Global Independent Analytics

Angela Merkel’s year of living dangerously

Loved and loathed, the German chancellor heads towards a tumultuous 2016

Politico’s Matthew Karnitschnig discusses the German chancellor’s evolution over the passing year.

Angela Merkel managed to change her appearance drastically in 2015: now she represents the European compassion rather than German reasoning. Her attitude now has attracted people’s loath both at home and abroad.

“The coming year will show whether Merkel’s 2015 watershed — her decision to open German borders to refugees with the rallying cry, “We can do it!” — marked a new beginning for her decade-old chancellorship or, as some have predicted, the beginning of the end. The answer could have profound consequences not just for Germany, but Europe as a whole,” the article continues.

There is no need to say that particularly her interventions helped Germany cope with multiple threats to its political and economic stability. However, some worry that she is addressing the symptoms of the problem rather than its causes and that such position will likely postpone the collapse of Germany and Europe.

Nonetheless, Europe has survived 2015 despite the huge bailout to Greece and the horrible refugee crisis. Due to her open border policy and her refusal of requests to lower immigrants’ arriving she attracted huge criticism across Europe, but no one had considered of what will happen if the decision was not adopted. Also she was one of the behind-the-scene key players in the deals between Russia and EU, convincing European leaders to maintain economic sanctions on Russia.

The international media has been lately praising Merkel as an outstanding crisis manager. However, German elites claim that she lacks in leadership. According to their opinion, she prefers to play the role of a continental crisis fighter, which seems rather strange considering her influence in Europe.

The article assumes that even in Germany, Merkel has eschewed grand plans for the country’s future. Germany’s last meaningful economic reforms, which many say laid the foundation for the country’s recent prosperity, carry the signature of Merkel’s predecessor, Gerhard Schröder. Despite persistent calls from economists to build on those measures, which included overhauls of welfare and labor market rules, Merkel has resisted.

She is great at reacting to crisis situations that emerge, but she is still incapable of being proactive in order to prevent crises; the current events could have unraveled differently, perhaps, in a less harmful way, if only she would have paid enough attention to warning signs. Her wait-and-see approach now has its own verb in German: to merkeln.

She has ignored numerous warnings from the UN refugee agency and the refugee crisis appeared in all its splendor and glory. Her decision was to present a multi-faceted plan, stabilize her rating and receive ovations at the conferences. However, there is of yet no evidence of reducing the number of new arrivals. Turkey claimed billions in the bailout from the EU in exchange for rthe dropping of the refugee rate but there are no signs that Ankara is doing whatever is needed to keep up with the plan. So far the amount of refugees arrived in Germany in 2015 topped 1.1 million.

“For all the praise Merkel has earned abroad for taking in the refugees, it is the erosion of the conservative base that most worries many in her party. “The praise shouldn’t lead us conclude we should do it again next year as well,” said Hans-Peter Uhl, a senior CSU official,” a writer assumes.

Merkel expressed her opinion: the future of Europe is a “rocky road that will require determination and endurance.” However it is yet to be decided whether the trip will survive without her.

EXPERT OPINION

Joshua Tartakovsky

Merkel’s open-door policy towards migrants has been largely unpopular, opposed  by many in the CDU and by Schäuble .

However, with the corporate media largely on her side, so far her seat remained mostly unchallenged.

A key question will be how will Merkel’s CDU fare in the regional elections? Will alternative parties emerge?

In March 2016, state elections are expected in Baden-Württemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saxony-Anhalt. In September, elections will be held in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

Sachsen-Anhalt in the East of Germany may very well offer some surprises, as many people oppose the massive wave of migration there. And state elections generally set the tone for neighboring states and then for national elections.  Will many CDU voters move to support  Alternative for Deutschland and Pegida? If the two eurosceptical parties make significant gains in the regional elections, this could set the tone across the country.  It would signal a growing disillusionment with Merkel and a popular turning away from and will put the migration crisis squarely on the table. Obama is expected to visit Germany in April.

It will be interesting to see how Germans will vote locally and whether they will be fearful of voting for eurosceptical  parties as was the case in France with Front National. The mainstream media will most certainly portray AfD and Pegida as extremist, and it will be interesting to see if Germans will be concerned with being perceived as such or will they be concerned about the migration crisis to the degree needed to muster the courage to vote according to their convictions.

But the larger problem is that the mainstream parties tend to pursue a certain line regardless the will of the people. Even if SPD’s Sigmar Gabriel is elected as chancellor, will much change?  But Germany is a significant and powerful country and a change in its leadership means much as it is not as simple to pressure it as the smaller states.

Additionally,there is growing pressure on the EU both within from without and at some point something will break. 

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