October 29, 2018 / 2:24 PM / a year ago

Merkel has dominated European politics in 13 years as German leader

FILE PHOTO: German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) and Peter Mueller, federal prime minister of the Saar region and top candidate of the of the conservative Christian Democratic Union party (CDU) for the upcoming Saarland state election, hold glasses of beer during an election campaign rally in Bosen near Saarbruecken August 15, 2009. REUTERS/Johannes Eisele/File Photo

BERLIN (Reuters) - Angela Merkel heralded on Monday the end of a 13-year era in which she has dominated German and European politics, saying she would not seek re-election as head of her ruling conservatives and that this would be her last term as chancellor.

Merkel, 64, has been chairwoman of Germany’s Christian Democrats (CDU) since 2000 and chancellor since 2005, making her one of the longest serving leaders of a major country. Her current, fourth term as chancellor is due to end in 2021.

Germany’s first female leader, Merkel has worked with three U.S. presidents, four French presidents and four British prime ministers. She has generally had good working relations with them all, although she struggled to bond with the current U.S. president, Donald Trump, who has criticized her policies on trade, defense and migrants.

Merkel led Germany’s - and the European Union’s - response to the euro zone crisis, when her insistence on tough fiscal discipline made her a hated figure in Greece but helped reassure German voters anxious about taking on other countries’ debts.

But her handling of the 2015-16 migrant crisis, when Germany took in around one million refugees, mostly Muslims fleeing wars and poverty in the Middle East and beyond, has proved a bigger test of her authority, dividing her conservatives and boosting support for anti-immigrant parties.

The first German leader to have grown up in the communist East, Merkel has spearheaded the EU’s response to what Western governments see as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression in Ukraine.

Writing by Gareth Jones; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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