Germany's Angela Merkel named as Time magazine's Person of the Year

Dr Angela Merkel holding a souvenir during her visit to the Bosch Vocational Centre on Oct 6, 2015.
Dr Angela Merkel holding a souvenir during her visit to the Bosch Vocational Centre on Oct 6, 2015.PHOTO: REUTERS

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been named by Time magazine as its Person of the Year for 2015, hailed for steering the European Union through the euro and refugee crises.

"The year 2015 marked the start of Merkel's 10th year as chancellor of a united Germany and the de facto leader of the European Union, the most prosperous joint venture on the planet. By year's end, she had steered the enterprise through not one but two existential crises, either of which could have meant the end of the union that has kept peace on the continent for seven decades," Time says in its latest issue feting the 61-year-old leader, whom it dubbed "Chancellor of the Free World".

"The first was thrust upon her—the slow-rolling crisis over the euro, the currency shared by 19 nations, all of which were endangered by the default of a single member, Greece. Its resolution came at the signature plodding pace that so tries the patience of Germans that they have made it a verb: Merkeling.

"The second was a thunderclap. In late summer, Merkel’s government threw open Germany’s doors to a pressing throng of refugees and migrants; a total of one million asylum seekers are expected in the country by the end of December. It was an audacious act that, in a single motion, threatened both to redeem Europe and endanger it," writes Times.

A pastor’s daughter who grew up in East Germany to become a scientist, Dr Merkel become Germany's first female chancellor in 2005 and clinched a third four-year term in December 2014. She has also regularly been named the world’s most powerful woman.

In response to the news, Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert was quoted by Reuters as telling a government news conference: “I am sure the Chancellor will cherish this as an incentive in her job.” 

Second in line for Time's annual accolade is the Iraq-born cleric Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, whose Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) extremist group has become the most-feared agent of terror in the world.

Ironically, US presidential candidate Donald Trump, whose anti-Muslim rhetoric has provoked widespread backlash, is in third place.

Others on the shortlist are the Black Lives Matter civil rights movement in the United States; Iranian President Hassan Rouhani; Uber founder Travis Kalanick; and former Olympic gold medallist turned transgender icon Caitlyn Jenner.

Dr Merkel is the first individual woman to hold the title in 29 years, said Reuters, though women have been honoured as part of a group. Last year, a group of Ebola doctors and survivors won the title.