Angela Merkel says stepping down as German Chancellor will not weaken her on world stage

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Angela Merkel, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Merkel said her decision not to contest the party leadership election would give her more time to grapple with issues. (REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel dismissed concerns that resigning as leader of her Christian Democrats would leave her a lame duck premier unable to deal effectively with world leaders like the U.S. President Donald Trump or Turkey’s Tayyip Erdogan.

Speaking at a news conference alongside Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi who was in Berlin for a summit on Africa, Merkel said her decision not to contest the party leadership election would give her more time to grapple with issues.

“I don’t believe that anything will change about the negotiating position in international negotiations – one can even say I have more time to concentrate on my tasks as the head of government,” she said on Tuesday.

Manfred Weber, Germany’s candidate to be the European People’s Party (EPP) lead candidate to replace European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, said Merkel’s decision could free her to adopt a more visionary agenda for Europe. Weber, a member of the Bavarian CSU conservative party, told broadcaster ZDF that Merkel had long been a strong voice for Europe, and she could now amplify her leadership role.

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Many political experts say the strains of domestic politics have kept Merkel from moving forward more briskly on a slate of European reforms proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron.

“There’s also a chance that she can lead without the pressure that all her decisions have to be popular,” Weber said. “We must have the courage again to look beyond the vagaries of our daily politics and to be a bit visionary because the next years and decades will not be pleasant for our continent.”

Weber, a possible contender to take over leadership of the CSU, said changes were clearly needed for the party after it lost its absolute majority in regional elections on Oct. 14. Current party leader Horst Seehofer, who also serves as interior minister, would present proposals in mid-November, with a special party congress likely to follow that would decide on the leadership of the party, Weber said. “Things can’t just go on as before. We do need to work through the election result,” he said.

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