"When Chancellor Angela Merkel began her keynote address to the World Economic Forum, her first reference was to the 18th century philosopher from Koenigsberg, Immanuel Kant. Yet despite a Teutonic speaking style, Mrs. Merkel delivered the most American of speeches. I lost count of the number of times she used the word "freedom" sometime after the 10th reference. And that’s to say nothing of her statement that "Christian values" were the foundation stone of her politics. No wonder George W. Bush likes this lady.
"Increasing freedom has always led to improvements in Germany," she said, citing the great free-market guru (and architcect of West Germany’s postwar economic boom) Ludwig Erhard. She railed against the heavy hand of German bureaucracy on German innovation and entreprenuership. Computers were a German invention yet where, she asked, was the German equivalent to a Microsoft or a Google? She described German unemployment, which has hovered around 10% for more than a decade, as "terrifying." She was equally scathing of the political environment she’s inherited. "We are paralysed by events and situations and don’t seem to be able to overcome this," said Mrs. Merkel. "Each rule and regulation has a political lobby associated with it," she said, calling Germany’s problems "self-inflicted." On the solution side, Mrs. Merkel was clear in direction, if not in details. "We have to open the windows, breathe deeply the fresh air and see the opportunities rather than the risks and hazards," she said. Germany "must become more flexible, develop better benchmarking, become less rigid in its laws and above all tackle bureaucracy." She called for a "viable" tax system and reduced labor costs. She also urged free trade, lamenting the failure of the WTO talks in Hong Kong (thanks to French obstruction). The chancellor referred to Britain as a role model for economic reform, reminding her audience why she’s known as "Maggie" Merkel."
This from BusinessWeek:
"Merkel’s Davos performance was only the latest in a series of coups for the Chancellor. Since she was chosen in November to lead a coalition government of her Christian Democrats and the center-left Social Democrats, Merkel has repaired relations with the U.S., strained by the Iraq war. She also has displayed a new toughness toward Russia by visiting human-rights groups during a trip in January to see Russian President Vladimir Putin."
This from The Australian:
"German Chancellor Angela Merkel has promised a free-market revolution in Europe’s biggest and most troubled economy, dismantling the mass of regulations that have been built up over recent decades. She said Germany must follow the economic policies of Britain, earning loud applause from the audience of leading capitalists at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Using language almost identical to that used by Margaret Thatcher when she was the British prime minister, the centre-right leader mapped out a U-turn in her country’s treasured social model, repeatedly emphasising that Germans must stop fearing the world, embrace freedom and learn to take responsibility for their own lives instead of looking to the state. She said that rules introduced by previous governments to protect workers were strangling initiative, and had led to "terrifyingly high unemployment".
And the FT:
"Angela Merkel, the new German chancellor, enjoys higher approval ratings than her two predecessors ever achieved – and an important factor is the rebounding economy. The latest Ifo business climate survey shows that Germany has become an economy oozing with confidence, with the index back to levels last seen in 1999-2000."