The Guardian view on Angela Merkel: farewell to a bulwark of stability

영형ne of the most emblematic political photographs of recent times was taken during a G7 summit in Canada in 2018. Leaning forward across a narrow table with hands outstretched, a grim-faced Angela Merkel confronts Donald Trump, who sits with his arms folded, refusing to meet her eye. Emmanuel Macron and the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, flank the German chancellor as she glowers down at the American president.

As Ms Merkel prepares to stand down as chancellor following next Sunday’s German election, 후 16 연령, the image sums up her recent role as a bulwark of liberal values in turbulent times. Amid resurgent nationalism and deep political polarisation across the west, the longest-serving and most influential European leader of the 21st century has been a vital standard bearer for a consensual, rules-based way of doing politics on the world stage. The political virtues she has embodied during her long reign – patience, tolerance, a lack of stridency and an aversion to showmanship – have come into their own, as culture wars proliferate on all sides. Her famous decision to keep Germany’s borders open to Syrian refugees 에 2015 demonstrated a generosity of spirit and compassion to which all western democracies should aspire.

But beyond the upheavals of recent years, the overall legacy of Germany’s first female chancellor is more complex and enigmatic. Domestically, Merkelism became synonymous with an ecumenical and managerial politics of the centre ground. The global financial crash tempered Ms Merkel’s neoliberal economic instincts, and during 12 of her 16 years as chancellor she led a Christian Democrat-Social Democrat “grand coalition”. This hobbled her centre-left opponents’ attempts to present themselves as a distinct alternative and allowed her to reap the political rewards of successful policies such as a new minimum wage – which was an SPD condition for entering into coalition in 2013. Though Ms Merkel’s political convictions were difficult to pin down, a certain ambiguity, flexibility and calculated blandness became the secret of her success. Four victorious federal elections testified to the efficacy of an inherently cautious approach. But latterly her writ has not run in the poorer east, where the rightwing nationalists of the AfD have enjoyed significant success amid growing disillusionment.

The deliberately low-key style worked for many of the crises that came Ms Merkel’s way. But some challenges could have benefited from greater imagination and strategic ambition. In Europe, her consensus-building skills mostly have been an enormous asset, especially in ensuring fiscal solidarity between European Union member states during the Covid-19 pandemic. But the punitive austerity forced upon southern European states during the European debt crisis in the early 2010s – insisted upon by Ms Merkel and her then finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble – was deeply misguided and anti-democratic, and failed to address real flaws in the economic architecture of the eurozone. The backlash helped launch an era of political turbulence and populist insurgencies, and brought nationalism back into fashion.

More recently, Ms Merkel’s Green party opponents have been right to criticise the slow timetable for ending the country’s dependence on coal, and the lack of financial firepower to enable a fair green transition. In relation to China, whose appetite for German exports underpinned her economic model, she has pursued a policy of profitable accommodation that appears out of step with changing geopolitical times.

그럼에도 불구하고, Ms Merkel’s status as one of the most formidable, skilful and assured political leaders of modern times is beyond question. In the 21st century, no other leader comes close. From when she was working as a quantum physicist in the former East Germany, she has been an avid reader of history. During the course of a length of tenure bettered only by Otto von Bismarck, she perhaps had a chance to shape her own times more than she did. But her reassuringly stable and constructive presence in the politics of the west will be badly missed.

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