Merkel’s Legacy – Journal – DAWN.COM


BACK in 2007, aware of his fear of dogs, Vladimir Putin invited his Labrador to a photoshoot during his second meeting with the then relatively new German Chancellor. Angela Merkel was clearly uncomfortable when the beast sniffed at her. The Russian president smiles. “I understand why he has to do this,” she said later. “To prove he’s a man. He is afraid of his own weakness. Russia has nothing, no successful policies or economies. All they have is this.

Merkel, who grew up in East Germany, where Putin was a member of the KGB, refused to be intimidated by orchestrated machismo. Almost 15 years later, Putin is the only European leader who was already there when Merkel took the chancellery in Berlin in 2005.

Since then, she has dealt with four French presidents, five British prime ministers, eight Italian prime ministers and four American presidents. But this kind of longevity is not uncommon in German politics – Helmut Kohl enjoyed an even longer tenure in the twilight of the 20th century.

What is rare, however, is that Merkel’s exit is voluntary. If she had decided to remain at the helm of the Christian Democracy (CDU), it is possible that the result of the German elections last Sunday would have been different.

The outgoing chancellor is both overrated and underrated.

Towards the end of this year’s election campaign, Merkel felt compelled to stand out and solicit votes for her preferred successor, Armin Laschet. The effort seems not to have paid off, given that the CDU recorded its worst result since its post-war birth, conceding first place in the race for the Social Democratic Party (SPD).

Laschet was not the only candidate for continuity, however. SPD leader Olaf Scholz, vice-chancellor under Merkel in the last coalition, also sought to present himself as a worthy successor. One of them is more or less certain to be the next chancellor, and the likely protracted negotiations ahead could leave Merkel in charge of an interim administration for weeks or even months to come.

Since the SPD and CDU are unlikely to go for a new coalition, it is likely that the next government will be made up of three parties, with one of the big two teaming up with the Free Democrats and the Greens. The SPD and the Greens have both significantly increased their votes since the 2017 elections, but the German Greens are hardly radical by any means, and the progressive tendencies of the SPD are a thing of the past.

Either, or both, could prove to be perfectly suited to the task of uninspiring continuity. Merkel flourished as a skillful manager of the status quo, both in Germany and across the EU. It successfully strove to preserve the eurozone when it no longer seemed viable – and thus maintained the inequalities that define Germany (where the richest 1pc own nearly a quarter of all wealth) and Europe more generally.

A personally austere lifestyle has resulted in measures that have imposed austerity in Germany and across the EU, notably Greece. The Greek bailout was essentially about persuading European taxpayers to come to the aid of a sick member of the fraternity, but the resulting funds only flowed through Athens and resulted mainly in replenishing the coffers of the banks of much richer nations. (especially those from Germany).

The austerity of southern Europe was of a different order than that of Germany and made it all the more difficult for countries like Greece and Spain to cope with the flood of refugees from the middle of the decade. It must be recognized, however, that in many ways the 2015-16 refugee crisis was Merkel’s best hour.

Another politician might have balked at the idea of ​​welcoming so many Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans (among others), but Merkel said “we can handle this” and opened the German borders for a while. time. It was a surprisingly human response to what was already a European crisis, and Germany took in 1.7 million asylum seekers between 2015 and 2019.

It turned out to be a remarkably successful experience, with high levels of integration and employment. But, of course, there was also a backlash. Alternative for Germany (AfD) emerged as a marginal force in response to the Greek bailout, but its racist and neofascist ideology struck a chord in the wake of the influx of refugees. He has lost ground since then, but has retained a substantial position in the Bundestag.

In addition, Merkel has subsequently been instrumental in strengthening the Fortress Europe paradigm, including agreements with Turkish and Libyan forces to retain other refugees.

Merkel’s confidence and relative competence tended to obscure her lack of the bigger picture. Nonetheless, one of its fiercest critics, former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, concedes that, despite its serious shortcomings, “watching the pack of mundane and faceless politicians scramble to replace them, I am very afraid. to miss Angela Merkel “. It’s hard to disagree.

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Posted in Dawn, le 29 September 2021

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