Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier praised former Chancellor Angela Merkel as an "unparalleled politician" who successfully steered Germany through many crises. "You have helped our country to economic success under unprecedented challenges," he said on Monday evening at the award of the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, in a special statement to the long-time CDU leader.
Steinmeier said he was happy to honor them in this way, according to the text of the speech published in advance. "To be honored, Madam Chancellor, for your extraordinarily long term of office and for your extraordinary political life, during which you used the experience of the dictatorship so convincingly to strengthen democracy."
Steinmeier awarded Merkel the highest possible award that the Federal Republic awards. Before her, only the former chancellors Konrad Adenauer and Helmut Kohl (both CDU) received this. Merkel was Chancellor from 2005 to 2021. Above the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit there is only the special level of the Grand Cross, which every Federal President automatically receives when taking office. Otherwise, it is only awarded to foreign heads of state.
"You served Germany for 16 years - with ambition, with wisdom, with passion," said Steinmeier. "You have worked for 16 long years for freedom and democracy, for our country and the well-being of its people. Tirelessly and sometimes to the limits of your physical strength." During her tenure, crises and exceptional situations followed one another and sometimes overlapped. Not many countries would have survived this phase "as well as the Federal Republic".
Merkel's successor, Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD), also attended the award ceremony. The CDU politician was able to invite around 20 guests to the small ceremony followed by dinner. In addition to their families, former companions such as the former heads of the Chancellery Thomas de Maizière, Ronald Pofalla, Peter Altmaier and Helge Braun (all CDU) were on the guest list, but nobody from the current CDU leadership or from the CSU and FDP.
Information on the Order of Merit