economies, or whether they merit bailing out at all.

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