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Merkel to court Chinese help for euro crisis

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is set to make her second trip of the year to China this week, with her eyes on getting Chinese support for the European debt crisis.

Merkel to court Chinese help for euro crisis
Merkel with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in Hannover in April. Photo: DPA

Merkel is expected to arrive on Thursday with nine ministers and a contingent of elite business representatives for talks with Premier Wen Jiabao and a joint cabinet meeting.

Analysts say Beijing considers Germany a key player in tackling the eurozone debt crisis, and Merkel is increasingly viewed as the gatekeeper for the rest of Europe, Hans Kundnani of the think-tank European Council on Foreign Relations, told AFP.

“China is increasingly looking to her for answers,” Kundnani said.

Europeans have expressed hope that China could deploy some of its huge foreign currency reserves to invest in EU bailout funds, although at present there is little sign of this happening.

Germany and China will also be looking to strengthen their own economic ties.

Germany is China’s top trade partner in the EU – nearly half of all European exports to China come from Germany. Meanwhile, Germany buys nearly a quarter of all China’s EU imports.

Gu Junli, an expert in Germany at the government-backed Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, said the focus of Merkel’s visit would be at least as much on bilateral economic cooperation as on Europe’s sovereign debt crisis.

“Germany’s technology has a dominant position, but it needs a market and China is a big market,” said Gu, citing energy, environmental protection and manufacturing as possible areas of cooperation.

Human rights activists are also hopeful that Merkel will broach human non-economic issues with Wen, including Beijing’s record on Syria, press freedom and Tibet.

China has repeatedly joined Russia to block Western attempts to pass Security Council resolutions aimed at tackling the deadly violence in Syria.

Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters on Monday the chancellor would raise the issue of press freedom with Wen amid complaints of a “deteriorating situation” for German journalists in China.

On Wednesday, Der Spiegel reported that two young Tibetans died after setting themselves on fire in southwest China to protest the Chinese government.

An unnamed German official confirmed to AFP that “There is a very trusting relation between the chancellor and Premier Wen, which means that topics like this can be discussed.” However, the official, who requested anonymity, it did “not mean that this will be discussed in detail publicly afterwards.”

The Local/AFP/sh

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POLITICS

Sleep, seaside, potato soup: What will Merkel do next?

 After 16 years in charge of Europe's biggest economy, the first thing Angela Merkel wants to do when she retires from politics is take "a little nap". But what about after that?

Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel briefly closes her eyes and smiles at a 2018 press conference in Berlin.
Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel briefly closes her eyes at a 2018 press conference in Berlin. Aside from plans to take "a little nap" after retiring this week, she hasn't given much away about what she might do next. Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP

The veteran chancellor has been tight-lipped about what she will do after handing over the reins to her successor Olaf Scholz on December 8th.

During her four terms in office, 67-year-old Merkel was often described as the most powerful woman in the world — but she hinted recently that she will not miss being in charge.

“I will understand very quickly that all this is now someone else’s responsibility. And I think I’m going to like that situation a lot,” she said during a trip to Washington this summer.

Famous for her stamina and her ability to remain fresh after all-night meetings, Merkel once said she can store sleep like a camel stores water.

But when asked about her retirement in Washington, she replied: “Maybe I’ll try to read something, then my eyes will start to close because I’m tired, so I’ll take a little nap, and then we’ll see where I show up.”

READ ALSO: ‘Eternal’ chancellor: Germany’s Merkel to hand over power
READ ALSO: The Merkel-Raute: How a hand gesture became a brand

‘See what happens’
First elected as an MP in 1990, just after German reunification, Merkel recently suggested she had never had time to stop and reflect on what else she might like to do.

“I have never had a normal working day and… I have naturally stopped asking myself what interests me most outside politics,” she told an audience during a joint interview with Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

“As I have reached the age of 67, I don’t have an infinite amount of time left. This means that I want to think carefully about what I want to do in the next phase of my life,” she said.

“Do I want to write, do I want to speak, do I want to go hiking, do I want to stay at home, do I want to see the world? I’ve decided to just do nothing to begin with and see what happens.”

Merkel’s predecessors have not stayed quiet for long. Helmut Schmidt, who left the chancellery in 1982, became co-editor of the weekly newspaper Die Zeit and a popular commentator on political life.

Helmut Kohl set up his own consultancy firm and Gerhard Schroeder became a lobbyist, taking a controversial position as chairman of the board of the Russian oil giant Rosneft.

German writer David Safier has imagined a more eccentric future for Merkel, penning a crime novel called Miss Merkel: Mord in der Uckermark  that sees her tempted out of retirement to investigate a mysterious murder.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel forms her trademark hand gesture, the so-called “Merkel-Raute” (known in English as the Merkel rhombus, Merkel diamond or Triangle of Power). (Photo by Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP)
 

Planting vegetables
Merkel may wish to spend more time with her husband Joachim Sauer in Hohenwalde, near Templin in the former East Germany where she grew up, and where she has a holiday home that she retreats to when she’s weary.

Among the leisure activities she may undertake there is vegetable, and especially, potato planting, something that she once told Bunte magazine in an interview in 2013 that she enjoyed doing.

She is also known to be a fan of the volcanic island of D’Ischia, especially the remote seaside village of Sant’Angelo.

Merkel was captured on a smartphone video this week browsing the footwear in a Berlin sportswear store, leading to speculation that she may be planning something active.

Or the former scientist could embark on a speaking tour of the countless universities from Seoul to Tel Aviv that have awarded her honorary doctorates.

Merkel is set to receive a monthly pension of around 15,000 euros ($16,900) in her retirement, according to a calculation by the German Taxpayers’ Association.

But she has never been one for lavish spending, living in a fourth-floor apartment in Berlin and often doing her own grocery shopping.

In 2014, she even took Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to her favourite supermarket in Berlin after a bilateral meeting.

So perhaps she will simply spend some quiet nights in sipping her beloved white wine and whipping up the dish she once declared as her favourite, a “really good potato soup”.

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