The Malta Independent 15 October 2021, Friday

Angela Merkel

Friday, 24 September 2021, 07:32 Last update: about 21 days ago

This week represents the last week Angela Merkel will remain in office as Germany’s chancellor.  Next Sunday, German citizens will go to the polls to elect a new government. All of the current predictions point that Germany is heading for another coalition government but this time round it is highly likely that it will be a tripartite coalition government. Given that the current incumbent chancellor is not seeking re-election it stands to reason that a lot of thought is being put into not only who might be the eventual successor but what will Germany look like without Angela Merkel. Yet, it is not only about Germany but also about the European Union which in certain situations Angela Merkel’s trajectory was more of a monarch rather than a chancellor.

I truly believe that no one is indispensable in life and that any organisation will continue to strive under that new charisma – whoever it might be! However, I do feel that expressing a word of gratitude to this female figure head is highly appropriate. Not that she needs any eulogies given her humble character but it is undeniable that during her sixteen-year leadership of the EU’s largest economy she has become the lynchpin of the Union. Moreover, her charisma has earned herself the title of “Mutti” –  the German word for mother.

She has catapulted herself from being the pastor’s daughter in East Germany to become the Chancellor of a reunified nation and onto the European Union’s most influential leader. Indeed, in contrast to her EU counterparts she is top of the league in terms of the longest surviving premier.

Over the years of her premiership rather than being populist she has remained anchored to her European values. When the going got tough she was there to lead by example. Indeed, she has been instrumental throughout the gush of crises within the bloc. When sovereign debt became an issue for Greece in 2009 followed by Portugal, Italy and Spain she stood tall in ensuring that all four countries had to adhere to strict austerity measures if the EU’s largest economy is to further approve bail-outs to them! It seems that the bitter medicine has paid off for Greece as recent data shows that the economy there is set to grow by roughly 6% next year notwithstanding that all nations around the world are still grappling with COVID-19.

In 2015 she demonstrated no inhibitions in opening Germany’s borders to welcome roughly a million Syrian refugees. In doing so rather than gratifying the anti-EU and anti-immigration populists she very clearly sent out a message what the EU stands for –  peace and prosperity. However, political analysts attribute such a policy to be the culprit for the AFP – Alternative for Germany, in gaining further ground.

Her stance on foreign policy was clearly demonstrated when she managed to rally support within the bloc into imposing sanctions on Russia over Ukraine, only to earn her Vladimir Putin’s respect that she is the only EU leader worth talking to! However, her remarks to greet then American President Donald Trump’s electoral success in 2016 says it all. Whilst extending her offer to cooperate with him she did so making it utterly clear that her offer stands on the basis of unilaterally sharing the same values of ‘democracy, freedom and respect for the law and human dignity independent of origin, skin colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political views’.

I feel that her greatest legacy for current and future EU leaders is that ‘solidarity makes sense if we all work to become better, fitter…Otherwise we’ll become weaker together’. She uttered those words way back during the 2009 debt crisis. Such solidarity has been expressed yet again during the current COVID-19 pandemic as the EU Commission, headed by Ursula von der Leyen, has successfully managed not only the distribution of vaccines for all of its EU citizens but also of the post pandemic recovery funding through its NextGenerationEU programme.

The highly respected international newspaper The Economist has used the following analogy in defining how important the political contribution by Angela Merkel has been not only to her home country but also to the whole of the EU – ‘Being the next German chancellor is like playing James Bond after Sean Connery’.  Hopefully like her, the next German chancellor will continue to emphasise the notion of ‘erfogreich zusammen’ which means ‘successful together’. All in all, I feel duty bound to say ‘Schönen dank mutti’ for being the right mother the EU needed in recent times.

 

Dr Ivan Grixti is a senior lecturer in Financial Accounting at the University of Malta

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