Merkel bids farewall to Facebook ahead of planned exit from politics

German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced Friday she would close her Facebook account, taking another step in a long farewell from politics in her final term in office.

Merkel bids farewall to Facebook ahead of planned exit from politics
Angela Merkel at the CDU conference in December, when she stepped down as party leader. Photo: DPA

In a short video, Merkel thanked her more than 2.5 million followers on the social media site and asked them to keep watching her work on her official government site and on Instagram.

Having run the biggest EU economy since 2005, Merkel last year stood down as party leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), a post now held by her preferred successor, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.

“Today is the day I would like to thank you for supporting my Facebook page in great numbers,” Merkel said. “You know I am no longer CDU leader, so I will now close my Facebook page.”

Although some observers have speculated Merkel may in future seek a senior UN or EU post, the 64-year-old has signalled she will not go for a new political job after her term ends in 2021.

SEE ALSO: End of an era: What  you need to know about Merkel's planned departure

Merkel has served a marathon stretch as chancellor but faced major domestic headwinds after her 2015 decision to keep open German borders to a mass influx of mostly Muslim refugees, many from war-torn Syria.

While many wished her well in the Facebook comments section Friday, others vented their anger by demanding she quickly bow out of the chancellery as well.

Merkel, who is not on Twitter, had only occasionally used the Facebook page.

In its “about” section, the site said Merkel enjoys the writings of Fyodor Dostoevsky, the music of Richard Wagner and the Beatles, the German crime TV show “Tatort” and the movie “Out Of Africa”.

While her listed hobbies are gardening, hiking and cooking, her personal “dream” may offer a clue to her retirement plans: “a trip with the Trans-Siberian Railway from Moscow to Vladivostok”.

As her favourite quotation, Facebook lists a sentence from post-war CDU chancellor Konrad Adenauer: “Politics is not about just being right, but about being proven right in the end.”

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How Germany is reacting to far-right election victory in Italy

While far-right groups have been celebrating, other politicians in Germany see the results as worrying. Here's a look at the reaction.

How Germany is reacting to far-right election victory in Italy

According to initial projections following Italy’s election on Sunday, the coalition led by Georgia Meloni and her radical right-wing Fratelli d’Italia party has won a majority of seats in the two chambers of the Italian parliament and will lead the next government. 

Meloni is a euro-sceptic who has previously spoken about having an “aversion” to Germany and referred to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz as “socialist” while on the campaign trail.

However, Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s deputy spokesman Wolfgang Buechner told reporters on Monday: “We of course have to wait for the official final result from this election but at this time what the chancellor would say is that Italy is a very Europe-friendly country with very Europe-friendly citizens and we assume that won’t change.” 

READ ALSO: What will a far-right government mean for Italy?

A Finance Ministry spokesperson added that Berlin expected the new Italian government to continue to respect the stability pact that sets the fiscal rules for the eurozone.

Despite these reassurances from the central government, German politicians in the EU parliament have expressed concern about the new direction for Italy.  

Rasmus Andresen, spokesman for the German Greens in the EU Parliament, said the “unprecedented Italian slide to the right” will have massive repercussions for Europe and for the European Union.

“Italy, as a founding member and the third strongest economy in the EU, is heading for an anti-democratic and anti-European government.”

Though Meloni no longer wants Italy to leave the eurozone, she has said that Rome must assert its interests more and has policies that look set to challenge Brussels on everything from public spending rules to mass migration.

The Greens’ co-leader in Brussels, Thomas Waitz, told Die Welt that the EU can only function if it sticks together, for example on cooperation in energy markets, decisions on Russian sanctions or dealing with the Covid crisis. “Meloni, on the other hand, would back national go-it-alones. It can be a disaster for Europe,”  he said. 

READ ALSO: Euro falls to 20-year low against US dollar

The FDP’s expert on Europe, Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, takes a similar view. He said on ARD’s Morgenmagazin that cooperation with Italy in the European Union will become more difficult. He said that it will now be much more difficult to achieve unity in Europe, especially on the issues of migration, reform of the Stability and Growth Pact and the single market.

Speaking on RTL, Green Party leader Omid Nouripour called the election results in Italy “worrying” and pointed out that people within the Italian right-wing nationalist alliance have “very close entanglements with the Kremlin”.

“We can’t rule out the possibility that people in Moscow also popped the corks last night,” he said.

Germany’s own far-right party – Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) – has been celebrating the victory. 

AfD member of the Bundestag Beatrix von Storch wrote “We cheer with Italy!” on Twitter late Sunday evening.

Referring to the recent elections in Sweden, where the right was also successful, von Storch wrote: “Sweden in the north, Italy in the south: left-wing governments are so yesterday.”

Her party colleague Malte Kaufmann tweeted, “A good day for Italy – a good day for Europe.”

With reporting from AFP