THE LEGACY OF ANGELA MERKEL

THE LEGACY OF ANGELA MERKEL

Written for JESPIONNE

Olivia Wayne Fitzgerald

Angela Merkel entered the world of German Politics during the Revolutions of 1989, a time that came with a lot of changes and challenges for the German country and the European Union as a whole. Initially a physical chemist, Merkel became a spokesperson for the first democratically elected East German Government of 1890

and the rest is history; she has served as Chancellor for three consecutive years, forming coalitions and unities that have earned her a spot as one of the most influential people in the world and as the current leader and representative of the European Union.

Should Merkel not resolve the issues regarding the EU, most will judge harshly and waste no time in tainting her legacy; turning her reputation from an accomplished leader into the person who ended up losing Europe.

March 2018

Although it is not known if Merkel will try to run for Chancellor for the fourth consecutive time, many experts have speculated that she is currently laying the groundwork for her next period and in finally establishing her legacy. After three periods of resolving issues from different areas of the globe, from the crisis in Greece to the refugee influx, it is believed that her focus will remain on Germany and on developing a more stable environment for the European Union. Should Merkel not resolve the issues regarding the EU, most will judge harshly and waste no time in tainting her legacy; turning her reputation

from an accomplished leader into the person who ended up losing Europe. In recent events, Merkel has made it explicit that Germany is listening to the EU and that they are willing to adapt so that countries that are going through a rough time will be able to find a silver lining. She has continued to advocate for unity, exemplified in her proposition of improvement of security within the Union through the sharing of intelligence between countries. She is also looking to repair Berlin’s ties with Eastern Germany, an essential message due to the current state of the EU.

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By MATHEW KARNITSCHNIG for POLITICO

BERLIN — Berlin’s government quarter was hot with speculation this week about the “K-Frage,” a long-running political parlor game over whether Angela Merkel will pursue another run for Germany’s chancellery.

Though few seriously doubt Merkel wants a chance at an era-crowning fourth term as Kanzlerin, behind-the-scenes squabbling in her conservative alliance over the timing of an announcement has fed theories of a Plan B.

Even as her allies and adversaries parse her public statements and body language for clues of her plans, Merkel has quietly begun laying the groundwork for another four-year term, her political allies say. A familiar question is already dominating those deliberations: How to fix Europe?

If Merkel has spent most of her time in office putting out fires across the Continent, from the financial crisis and Greece to the refugee influx, her next and likely final term would focus on a subject close to any longtime leader’s heart — legacy. Securing that place in history will depend in large part on whether Merkel succeeds in putting Europe on steadier ground.

“Time is not on the side of integration but of regression” — Josef Janning, ECFR
A combination of economic weakness and the widespread impression that Brussels and/or Berlin are to blame for national ills has eroded confidence in the bloc, fueling populist movements from Spain to Sweden. If the EU continues to unravel in the coming years, Merkel, the Continent’s preeminent political figure, will be remembered as the leader who lost Europe.

While Berlin believes Europe has made strides in improving its regulatory framework and preparing for shocks like the debt crisis, Merkel’s camp also acknowledges that much more needs to be done to restore trust in the EU. Brexit, they say, could be the catalyst to turn the tide.

“In Berlin people realize it’s important to seize the moment because it may not come back,” said Josef Janning, head of the European Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin. “Time is not on the side of integration but of regression.”

That Merkel recognizes she has a limited time frame for action was evident last week when she met 15 national European leaders in an effort to begin building consensus in key areas.

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The shuttle diplomacy, which took the chancellor from the deck of an Italian aircraft carrier to Tallinn and points between, was partly a confidence-building exercise ahead of this month’s informal summit in Bratislava. Her message: Berlin listens.

A common complaint among Europe’s smaller members is that large countries, led by Berlin, bigfoot them in the EU decision-making process. That fear has strengthened the various regional blocs within the EU, such as Scandinavia, the Baltics or the so-called Visegrád group of Central European states.

Indeed, it was a collective rejection of Merkel’s refugee policy that led to the often-fractious Visegrad group’s recent renaissance.

In Germany, Merkel’s swing through Eastern Europe was widely seen as a failure because she didn’t convince countries to accept any refugees. However, that was never her plan. Recognizing that countries like Poland and Hungary wouldn’t back down, the German leader focused the talks on areas of common ground, in particular how to improve security with more intelligence sharing, securing the EU’s borders and preserving the bloc’s refugee pact with Turkey.

Another area of agreement: Brexit. Like Germany, Eastern European countries have little interest in pursuing a punitive approach with the U.K. during the Brexit talks and reject calls from France and other western nations for a hard line. While Berlin wants to safeguard the massive investments German companies such as Siemens and BMW have made in the U.K., Eastern European states like Poland and Romania want to protect the status of their citizens there and the remittances they send home.

“Merkel’s aim here was to repair Berlin’s ties with Eastern Europe that have been strained by the refugee crisis,” said Joerg Forbrig, an analyst with the German Marshall Fund of the U.S. in Berlin. “That’s important for the atmosphere within the EU.” Merkel’s diplomatic offensive was also a sign that with the U.K. essentially out of the EU decision-making process, she will try to build broader coalitions on important questions. She no longer believes Germany and France, even together with Italy which has joined their recent meetings, can act as a motor for the EU, analysts say. In addition to the loss of economic muscle in both France and Italy in recent years, Merkel’s position in key areas, in particular, economic and fiscal policy, is often far removed from those in Paris and Rome.

For Merkel, meetings between the three are as much as about reining in French and Italian hopes for freer spending as they are about setting the EU’s agenda.

“She’s not trying to win them over to her course but trying to prevent them from running wild,” Janning said.

For the German leader, the Bratislava summit marks the start of what promises to the arduous task of restoring confidence in an EU plagued by weak leadership and competing for national agendas. While even her critics say she is the only leader with the stature to tackle the bloc’s catalog of ills, they also complain that Germany’s political and economic dominance is at the root of many of the EU’s problems.

Even with the clock ticking, Merkel — ever the physicist — insists Europe studies the problem before taking action.

“What we need to do is take stock of where we are,” she said this week in an interview the German television. “Instead of rushing into action, one should calmly deliberate.”

CALL TO ACTION

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Angela Merkel / Syrian Refugees /German Chancellor / Josef Janning / European Council on Foreign Relations / Berlin / European Security / Brexit / Greece Financial Crisis / Person of the Year / Politico / Mathew Karnitsching

May 1 st, 2018

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