German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s star is waning. After more than 13 years in power, it seems the end of her political career draws near. She may yet cling on until the 2021 federal elections, but has vowed not to seek another term in office. Her former finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, vehemently denies Merkel will be a “lame duck” chancellor, yet does concede she’s been politically “wounded”.
What sort of legacy will Angela Merkel leave behind? She has lead Germany during one of the most turbulent periods in recent memory, spanning the 2007-2008 financial crisis, the Eurozone debt crisis, and the 2015 migrant and refugee crisis. It’s undeniable that she will leave a strong mark on German politics, but what has been her impact on Europe as a whole?
Merkel’s supporters see her as cool, rational, consensus-maker who has brought stability to Germany and the EU. Every year since 2011, Forbes magazine has ranked her one of the five most powerful people in the world. When Donald Trump was elected to the White House, some observers even breathlessly proclaimed her the new “leader of the free world”. Under Merkel’s careful stewardship, Germany has gone from the “sick man of Europe” to an economic juggernaut with record-low unemployment.
Yet the chancellor’s critics call her indecisive and vague on important political issues, with has no strong vision for Europe. Many still blame her for the EU’s relentless focus on austerity, and for the chaotic handling of the Syrian refugee crisis in 2015 (though she received much praise at the time for showing leadership and compassion). Her leadership style has also been maligned as “technocratic”, ultimately leading to the collapse of the political centre across Europe and paving the way for the populists.
Has Angela Merkel saved Europe or destroyed it? Has her cautious leadership style provided stability and seen Europe through crisis after crisis? Or does she lack a vision for the continent? Has she been too unwilling to support bold EU reforms, and take necessary steps? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!