She has been his political compass in recent years. And hes her most loyal ally. But Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister Mark Rutte have to put it without each other soon. Angela Merkel is no longer running in the German elections on September 26.
And that brings an end to one of the longest political alliances in Western Europe. Today they opened a Vermeer exhibition together in Dresden, probably their last time together as counterparts.
This meant the two leaders to each other:
Merkel as a political compass
The cooperation between the two heads of government was intensive. Rutte met Merkel at the Brussels European Council in autumn 2010. He was just Prime Minister at the time. Rutte, like more European counterparts, was deeply impressed by the German Chancellors file knowledge.
“Although it is impossible to control every issue in detail, Merkel always makes sure she is the best prepared person at the table on the most important files,” says correspondent Wouter Zwart. “Rutte acknowledges that he looked at this negotiating tactic from her, to have an edge over the rest at European summits.”
Merkel has really been Ruttes compass, says Arjan Noorlander, political diver of Nieuwsuur. “Germany and the Netherlands are very economically intertwined, so there are many common interests. In this sense, following Merkel is also a very pragmatic choice of Rutte.”
The political and economic link between the two countries has therefore grown in recent years among both leaders.
You can count on Rutte
Merkel has always considered the relationship with Rutte to be very pleasant and constructive. “Merkel sees Rutte as a reliable partner. Hes been running for a long time, theyve been through a lot together. In a crisis in Europe, they often move together,” says historian Marja Verburg of the Germany Institute.
“They are other types, with a different political colour, but in the major European dossiers, that didnt matter in recent years. Prime Minister Rutte usually agrees with the German plans.”
That was also great at times when Merkel got into trouble at European level. “Think of the euro crisis, then they stuck Hitler mustaches in photos of Merkel in Greece,” Verburg says. “Then its nice to have a reliable constant like Rutte by your side.”
Here you can see 10 years of collaboration in 10 photos:
Although the neighbouring countries often agree, the past few years have also been collided. As in 2016, when some countries in the Western Balkans closed their borders at the height of the refugee crisis. “Merkel strongly opposed that on humanitarian grounds. But Rutte was supportive of keeping the borders out of fear of a large influx of refugees. This difference of understanding led to a significant disagreement between the Dutch and German heads of government,” says Zwart.
But eventually Rutte and Merkel always come out again, according to Verburg. “For example, they arranged the Turkey deal on refugee reception together. It was then negotiated by both leaders at the Turkish Embassy in Brussels.”
The relationship between the two has always been warm and courteous on a personal level. Meetings were always warmly embraced and kissed and – very special Rutte can you and you say to Merkel. They also text each other regularly and regularly praises Rutte Merkels sense of humor. Merkel is known for her imitations of other world leaders.
“The German Chancellor is less embarrassed with compliments about colleagues like Rutte,” says correspondent Wouter Zwart. “Not because she wouldnt cherish her friendships, but because she likes to keep them private.”
There will be elections in Germany on Sunday 26 September, and this will bring the Merkel era to an end. And to the alliance between her and Prime Minister Rutte.