But she is stepping aside this year as her fourth term expires. Germany's federal election will take place on September 26.
"It is time today for me to start a new chapter," Merkel told reporters in October 2018, when she announced that she would not be seeking a fifth term.
Merkel is also standing down as chairwoman of her party, the center-right Christian Democratic Union.
Merkel was born in Hamburg, West Germany, in 1954, but she grew up in East Germany. Her father, Horst Kasner, was a Lutheran minister and her mother, Herlind, was an English teacher.
Merkel, left, attends a New Year's Eve party with friends in Berlin in 1972. In 1977, at the age of 23, she married her first husband, Ulrich Merkel. They divorced in 1982, but she kept the name.
Merkel poses with her siblings, Marcus and Irene Kasner.
Merkel visits a children's home during her campaign to become a member of the Bundestag, Germany's parliament, in 1990. Before turning to politics, Merkel had trained as a physician. She was also a spokeswoman for the "Democratic Awakening," East Germany's opposition movement before reunification.
A month after being elected to the Bundestag, Merkel was appointed to Germany's Cabinet in January 1991. Chancellor Helmut Kohl named her Minister for Women and Youth.
Merkel looks at Kohl during a conference of the Christian Democratic Union, their political party, in 1991. At the time, Merkel was a deputy chairwoman for the party.
Merkel changed Cabinet positions in 1994, becoming Minister of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety. Here, she visits a water-control station in Bad Honnef, Germany, in 1995.
Merkel, as the country's leader on environmental issues, irons wrapping paper to show how it can be recycled.
Merkel and Health Minister Horst Seehofer attend a Cabinet meeting in 1995.
Merkel sits in a "strandkorb," or beach basket, in an undated photo. In 2000, Merkel became the Christian Democratic Union's first female chairperson. It was the opposition party at the time.
Merkel, left, attends the opening of the Wagner Festival, an annual music festival in Bayreuth, Germany, in 2001.
Merkel spends part of her summer in Langballig, Germany, in 2002.
Merkel meets Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2002, one of many meetings they would have over the years. Merkel speaks Russian fluently, while Putin speaks German.
Merkel speaks in Nuremberg, Germany, ahead of federal elections in 2005.
Merkel is sworn in as Germany's first female chancellor in November 2005.
Merkel visits the White House in January 2006. A few days later she also visited the Kremlin in Russia.
US President George W. Bush shows off a barrel of pickled herrings he was presented after arriving in Stralsund, Germany, in July 2006.
Merkel visits troops stationed in Turkey in February 2013. Later that year she was re-elected for a third term.
Merkel and her husband, Joachim Sauer, walk with US President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama before a dinner in Berlin in June 2013. Merkel and Sauer have been married since 1998.
Merkel speaks to Obama on the sidelines of a G7 summit near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, in June 2015.
Merkel was named Time magazine's Person of the Year in 2015. Time Editor-at-Large Karl Vick described her as "the de factos leader of the European Union" by virtue of being leader of the EU's largest and most economically powerful member state. Twice that year, he said, the EU had faced "existential crises" that Merkel had taken the lead in navigating -- first the Greek debt crisis faced by the eurozone, and then the ongoing migrant crisis.
Merkel and Obama test a virtual-reality headset at a trade fair in Hanover, Germany, in April 2016.
Merkel and US President Donald Trump hold a joint news conference at the White House in March 2017.
Merkel raises her glass during a toast at the Trudering Festival in Munich, Germany, in May 2017.
Merkel records her annual televised New Year's address in December 2017.
In this photo provided by the German Government Press Office, Merkel talks with Trump as they are surrounded by other leaders at the G7 summit in June 2018. According to two senior diplomatic sources, the photo was taken when there was a difficult conversation taking place regarding the G7's communique and several issues the United States had leading up to it.
Merkel attends a Bundestag session in June 2018. She pressed lawmakers to back a tough but humane asylum and migration policy for the European Union.
In this handout photo provided by the German Government Press Office in July 2018, Merkel meets a newborn calf during a visit to the Trede family dairy farm in Nienborstel, Germany.
Merkel offers flowers to Volker Bouffier, the state premier of Hesse and the deputy chairman of the Christian Democratic Union, ahead of a party leadership meeting in October 2018. The day before, her coalition government suffered heavy losses in a key regional election in Hesse.
Merkel speaks at a debate on the future of Europe during a plenary session at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, in November 2018. Merkel made a call for a future European army and for a European Security Council that would centralize defense and security policy on the continent.
Merkel touches the scepter of a Carnival prince during the annual Carnival reception in Berlin in February 2019.
Merkel poses for photos with students as she visits a secondary school in Berlin in April 2019.
Merkel talks with European Council President Donald Tusk and British Prime Minister Theresa May at a roundtable meeting in Brussels, Belgium, in April 2019. May was in Brussels to formally present her case for a short Brexit delay.
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, accompanied by Prime Minister Theresa May, greets Merkel in Portsmouth, England, in June 2019. It was ahead of an event marking the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.
Merkel and new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky inspect a military honor guard as he arrives for his first official visit to Germany in June 2019. Merkel was seen shaking during the ceremony, but she later suggested dehydration was to blame and said that she was doing "very well."
The hands of Merkel and Finnish Prime Minister Antti Rinne are seen as they listen to national anthems in Berlin in July 2019. Merkel's body visibly shook again, raising concerns over her health. She said she was fine and that she has been "working through some things" since she was first seen shaking in June.
Raindrops cover the window of a car as Merkel arrives for the opening of the James-Simon-Galerie in Berlin in July 2019.
In March 2020, Merkel delivered a rare televised message and told the German people that the coronavirus pandemic is the nation's gravest crisis since World War II.
Merkel attends a wreath-laying ceremony at the Neue Wache Memorial in Berlin in May 2020. It was the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, otherwise known as Victory in Europe (VE) Day.
Merkel and other world leaders look over documents during a European Union summit in Brussels, Belgium, in July 2020. Leaders agreed to create a €750 billion ($858 billion) recovery fund to rebuild EU economies ravaged by the coronavirus crisis.
Merkel meets with US President Joe Biden at the White House in July 2021.
Merkel receives a medal from Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, during the opening of the WHO Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence in Berlin in September 2021. The new center's purpose is to better track world health threats and help prevent future ones.