TIME magazine on Wednesday named German Chancellor Angela Merkel as its 2015 “Person of the Year” for her role in effectively managing Europe’s debt and refugee crises.
Ms. Merkel, an east German physicist and the first woman to lead Germany, became the first German since former Chancellor Willy Brandt to grace the cover of the U.S. magazine.
TIME editor Nancy Gibbs said Ms. Merkel won the award because she has been an “indispensable player” in a series of crises that have engulfed Europe over the past few years.
While Ms. Merkel earned plaudits and criticism for her tough negotiations to keep Greece in the 19-nation euro common currency, the judges were moved by her politically risky decision to open Germany’s doors this year to refugees from war-torn Syria and Iraq.
Ms. Merkel’s directive to take in the refugees has cost her politically in Germany, feeding the rise of right-wing parties and straining her own ruling political coalition, especially among conservatives in her own Christian Democratic Union party.
So far, Germany has taken in about 1 million refugees, the equivalent after adjusting for population size of about 4 million refugees entering the United States in a matter of months.
“For asking more of her country than most politicians would dare, for standing firm against tyranny as well as expedience and for providing steadfast moral leadership in a world where it is in short supply, Angela Merkel is TIME’s Person of the Year,” Ms. Gibbs said.
The magazine prize is awarded to people who have greatly affected global policy and events. Others on TIME’s short list this year were Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the terrorist leader of Islamic State, and U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who has divided America with his xenophobic proposals.
Mr. Trump has called Ms. Merkel “insane” and the refugees “one of the great Trojan horses,” according to TIME.
Past winners have included Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2007, U.S. President Barack Obama in 2008 and in 2012, and Pope Francis in 2013. Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran was given the award in 1979 and Adolf Hitler was also awarded the title in 1938.
Cold War Chancellor Willy Brandt won the award in 1970, and Ms. Merkel is only the fourth woman to be named, individually. The last was Corazon Aquino, the first woman president of the Philippines, who was named 29 years ago.
Ms. Merkel had been tipped by some to win the Nobel Peace Prize this year, but missed out to a group of peace activists from Tunisia.
Andrea Römmele, a professor at Hertie School of Governance in Berlin, said the choice of Ms. Merkel was justified. “I think it is a combination of her leadership role in Europe and ability to manage an incredible abundance and complexity of tasks that has brought her this title,” she told Handelsblatt Global Edition.”
Ms. Merkel, however, wasn’t at the top of everyone’s list. The U.S. Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders was voted the 2015 person of the year in a separate poll of TIME readers.
But editors, not readers, select the official winner of the magazine’s annual award, which began in 1927 and went to Charles Lindbergh, the first person to fly a plane solo across the Atlantic.
The year 2015 not only marked Ms. Merkel’s tenth year in power over the world’s fourth-largest economy, but also has seen the leader of Europe’s largest economy intervene to keep the European Union intact against currency and nationalist threats.