Is Angela Merkel to blame for Europe’s woes?
Sakrileg: the German word for sacrilege – that is, the violation or misuse of what is regarded as sacred.
And yes, I’m about to go there by asking if the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, been a disaster for Europe.
I’ve been wondering if Merkel’s prolonged tenure at the Federal Chancellery has been extending the region’s problems. And it’s a question that has been nagging at me for a while now, as I watch the dystopian nightmare that the EU has become during the nearly 14 years of her undisputed reign as Europe’s “numero uno” politician.
“Mutti”, as the Germans affectionately call her, is only the fourth German Chancellor of the last 45 years, after Helmut Schmidt, Helmut Kohl, and Gerhard Schroder.
The Germans like longevity in their leaders, but she has presided over a tumultuous recent period, which for many, has left Europe on the brink.
The question that I am daring to ask is whether Europe has become a mess in spite of her best efforts, or because of her inaction?
Let’s look at some of the facts about Europe.
Britain was a natural ally for Germany within the European Union. But Brexit means that Germany will lose a net-contributing, like-minded northern colleague, which is surely an enormous blow for the future of the EU.
You have to question whether the ham-fisted build-up to the Brexit referendum really was just David Cameron’s fault?
And it’s not just Brexit that is the problem, because there has been a clear break down of the Franco-German axis.
Paris and Berlin don’t appear to have a clue as to how to move forward with the quagmire that the EU has become.
Differing visions seem to be on hold as Frau Merkel continues her long goodbye, and all the while Europe lacks a way forward.
Look at the bloc’s cohesion. Yep, what cohesion?
The Italian problem, with its ludicrously high debts, may have preceded Merkel’s accession in 2005, but it has only got worse on her watch – and that €2 trillion nightmare just keeps threatening to blow up the whole project.
How can Germany not take a fair share of the blame for this omnipresent existential threat?
And what about Germany itself? Yes, its mouth-watering trade surpluses keep grabbing President Donald Trump’s attention. However, these surpluses are failing to disguise the huge structural issue facing Germany – from the horrendous woes of its banking heavyweights, to an automobile sector which is having to belatedly spend hundreds of billions of euros reinventing itself.
And let’s not forget Germany’s low carbon transformation, which seems to be based on dragging out coal consumption for as long as possible.
Is it that all of these issues are no fault of a brilliant and honest politician who has done her best for the country and the continent, despite everything? Or will history be harsher on the continent’s most preeminent politician?