After 15 years of merkelismThe German Chancellor’s style of neutrality and consensus makes many Europeans accept her country as the leader of the European Union, but the Berlin post Angela Merkel will have to radically change its strategy, according to a study.
Angela Merkel’s Legacy: Did it Save or Destroy Europe?
“Angela Merkel has become the epitome of a strong and stable Germany, positioning herself as the pillar of Europe throughout more than a decade of crisis,” says Piotr Buras, co-author from the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) study. “But ‘Merkelism’ is no longer sustainable. Merkel may have skillfully managed the status quo across the continent, but the challenges Europe now faces – the pandemic, climate change, geopolitical rivalry – require radical solutions, not cosmetic changes. The EU needs a visionary Germany. ”
Back to Merkel
The study, based on polls carried out in 12 EU member states, reveals “strong and continued” support for German leadership within the bloc and sustained approval of the chancellor, who leaves office with a view to the federal elections that take place. at the end of the month.
A large number (41%) of those surveyed, including majorities from the Netherlands (58%), Spain (57%) and Portugal (52%), say they would prefer Merkel to France’s Emmanuel Macron in a hypothetical race for the presidency of the EU.
Many Europeans from the 12 countries also say they trust Germany to defend their interests on a number of issues, including – despite criticism of Germany’s hardliners on austerity and budget balance – economic and financial policy, 36%.
Even countries with very different policies, such as Spain (45%) and Hungary, which does not belong to the eurozone (50%), support German economic leadership. Although this figure is only 24% in Italy, it is still the most popular option among those who expressed their opinion.
Similarly, 35% of Europeans surveyed say they would be satisfied with Berlin taking the lead from the EU in defending human rights, including 49% of respondents in Hungary and 23% in Poland, immersed countries. in disputes over the rule of law with the bloc.
A large proportion of Europeans surveyed for the study also believe that without Merkel, there would have been more conflicts in the world rather than fewer, a view that is most strongly defended in Spain (33%), the Netherlands (30%) and Portugal (28%).
However, support for Berlin as a potential geopolitical leader is remarkably low. For example, only 25% of those surveyed believe that Germany should be in charge of the EU’s relations with the United States. Support for Berlin to lead the bloc’s relations with Russia (20%) and China (17%) is even lower.
And the Germans?
The study shows a disconnect between the way Europeans view Germany and the way Germany views itself, given that German respondents are not yet convinced that their country can or should play a larger role within the EU.
On the question of defending human rights and democracy alone, more than a third (38%) of Germans say that their country can defend the interests of the EU. One in five says they could not lead any of the questions addressed in the survey.
Germans are also pessimistic about the future of their country after Merkel, with a majority (52%) believing that their “golden age” is over, a view shared by a sizeable minority (34%) in the 12 countries surveyed. Only 10% believe that it is yet to come.
Germany must rethink its policy
The authors believe that the survey shows that, to maintain the reputation and trust that has been built under Merkel’s leadership, Germany must radically rethink its EU policies, going beyond merkelism to confront member states such as Poland and Hungary, which are accused of violating the values of the bloc.
Likewise, they argue that, beyond the borders of Europe, Germany must also change its foreign policy in general, finding a way to use its economic and political influence to defend the interests and principles of Europe, for example, working closely with the Administration. by Joe Biden on a transatlantic approach to China.
However, the survey shows that internal opinion in Germany would be an obstacle. “The main challenge, for whoever wins next week’s election, will be to convince Germans that a serious change in the way their country engages the EU is necessary,” says co-author Jana Puglierin, lead researcher. ECFR policy.
“The approach of putting EU cohesion above all else, which has shaped much of the EU’s political agenda during the Merkel era, may prove a tempting avenue for Merkel’s successor. But in the face of international crises and internal concerns about Germany’s role in the EU, ‘more of the same’ is unlikely to hold, he says.
For Germany to maintain its status as a leader in EU politics, Puglierin thinks it would have to “engage with the issues that are important to its citizens, and provide its EU partners with clear ideas on how the EU can compete in a world divided and shaken by crisis “.
Merkel’s successors will also have to “sell the importance of German leadership in the bloc to their voters at home,” he says. “They can no longer afford to remain neutral, or stick with it. status whator. It is time for Berlin to take sides. ”