Merkel dispels world war fears with smiley emojis

German chancellor makes her YouTube premiere pitching to young voters

German chancellor Angela Merkel meets the German YouTuber Ischtar Isik in Berlin. Photograph: Reuters/Axel Schmidt

German chancellor Angela Merkel meets the German YouTuber Ischtar Isik in Berlin. Photograph: Reuters/Axel Schmidt


Until Wednesday, 20-year-old Ischtar Isik was one of Germany’s leading beauty tip YouTubers. Conducting her first-ever interview – live, and with chancellor Angela Merkel – she admitted didn’t know what to expect. Neither, it seems, did the German leader.

“So this is your first interview?” Merkel asked curiously. “Otherwise you just do self-promotion?”

It was an unintentionally lighter moment in the German leader’s YouTube premiere. So what did we learn from her live-stream pitch for younger voters?

First: despite the North Korea standoff, Merkel doesn’t think the third World War is imminent. Second: her favourite emoji is the smiley. Mimicking the emojis with her face, the 63-year-old added: “If things are going well, with the little heart of top, if not the puss face.”

Not bad going for a politician who, until recently, used an old Nokia phone and, in 2013, described the internet as “uncharted territory”.

Speed date

With chameleon-like ease, she adapted effortlessly to her speed date with four interviewers, to both their style and their topics.

On dieselgate, Merkel pleaded ignorance over German auto companies’ emissions manipulation. On September 4th, she will hold a second summit to discuss improved e-mobility facilities, she said, and assistance for German cities facing court-imposed bans on diesel cars to meet air quality standards.

“I’m calling for spotchecks of cars in normal traffic to see if they meet what is in the technical specification,” she said. “We have to be rigorous and call out mistakes; if companies don’t then politics must.”

With an eye on the North Korea standoff, and Donald Trump’s love of inflammatory tweets, Merkel said she was doing everything to avoid military conflict. She warned: “I think we have to be careful with language in particular; often it’s a precursor that often escalates into violence.”

On the transatlantic partnership, she said obvious dissent on issues like climate change didn’t take away from agreement with Washington on fighting international terrorism or facing down Russian aggression.

Given escalating tensions with Turkey, and the imprisonment there of government critics, Merkel insisted it was important not to let down half of the country that didn’t support President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s constitutional reform. “President Erdogan has an important position but Turkey is not just Erdogan,” she said.

Fear of Islam

And what of Germans’ fears of Islamisation in light of the 2015 refugee crisis? The chancellor said she had no problem with people practising their religion once they respected German fundamental rights and constitutional order. “No religion will exert growing influence on us,” she said.

Asked about young people’s apathy in politics, Merkel said it was unavoidable in life that some things were complicated but that young voters had every chance to influence Germany’s direction after the September 24th federal poll.

“In East Germany we could vote, and were expected to, but you couldn’t really choose anything,” she said. “It’s arduous to pick through parties and programmes but many people in the world dream of the opportunity to vote.”