Chancellor Angela Merkel, a popular leader, shakes hands with the crowd alongside former US President Barack Obama during a visit to the United States.

JIM WATSON | AFP | fake images

Under Chancellor Angela Merkel’s leadership, Germany’s power and influence in European and world affairs has been indisputable.

Now that he is leaving office after 16 years, many Europeans believe the country’s “golden age” is over, including the majority of Germans, according to a recent poll.

The survey, conducted by the European Council on Foreign Relations think tank in 12 EU countries in early summer with results released this week, found that Europeans still regard Merkel as a unifying force and hope Germany will continue to provide. leadership within the EU. However, there is pessimism at home and abroad about the future of Germany after Merkel.

The poll found that many Europeans see Germany as a declining power, no more so than Germany, where a majority (52%) believe their country is past its “golden age.” Only 15% of respondents in Germany said they believe their country is still in its “golden age” today, and 9% of respondents believe it is yet to come.

Across Europe overall, a third of Europeans (34%) surveyed said Germany’s star is fading, 21% said it is in its “golden age” today, and only 10% believe this period is in the future.

The data highlights the uncertainty in both Germany and its neighbors about the future of the country, and its de facto leadership of the EU, once Merkel leaves office after the federal elections on September 26.

Merkel vs. Macron

Despite some controversial policies, Merkel, 67, is leaving office on her terms. He remains a popular figure in Europe, and far more so than his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, although analysts expect Macron to try to fill some of the leadership vacuum left by Merkel.

When the ECFR asked respondents who would vote in a hypothetical competition between Merkel of Germany and Macron of France for a post of EU president, the think tank found that the majority of Europeans (41%) would vote for Merkel, and only 14% would vote for Macron. (the remaining 45% said they did not know or would not vote).

The greatest support for Merkel in this hypothetical election was found in the Netherlands (58%), Spain (57%) and Portugal (52%). Even among the French, 32% would vote for Merkel and 20% for Macron.

Perhaps not surprisingly, there is such a long-lasting fund for Merkel. She is seen as a steady, pragmatic, and collected pair of hands in a crisis, and she has had a few of those to deal with in her time in office.

Merkel has guided Germany, the euro zone and the EU in general through various traumas, including the financial crisis of 2008-2009, the subsequent sovereign debt crisis in the euro zone that peaked around 2012 and the crisis 2015-2016 immigration status. More recently, he has played a leading role in Europe’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and, together with Macron, oversaw the EU recovery plan.

French President Emmanuel Macron (second left) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel (right) look at US President Donald Trump (front left) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (front right), walking alongside them during a family photo as part of the NATO summit at the Grove hotel in Watford, northeast London, on December 4, 2019.

Christian Hartman | AFP | fake images

However, Merkel’s policies during periods of crisis have not always won her friends. He became something of a hateful figure in Greece during its debt crisis, as Germany argued that strict austerity measures should be imposed on Athens as a condition for international bailouts.

Meanwhile, his decision to allow hundreds of thousands of migrants, mainly from Syria, to enter Germany during the migration crisis also caused consternation in the country and was largely seen as a boost of public support for the right-wing Alternative for Germany party. .

Future leadership

How Germany’s relationship with the rest of the EU and the bloc’s de facto leadership could change once Merkel leaves office is one of the great unknowns of her departure.

In the latest ECFR report titled “Beyond Merkelism: What Europeans Expect from Post-Election Germany,” published Tuesday, authors Piotr Buras and Jana Puglierin note that post-Merkel political leadership in Germany will have no choice but to change its role in and relationship with the EU.

“Merkelism is no longer sustainable, and Germany’s next chancellor will have to find another way forward,” said Piotr Buras, co-author and director of the ECFR Warsaw office.

Merkel may have deftly maintained the status quo across the continent for the past 15 years, but the challenges Europe now faces – the pandemic, climate change, and geopolitical competition – require radical solutions, not cosmetic changes. What the EU needs now is a visionary Germany that will uphold the bloc’s values ​​and defend its place in the world. “



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