Germany turns the page Merkel after 16 years in power

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This Sunday 26 September, a page from the German history will turn. After four terms at the head of the country, Angela Merkel is preparing to leave the political scene. We will probably not know for several days, even weeks or months, the name of the person who will take over from the Chancellery, but one thing is certain: the German Chancellor will have marked several generations and it will be difficult to imagine a political landscape without her.

At the twilight of her political career, she still seems untouchable: after sixteen years as German Chancellor, Angela Merkel arouses enthusiasm: 64% of Germans have a favorable opinion of her.

Angela Merkel is a reassuring figure, it symbolizes stability, and the youngest Germans only knew her at the head of the country. Coming to power in 2005, at the head of a still economically weak Germany, she is reaping the benefits of the policies put in place by her predecessor, the social -Democrat Gerhard Schröder, more than she herself sets up the major projects that await her country.

Disappointment on the ecology, feminism, pandemic or digital

While in the years 64, Angela Merkel is in turn appointed Minister of Women and Youth and Minister of the Environment, she is careful not to engage openly for the cause of women and refuses to be seen as a feminist until very recently.

About the climate, despite a thunderous and spontaneous exit from nuclear power following the Fukushima disaster and a nickname of “climate chancellor” following statements by intent on the climate emergency, its environmental objectives remain below internship expectations ionic. Yet it is the environment that has become the major concern of the Germans, especially for the younger generations, as evidenced by the enthusiasm for the party of the Greens, in the process of doubling their score of 2017 in the Sunday elections, and the “Fridays for Future” movement launched by high school students.

Another missed opportunity for the Chancellor: the digital transition. The pandemic in particular highlighted the difficulties that millions of Germans had to face to work or study remotely, due to a lack of sufficient means and infrastructure. In terms of economic and societal progress, Angela Merkel’s record is rather dismal.

Outstanding negotiator

On the international scene, she shines and proves to be an outstanding negotiator, until receiving the nickname of “Leader of the Free World”, “leader of the free world” after the election of Donald Trump. Her popularity contrasts with that which is hers in Europe, where she remains a very ambivalent figure in the countries of the South following the economic crisis of 2008. On questions of financing the European Union, it has long been inflexible, and only the pandemic has made it change its mind on the need for the implementation of an unprecedented economic rescue plan and ‘a European debt common to the European Union.

It is also this which, against all odds, defends a policy of dialogue with Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Finally, on the moral more than diplomatic level, she gave herself to see as savior of the honor of Europe by announcing, in the summer 2015: “We have already done so much, we will get there” (“Wir schaffen das”), while thousands of migrants tried to reach Europe via Turkey and Greece. In just one year, Germany has taken in over 1.3 million asylum seekers. Faced with the rise of populism, this stance allowed Angela Merkel to build her legend, but it was also the Chancellor who worked for the establishment of a pact between the EU and Turkey to drastically limit the arrival of refugees on European soil.

For Germany and for Europe, Angela Merkel could have done more. The fact remains that for sixteen years at the head of her country, she marked much more than her compatriots alone. With her departure, her style disappears: beyond her successes and failures, she was a politician in the service of her country, according to her convictions, and with a very particular style made of discretion and inflexibility, and this is finally how she wants us to remember her: “I would like us to say ‘She did not spare her trouble” “, she recently confided to the German media.

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