Perhaps she declines to talk about herself because from a young age she has always worked so ferociously hard to achieve her ambitions.

Her drive and determination have, after all, taken her from a difficult background under a depressing dictatorship to becoming the dominant figure in Europe and the world’s most powerful woman.

For all that she has achieved already in her life, she knows she will be defined in history by how she grapples with the crisis consuming her continent. (This week, the German economy came under pressure when a sale of its government bonds was heavily undersubscribed.)

Thus we find Mrs Merkel, raised under communism, fighting to salvage capitalism and walking an almost impossible tightrope amid wildly conflicting economic, political and social concerns.

She has displayed uncharacteristic boldness in recent weeks, forcing European bankers to accept big losses on their loans to Greece and successfully facing down critics within her unstable governing coalition.


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