For every country in Europe, it’s all about the economy. Across the continent, people are still battling with the twists and turns of the financial crisis. And wherever you are, economic recovery depends heavily on how Angela Merkel treats the next stage of the crisis: these days, most roads lead to Berlin.
That’s why it has long seemed to me that one of the most important political reporting jobs right now is to try to understand Angela Merkel better. But Mrs Merkel is an unusually private and reticent politician – there is no exhibitionism and grandstanding. Even for Germans, she’s a hard woman to know.
She didn’t want to do an interview ahead of the German elections, and certainly not in English – even though she speaks it quite well. But we’ve spoken to a range of her friends, her political allies and her critics. We’ve delved back into to her upbringing in the pretty East German town of Templin, some 50 miles from Berlin, and spoken to childhood friends and student mates who knew her at a time when politics was more dangerous and tricky.