October 12, 2018

Angela Merkel Could Save Europe. Why Won’t She?

By Julianne Smith

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.

  • Podcast
    • August 10, 2022
    The Latest Phase of the War in Ukraine, with Mike Kofman and Jeff Edmonds

    Has the war in Ukraine reached a critical turning point? Mike Kofman and Jeff Edmonds join Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Jim Townsend to discuss the evolution of the military situ...

    By Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Jim Townsend, Michael Kofman & Jeffrey Edmonds

  • Podcast
    • August 5, 2022
    Political Churn in Europe, with Cathryn Clüver Ashbrook and Max Bergmann

    What do the recent upheavals in European politics mean for the future of transatlantic cooperation? Cathryn Clüver Ashbrook and Max Bergmann join Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Jim...

    By Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Jim Townsend, Cathryn Clüver Ashbrook & Max Bergmann

  • Podcast
    • July 27, 2022
    Ukraine's Window of Opportunity?

    With military circles abuzz that Ukraine might be preparing to launch a counter-offensive against Russian-held Kherson, Michael Kofman of CNA’s Russia team joins War on the Ro...

    By Michael Kofman

  • Podcast
    • July 25, 2022
    The State of EU-China Relations, with Noah Barkin and Francesca Ghiretti

    What have been the latest key developments in EU-China relations? Noah Barkin and Francesca Ghiretti join Carisa Nietsche and Jim Townsend to discuss milestones in the relatio...

    By Carisa Nietsche, Jim Townsend, Noah Barkin & Francesca Ghiretti

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia