There will be no exception on Thursday at the Federal Press Conference in Berlin – not like recently at the final of the European Football Championship, when many more spectators were allowed into the famous Wembley Stadium than the normal Covid-19 rules would have allowed. Although a grand finale is also scheduled in Berlin: The Chancellor will appear in front of the capital’s press to give her summer press conference. Like the previous 15 years. Just that it’s the last time. “Of course I know that this is now another year,” she said a year ago on August 28, 2020. Now there are only 66 days, to be precise, until the regular end of her term of office.
Normally there would be a big rush. But because there is Corona, a raffle will be drawn to see who can sit in every third seat in every second row in the hall. No exception, we’re not in England here.
Angela Merkel has made it a routine to ask herself all the questions you can ask of her every summer. She usually came to the federal press conference before her vacation, sometimes only afterwards, depending on how the situation was. And since the summer comprises three calendar months, she has thus retained a certain freedom to be able to avoid particularly unpleasant topics in terms of time.
“We make it”
In the refugee summer of 2015, she did not appear before the journalists until August 31. And after the obligatory 90 minutes it was clear that not only the Germany of tomorrow would be different. But that it was different today. It is the appearance where she says that German thoroughness is great, but that German flexibility could be more in demand now. There is this sentence that has accompanied her since then, for better or for worse: “We can do it.”
At least she has now actually made it. All indications are that she will pursue her plan to determine when she will leave office. No Chancellor has done that before. After 16 years in the Chancellery, she simply quits.
But will it be completely out? In the past few days, when she visited the floodplains and spoke to the people, an announcement was made that made people sit up and take notice. You will come back. Even if she is no longer Chancellor. “We will not forget you after a while, but will always get an idea of how things are going with the reconstruction,” she said in Bad Münstereifel in the direction of the mayor and the district administrator. On the way she was there with the Union’s candidate for chancellor, Armin Laschet. Even if she is no longer in office, she wants to stop by. You can ask her this Wednesday how she meant it exactly. And whether that would be okay with Laschet, who wants to inherit it.
“Agree what is weird”
The Chancellor’s summer press conferences are a ritual, almost a cult. They live from the brittle humor of the Chancellor, from her intellectual hooks. Almost exactly four years ago, Merkel was accused of acting like a sleeping pill in the election campaign. You do not know what the questioner’s definition of election campaign is, came back. If others said, “An election campaign is only nice when you abuse each other, then that is not my idea of an election campaign”. In any case, she could not complain that no one came “to my statements”. Statements! You have already nodded off again.
Two years ago, when the chairwoman gave the journalist the word “diagonally behind” the previous one and confusion arises, Merkel intervened: “Agree on what is weird.”
The Chancellor has had hard and not so hard summer press conferences. In 2019 the interest was particularly great because one could assume that it could be her last appearance. SPD leader Andrea Nahles had thrown, the coalition partner was headless, she had given up the CDU party chairmanship and her successor Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer struggled with starting difficulties. Merkel still had to describe to the journalists – without blushing – a government that is in working mode and not paralyzed by follow-up discussions. Today we know that it was close.
From the big topics you could see what the mood was like in the country. Banking crisis, economic crisis and then Greece, Greece, Greece. The Union was 42 percent in the polls, the AfD three. The permanent crisis in south-east Europe was only forgotten when the refugees arrived. And the AfD grew in the polls, came into the Bundestag.
Merkel has always avoided personal or emotional questions. She doesn’t work with such terms or categories. It was only in the pandemic that she allowed herself to feel; and now in the flood disaster too. When she ran through the devastated flood areas with the MS-afflicted Prime Minister of Rhineland-Palatinate, she felt that Malu Dreyer could not walk well. Angela Merkel took her by the hand, supported her. These are images that last.
Information about her summer PKs can also be found on the Chancellor’s website. They are again, of course, dust dry: “After taking office in 2005, Chancellor Angela Merkel gave her first summer press conference in 2006. For journalists in the capital, the traditional summer press conference is a good opportunity to ask questions before the Chancellor gives her The Chancellor has already been a guest at the Federal Press Conference 18 times, including the summer press conferences.