BERLIN (AP) — Each Wednesday since German Chancellor Angela Merkel took office in November 2005, the ritual has been the same.
Federal ministers, starting just after 9 a.m., arrive one by one at a 6th floor conference room at the chancellery in Berlin. They take a seat at the central table or stop to chat with their colleagues. Lower-ranked officials arrive, sit at desks in the corner and wait for the weekly meeting of the German Federal Cabinet to begin.
The Federal Cabinet is the chief executive body of the government of the Federal Republic of Germany. It meets once a week, and consists of the chancellor and the cabinet ministers. While every minister governs his or her department autonomously, the chancellor issues directive policy guidelines.
After everyone else has gotten there, Merkel — wearing one of her trademark colorful blazers— comes in, exchanges a few words and sets down a stack of files before shaking some hands and taking her seat. She looks around, sometimes smiles at the photographers and video crews that are let briefly into the room, rings a small bell and asks the journalists to leave.
Merkel, 62, the first woman elected as head of government in Germany, is expected to announce she will seek a fourth term during next year's election.