Campaigning in the spring of 2017, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany declared at a packed beer hall in Bavaria that it was time for Europe to “take its destiny into its own hands.” In the face of Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Hungary’s slide into illiberalism and an American president who viewed the European Union with disdain, Europe, she argued, needed a leader who could push forward reform and push back against its detractors. Ms. Merkel vowed that she was ready to be that leader.
Unfortunately, in the 18 months since, Ms. Merkel has failed to fulfill that pledge. The European Union’s promise to form an “ever closer union” seems more like an empty slogan than a strategy these days. But further integration is necessary. With Europe besieged by illiberal forces inside (Hungary) and from outside (Vladimir Putin’s Russia), and voters electing anti-European Union populists, leaders across the Continent need to demonstrate that they are confident about Europe’s shared future. Ms. Merkel clearly understands this — but she isn’t helping Europe to do anything about it.
Ms. Merkel’s troubles started with the September 2017 election, when her party, the center-right Christian Democrats, and the center-left Social Democrats lost a stunningly large number of voters to the far-right Alternative for Germany. The message was clear: Enthusiasm for Ms. Merkel was waning. It then took the parties more than four months to form a government. Once a coalition was finally established in March, the hope among many pro-European policymakers was that Ms. Merkel would find her footing and return to the European agenda that she had highlighted during the campaign.
Members of her own team have made that difficult. Her interior minister, Horst Seehofer, the head of the Christian Social Union, nearly brought down the entire government last summer when he threatened to resign over Ms. Merkel’s relatively open immigration policies. That crisis was averted, but Mr. Seehofer continues to contradict and challenge the chancellor. And he isn’t the only one. Last month, Ms. Merkel’s own party ousted Volker Kauder, one of her closest allies in the Bundestag, the lower house of Parliament. “The Merkel era is officially over,” a journalist friend of mine texted me when the news broke.
Read the full article at The New York Times.
More from CNAS
PodcastThe 30th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall with Ambassador Dan Fried
Ambassador Dan Fried, Weiser Family Distinguished Fellow at the Atlantic Council, joins Dr. Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Jim Townsend to discuss the state of European and America...
By Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Jim Townsend & Ambassador Dan Fried
ReportsNot Enough Maritime Capability
Lt. Col. Colin Smith (USMC) and Jim Townsend outline the United States’ projected shortfalls in sealift capacity needed to reinforce Europe in a time of crisis....
By LtCol Colin Smith & Jim Townsend
PodcastNorway, NATO, and the High North with Norwegian State Secretary Audun Halvorsen
Audun Halvorsen, State Secretary in the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, joins Dr. Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Jim Townsend to discuss Norwegian foreign policy, what the A...
By Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Jim Townsend & Audun Halvorsen
PodcastGermany and the State of the Transatlantic Relationship with Julie Smith
Julie Smith, Director of the Asia Program at The German Marshall Fund, joins Dr. Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Jim Townsend to recap her year as the Weizsäcker Fellow at the Rober...
By Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Jim Townsend & Julianne Smith