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Michael Kappeler—dpa/AP

Angela Merkel is an unusual politician. Many are fond of quick fixes and crowd-pleasing slogans, but Angela likes complex problems. She has the capacity to factor in many external and internal considerations when working toward a solution. She takes a long view and, where possible, avoids saying too much too soon.

As a minister in her government from 2005, I was able to benefit on a number of occasions from her strategic patience. When I was convinced by an idea or a project and wanted to forge ahead, she would simply say, “You’re taking the right course. But let’s wait a bit.” And when the time was right, I could always rely on her. Angela is a tough negotiator. Despite all her years in office, she can still look any opposite number in the eye. She achieves her negotiating goals in ways that also allow all parties to reach compromise. We saw this play out in the financial crisis, the euro crisis and now the coronavirus crisis. Although she is sparing with her words, people all over the world know that they can trust Angela, especially when a storm is gathering.

Crises always help separate the wheat from the chaff, including in government. That she is being honored today says everything you need to know.

Von der Leyen is president of the European Commission

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