As Merkel Eyes Exit, Nervous E.U. Wonders Who’ll Take the Stage

Oct 30, 2018 · 46 comments
Cristobal (NYC)
Merkel has been a cool head and steady hand for a long time. And she's needed now more than ever. It is such a shame that she committed what can only be described as suicide with that foolish decision to let in so many unassimilable people these past few years. Germany has a hard road ahead, and it didn't need to be this way.
Screenwritethis (America)
Mother Merkel proves absolute power corrupts absolutely. When Mother Merkel began ruling she listened to the German people. Private polling has always revealed most Germans/Europeans are not in favor of open borders, unchecked immigration. However, over the years, Mother Merkel morphed into another politically correct elitist, who knew what was best for her people. She no longer listened to or represented the German people. Ergo, her progressive Left leaning policies allowed Germany to be overrun by the faux refugee muslim invasion. Of course, most media will portray her policies as well intentioned, compassionate. In fact, the unintended consequences of unchecked, unregulated mass immigration has resulted in irreparable damage. Hopefully, her departure will enable a return to political sanity, traditional German stability, the preservation of precious European tradition, heritage, culture..
scientella (palo alto)
Merkels legacy is the AFD and the emboldening of the far right. Her Willkommen policy was naive to say the least.
François (Brittany)
France is a bit lonely. US, UK or Southern Europe are a mess. and Germany is more a burden than a leader : - Defense low spending of 1.2% of GDP (see SIPRI, a swedish think tank). "German armed forces in 'dramatically bad' shape, report finds", Financial Times, 20/02/2018. - demographic decline births/deaths balance has been negative since 1972 according to Destatis. population started to shrink in 2004 (Eurostat). and Die Welt published an article on March 3rd, 2015 about skilled Germans leaving the country in droves. - social dumping See for example "Why German wages need to rise - and fast", Financial Times, 16/11/2016. big gap between productivity growth and wage growth since 1995. very high percentage of low-wage earners : 22.5% (Eurostat). less than 9% in France, Belgium or Denmark. and Germany relies much on low-cost neighbors. - low investment average government investment rate of 2.2% GDP in the last 20 years compared with 3.9% in USA/France ("An international comparison of gross fixed capital formation", UK ONS, 11/2017). business investment rate has also been relatively low since 2000 (see Eurostat data ; "German businesses under fire for low investment", Financial Times, 23/08/2018). German businesses invest more and more abroad because of the demographic problem, according to Olaf Gersemann (Die Welt). same in Japan. - poverty poverty rate has jumped from 12.5% in 2005 to 16.5% in 2016 (Eurostat). etc…
François (Brittany)
France is a bit lonely. Germany is a problem more than a leader : - Defense low spending of 1.2% of GDP (see SIPRI, a swedish think tank). ‘German armed forces in 'dramatically bad' shape, report finds’, Financial Times, 20/02/2018. - demographic decline births/deaths balance has been negative since 1972 according to Destatis. population started to shrink in 2004 (Eurostat). and Die Welt published an article on March 3rd, 2015 about skilled Germans leaving the country in droves. - social dumping See for example "Why German wages need to rise - and fast", Financial Times, 16/11/2016. big gap between productivity growth and wage growth since 1995. very high percentage of low-wage earners : 22.5% (Eurostat). less than 9% in France, Denmark or Belgium (Eurostat). and Germany relies much on low-cost neighbors. - low investment average government investment rate of 2.2% GDP in the last 20 years compared with 3.9% in USA/France ("An international comparison of gross fixed capital formation", UK ONS, 11/2017). business investment rate has also been relatively low since 2000 (see Eurostat data ; "German businesses under fire for low investment", Financial Times, 23/08/2018). German businesses invest more and more abroad because of the demographic problem, according to Olaf Gersemann (Die Welt). same in Japan. - poverty poverty rate has jumped from 12.2% in 2005 to 16.1% in 2017 (Eurostat). etc…
stephen john (canada)
who would have ever imagined a strong and democratic Germany alongside an England which had little choice but to engage a Donald Trump ?? I think Germany will fair quite well / that she deserves to fair quite well, alongside the British who seem unable to manage much beyond confusion ... who would have thunk and again who would have thunk, but the truth is tomorrow is already here / you can offer the western world a strong economy (one not based upon war) or you can not, and our old leader has been sinking in some inbred mire for years - I guess Capitalism where little is offered and even less is shared would eventually turn into a dead end - who knew ??
Johnny (UK)
At some point there will be an existential question for the current EU project, will it continue to be an aim for closer political and economic union, or just a free trade area. With Merkel going, apart from Macron and the EU bureaucracy it’s not clear which leaders will champion the current trajectory. These are scary times, mainly because it’s becoming impossible to predict the way the world is turning.
Flaminia (Los Angeles)
I don't really believe in God, but . . . God bless Angela Merkel.
Tom (France)
Sadly there is no-one around at the moment who could replace Mrs Merkel.
Chuck French (Portland, Oregon)
"But to those who believed — and worked for — the dream of an ever-closer union, Ms. Merkel was considered fundamentally reliable, decent and committed to Europe and its values. " This comment and the fawning adoration in the US mainstream press encapsulates exactly Angela Merkel is being shown the door by Germans. The unquestioned premise is that Angela Merkel and her coterie of political elitists get to define "Europe and its values," and thereby appoint themselves spokesman of those values. Unfortunately, most Europeans never accepted the Euro-elitists' fantasy of a multi-cultural "ever closer union." Those in Germany stuck by Merkel while Germany used the carefully crafted financial and regulatory polices of the EU to quietly bludgeon the economies in the rest of Europe, but that sort of support is transitory. Germans, and the rest of Europe, have now seen where her vision is leading them, and they are returning to the alternative that Europeans always turn to---hardline authoritarians like Viktor Orban.
rudolf (new york)
Merkel never understood that the EU in Brussels calls the shots rather than Berlin.
Steve (Seattle)
The EU will learn that without a strong level headed leader they will be saddled with trump.
Edward Blau (WI)
Merkel's behavior in the financial crisis of 2008 and on was reprehensible. She forced austerity on smaller countries that instead wanted to default on loans that were held by German banks. Her and Germany's moral repugnance about debt forced a decade of slow growth and unemployment in the poor countries and led to the rise of nationalism and populism in many. The EU is great for Germany because a single currency allows Germany's exports to be priced by the Euro and not the DM which would have greatly risen in value. Merkel was correct in admitting refugees into Germany but not correct in trying to force a quota on other members of the EU. Imagine the USA without the Federal Reserve and that is the EU. Poorer countries cannot grow their economies by devaluing their individual currencies for they have none.
Maxi Nimbus (Füssen, Germany)
@Edward Blau: So I do ask myself why nationalism and populism is rising also outside the EU, especially in the US? Another issue is why the Franken based Swiss economy shows an export surplus which is per capita even higher than Germany's which has been permanently positive since 1952?
Jörg (Germany)
Please keep in mind that reason for Southern European Countries struggeling was heavy deficit spending combined with inefficient allocation of public goods as well as significant Tax evasion/inefficient Tax Collection. Not to blame Merkel for that.
michael kittle (vaison la romaine, france)
I’m afraid Angela made a mistake, and it was a whopper. Despite years of experience and maturity, she sucumbed to a fit of empathy resulting in giving the whole country away to a mob of desperate people. This led to the unexpected consequences of political instability and sudden lack of confidence in her government ....and in her. This set off a chain reaction through Europe leaving a vacuum in leadership not only in Germany but in the European Union. Yes, it may take a generation for the continent to settle down into a new sense of stability. Let’s hope this power vacuum is not filled by a lurch to the right and fascism!
Martin (Germany)
I am grateful for her service and her leadership, especially the move to renewable energy (and the phasing-out of nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster) and her open-arms policy towards refugees. We have so much, we can share, and it is to our credit on the world stage. But I'm also happy that she is leaving this world stage and - hopefully - is taking Germany a bit out of the limelight. I always cringe when people say that we are the "leaders of Europe" and so on. Some people even declared her "leader of the free world" after it became apparent that Donald Trump is mentally unfit to be President. We killed more than ten million helpless civilians and countless more soldiers in two world wars. We should not be leading anything or anybody, even today. Our economic power should not be combined with political power, it might be just a bit too much for our neighbors. Maybe we can climb down from our high perch post-Merkel and just be among friends...
Ginette (New York)
@Martin Who are the friends you have in mind ?
Mack (Charlotte)
Thank Angela for your service to the world, and thank you Germany for sharing her with us.
Sven Gall (Phoenix, AZ)
@Mack She was a complete disaster.
Jörg (Germany)
Skip Fox News and visit Germany. You will see no disaster but a tremendous rich country wonderful to live at
Unworthy Servant (Long Island NY)
It is true mistakes were made, as the article notes and the feelings of smaller European states (Greece, central Europe) inadequately addressed. Overall though a leader of great substance and a friend of the U.S. With this turn of events, Putin, and Bannon, as well as assorted white nationalists and far right types are dancing in the streets. Pres. Macron the leader of a new movement in his own country has no members in the EU parliament and is crippled there in terms of taking her place. The UK is leaving Europe and its politics are currently a mess with both Ms. May and the unreformed old hard leftist Corbyn equally unpopular albeit among different groups. Then we have Trump and a Republican party suddenly in U-turn mode from international leadership and responsible multilateral approaches to isolationist "America First" with its hint of anti-Semitism. It is not a coincidence that the Chancellor of Germany, despite her overall center-right politics has become the hate object of every online fascist and xenophobe. This is a sad development for both Europe and humanitarian values.
Jesse James (Kansas City)
Not one word in this article re her refusal to properly fund the German military contribution to NATO while being more than happy to let the US taxpayer pay for the defense of the richest country in Europe. Germany has a budget surplus. Good riddance Angela.
Chris Anderson (Chicago)
Auf Wiedersehen and don't ever come back. The German people are glad you are gone according to the latest German polls.
Thomas (Karlsruhe/Germany)
@Chris Anderson What polls? She is still leading way ahead of any other german politician...
Connecticut Yankee (Middlesex County, CT)
Merkel is going, Merkel is going! Oh dear, what will they do now? Not, God forbid, listen to the voters?
submit (india)
Europe would manage as there is no scarcity of leaders but refugees and migrants would have a difficult time ahead! Her going might prolong the task of changing the European culture.
Roland Berger (Magog, Québec, Canada)
Most commentators seem to forget how good Merkel is at political strategies. Surprises to come.
Tristan Roy (Montreal, Canada)
Germany is not the only country to have monuments about their defeat. Just look up in Canada, where french-canadians who have founded this country have to live with several monuments of the french defeat to the British Empire. Monuments glorifying general Wolf, admiral Nelson. Even the Abraham Plains in Quebec city where Wolf won has been turned to a "national" parc. Its the fait of being in the loosing side of history and have lost freedom.
Londoner (London)
Merkel has done some good things - and some not-so-good ones. It probably is time for her to go. She belongs to a group of leaders who have put GDP ahead of GDP per capita and ended a pragmatic journey finding her close relationships with a few large corporations might have become closer than her relationship with the people who originally voted for her. The trouble is that there is something of an oligarchy of these kind of people developing. They are losing their democratic appeal and yet are so sure that they are right in all things they have little compunction about trying to manipulate the processes to get one of their own "elected". Hillary Clinton was probably one of these.
Connecticut Yankee (Middlesex County, CT)
@Londoner - One of the most prescient comments I've read in the NYT in a long time. Especially: "They are losing their democratic appeal and yet are so sure that they are right in all things..." Thanks.
Paul (Albany, NY)
One shouldn't neglect Germany's economic policy of running current account surpluses that are now larger than China, and beggaring its neighbors. Those surpluses are thanks to low wage growth for German workers, and the pains are felt in deficit countries in the rest of Europe (Italy, Spain, etc.) which are now starting to see resistance in the form of far right movements. If Germany really wants to help the rest of Europe, it would give German workers more of a raise, which would lead to greater imports, and less exports (as they become expensive). Germany's economy can then shift from export-oriented to stronger domestic demand that helps neighboring countries. However, given that their leaders are now to the far-right, better economic prospects will only enrich those leaders. Germany, with Merkel's economic austerity and German insistence on export-growth that is detrimental to trading partners, is part of the reason why the far right has risen in Europe.
Maureen (New York)
It appears that Mrs. Merkel’s most ardent admirers are, by and large, career bureaucrats. It is telling that so few actual citizens and voters have joined in this chorus of praise for her, even though Mutti Merkel has been In power for this length of time. Perhaps it is time to realize that the welfare of the average citizen should have been a greater priority to Mutti. It was Germany’s bankers and career bureaucrats from the EU and other NGOs that derived the greatest benefit from Merkel’s overlong tenure.
Kerby (North Carolina)
Merkel's immigration policies have resulted in significant immigration issues / problems within Europe, which will last for years... Good riddance Angela.
Wurzelsepp (UK)
@Kerby, no they haven't, but I don't expect Americans to really understand European issues, as you clearly do not understand the significant role Merkel has played to make the EU what it is today.
Mark B. (Berlin)
@Kerby The immigration issues Europe is facing are not a result of Merkels policies, but (in big part) result of the immoral behavoiur of western societies against african and middle east countries. Examples: The US invasion in Irak, the double standards when dealing with countries like Saudi Arabia, or trade policies that destroy the economic development in afrian countries.
Connecticut Yankee (Middlesex County, CT)
@Wurzelsepp -"...you clearly do not understand the significant role Merkel has played to make the EU what it is today. " We COMPLETELY UNDERSTAND; what is the EU today? - A DISASTER.
Luciano (Jones)
Another out of touch leader who completely misunderstood her people's legitimate concerns about the massive immigration of difficult to assimilate people - many of whom come from societies with dramatically cruel ideas about women and gays
Mark B. (Berlin)
@Luciano It is more about integration than assimilation. Who needs assimilation? That said, I think that all in all, looking back to the last 50 years, integration is working pretty well in germany.
Wurzelsepp (UK)
@Luciano, yeah she was so out of touch that she has been re-elected *four* times, although the last time just barely. As to the refugees (which are a direct result of US actions around the globe), the economic migrants will be sorted out and returned to where they came from, and the real refugees, of which many are young and with good education, will help to compensate for a German population that is over-aging.
Connecticut Yankee (Middlesex County, CT)
@Wurzelsepp - "... the economic migrants will be sorted out and returned to where they came from..." Uh-huh. And that will be starting...when?
Brian (New York, NY)
I would hope that Ms. Merkel, with all of her stabilizing influence in the world, could hang on until after the 2020 U.S. election and after Brexit has begun. Her stature has provided a needed counterweight to Trump's reckless authoritarian impulses and Britain's hopes to get a soft deal on Brexit. Fortunately, it appears that Europe isn't going to budge for Britain. If Trump is elected for a 2nd (or 3rd??) term, then a stable Europe will be more needed than ever.
Farai Peter (Australia)
I can see him going in for the 2nd term considering how the rise of Nationalism is just getting worse and worse everyday. With his arrogance and bullheadedness I can see him taking the path of Kaiser Wilhelm II and undoing the balance of Power like Wilhem did in 1914
Bos (Boston)
The world will miss Chancellor Merkel just as President Obama. Here in the U.S., we also miss former Fed Chair Janet Yellen. The world has a problem with quality control!
Connecticut Yankee (Middlesex County, CT)
@Bos - I think you need to tweek your comment; it should read "THE SAME PEOPLE who will miss Angela Merkel also miss Barack Obama and Janet Yellen."
Sven Gall (Phoenix, AZ)
@Bos Obama was a complete disaster. He was the best gift the GOP ever had. But what can you expect from a community organizer. What a mistake.
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