"SHE HAS SHOWN SHE IS NOT AFRAID"
She has mended fences abroad, but is frustrated at home.
A pastor's daughter growing in communist East Germany, Angela Merkel was trained as a physicist, who concentrated on her science to the exclusion of all other pursuits. But Merkel, Germany's first female chancellor, has emerged as the most important leader in Europe, and enjoys the highest popularity rating of any German leader in postwar history.
A lackluster campaigner, Merkel barely scraped into office two years ago, after forging an uneasy coalition linking her Christian Democrats with their ideological rivals, the Social Democrats. Since taking office, she has been actively engaged in framing a new global agenda, from climate change and energy security to sustaining 4,000 peacekeeping troops in Afghanistan - which for Germany would have been unthinkable just a decade ago.
Merkel has shown she is not afraid to defy conventional wisdom and her willingness to resist pressures from media and business has bolstered her standing with the voters. But Merkel's most serious challenges still lie ahead of her. She has achieved record approval ratings on the strength of her foreign policy, but with economic growth slowing and workers stepping up demands for higher wages, political pressures are mounting within Merkel's coalition to backtrack on the cuts in retirement benefits and other austerity measures that propelled the recent recovery. And while her coalition has responded to the country's plunging birthrate and aging population by extending the retirement age to 67, Merkel has been frustrated in her efforts to carry out a wider restructuring of the German economy.
(Adapted from She Has Shown She Is Not Afraid, Statesmanship, Newsweek/October 29, 2007, page 19.)
In the last sentence of the text, the -ing words "plunging", "aging", "extending", and "restructuring" function, consecutively, as