Merkel – A Legacy Part I

In the last year and a half, Germany has been under two periods of a quasi-recession (a technical recession would happen if their quarterly GDP growth rate was negative for two consecutive quarters). But which long-term legacy will Merkel leave as Germany’s first female Chancellor?

German Legacy

A substantial number of Germans see Merkel as the saviour of the economy. Her economic reforms reduced unemployment to the low levels of the 1980’s, cut public spending and saw GDP grow by over a fifth over the past decade. However, her 2015 open borders policy was deeply unpopular in the eyes of her party’s electorate, many of which found refuge in the right-wing and Eurosceptic party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), now the third-largest political party in the Bundestag and the main party of the opposition (the centre-left Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (SPD) is the second-largest party in the Bundestag, although it is not part of the opposition because it is part of the governing coalition).

According to a poll done in March 2019, 52% of Germans are satisfied or very satisfied with how Merkel is governing the country, but only 30% are pleased with what her government has achieved. The numbers are reasonably good for her centre-right party, even though it is polling 6.9% lower than in 2017 and 15.5% lower than in 2013.

To make matters more serious, if an election was to take place today, the current ruling grand coalition between CDU and social democrats SPD (both historically either the main opposition or governing party) would fall short of an absolute majority. The CDU, while still the favourite to win the general election of 2021, could have the worst electoral result in its history (31% in 1949). However, the decline in the opinion polls of Angela Merkel’s party is a consequence of the low popularity of her likely successor and current head of the CDU, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, to whom polls attribute a 37% approval rating.

The other historical governing party, the SPD could have once again its worst electoral result ever (currently polling at 13%, below AfD) and, for the first time since World War II, no longer be either the first or second-largest party in the Bundestag.

To conclude, with only 30% of voters being satisfied by the work of the coalition, the political future of Germany is highly uncertain. This arises from the fact that the two political parties that have ruled Germany are expected to have all-time low results in the next elections, and also due to the resurgence of right-wing populism in the Bundestag.


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European Legacy

Merkel was seen by many, especially in Southern Europe, as the face of austerity. The hard-line enforcement of austerity measures may have popularized her in Germany, but in parts of Southern Europe, it helped fuel support for populist movements, such as the Italian coalition between the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and anti-immigration party Lega. In Greece, it led to the rise of the left-wing and anti-austerity party, Syriza. In Eastern Europe, Merkel’s policies regarding the migration crisis were heavily criticised and used by right-wing populists to gain support, such as in Poland or Hungary.

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Merkel is widely seen as a trusted politician throughout Europe. According to a Pew Research Center study from October 2019, 57% of people across the EU are confident Angela Merkel will make the right decisions regarding world affairs.

Macron is the runner-up, with 45% of people across the EU trusting his decision-making regarding world affairs. Another Pew Research Center study, dated from June 2017, concluded that 71% of Europeans have a favourable opinion of Germany. The Greek population expresses a different sentiment, where merely 24% of the population expressed a favourable view of Germany. The same research shows a plurality regarding Germany’s influence when it comes to decision making in the EU, with 48% thinking Germany has too much influence, while 44% think it has ‘about the right amount’ or too little.


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Succession

Some see Angela Merkel as the last strong liberal leader in Europe and fear her absence could lead to a power vacuum that could have as consequence an increase in the influence of the current nationalist leaders in Europe. However, what this data shows, is that Merkel has established herself as a trusted politician for the majority of citizens in the EU. After 14 years as Chancellor of Germany and as the most powerful leader of the union, Merkel is nearing the end of her mandate. Although it is still uncertain who will take her place on the stage, what is known for sure is that the legacy built on 30 years of politics is hard to replicate or surpass.

On that account, independently of how positively or negatively Merkel’s legacy is judged either in Germany, in Europe or worldwide, the supreme question remains:

Is the next successor up to the task and able to fill Merkel’s Power Suits?


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part II


Sources:

  • New Yorker

  • TIME

  • Bloomberg

  • Telegraph

  • DW

  • Independent

  • New York Times

  • VOX

  • The Guardian

  • Infratest Dimap

  • Pewresearch

  • Spiegel

Article Written By:


Ana Catarina Salgado -
Catarina+Salgado.jpg

Ana Catarina Salgado


Christian Weber -
Christian+Weber.jpg

Christian Weber


Ana Maria Terenas -
ana.terenas.jpg

Ana Maria Terenas


Rui Ramalhão -
rui.ramalhao.jpg

Rui Ramalhão


João Maria Sande e Castro -
joao.sc.jpg

João Maria Sande e Castro

Merkel – A Legacy Part II

An unlikely politician with extraordinary political skills – this seems to be the best description of the long-serving Chancellor of Germany and the guiding hand behind much of European politics in the last decade and a half, Angela Merkel, ‘the Chancellor of the free world’ (Times’ Cover, Dec ’15). German Chancellor from 2005 up to this day, she is said to step down in 2021. It is not possible to refer to the 21st century European Union without mentioning the political accomplishments of Angela Merkel and the legacy that shall be historically memorable not only within Germany, but within all of Europe.

Political Ascendance

Despite being born in West Germany, Merkel grew up in the former communist German Democratic Republic (GDR). As a brilliant student, she graduated in Physics and holds a Ph.D. in Quantum Chemistry, later working as a researcher. Throughout her youth, no particular interest in politics was manifested.


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In 1989, the Berlin Wall fell, the Communist Bloc crumbled, and Merkel joined the small Democratic Awakening party, created in the GDR, taking her first steps towards her long political career. This party subsequently merged with the East German Christian Democratic Union (East German CDU) through which, following the first and only free elections in the GDR, she became a spokeswoman for the Prime Minister.

Finally, on October 3rd, 1990, Germany was once more reunited as a unified country, and so were the East and West German CDU. In the first elections, Angela was elected to the Bundestag (German Parliament), becoming Minister for Women and Youth, and later Minister for the Environment and Nuclear Safety. Rising through the ranks of CDU as a protégé of Chancellor Helmut Kohl, she won the party’s leadership after the loss of the federal government to the Social Democrats (SPD) and a donations scandal involving the party leader, Wolfgang Schäuble, in 2000.

After leading her party in opposition, she won the 2005 federal elections, defeating the SPD and incumbent Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, becoming Germany’s first female Chancellor.

Overcoming a Financial Crisis

One of the most defining events for Europe in the last decade was the 2008 financial crisis, which left many people jobless and took a heavy toll on the European economy.

In Germany, to alleviate the financial pressure felt by the automotive industry, which accounts for 5% of German GDP, Merkel introduced the Umweltprämie (Scrapping Bonus): by purchasing a new car and scrapping a used one, one would be granted €2500 by the government, as long as the used car dated at least 9 years.  The measure cost the German government €5 billion but brought a ‘breath of fresh air’ to the industry.

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With the imminent threat of Hypo Real Estates bankruptcy in October 2008, Merkel felt the need to act to avoid a mass hysteria that could result in large scale bank run. With this in mind, the Chancellor announced what later would be named by the media as the Merkel-Garantie, a deposit protection for German savings accounts, backed by the German government. The consequent bailout and eventual nationalisation of the German investment bank managed to appease the general public. Despite the opposition claiming this bailout was extremely irresponsible, it marked an end to the mass withdrawals of savings accounts.

Overcoming a Humanitarian crisis

Starting from 2012 onwards, a massive influx of asylum seekers, predominantly from war-torn countries in the Middle East, was recorded. This crisis peaked in the fall of 2015 with a recorded arrival of 890 thousand refugees during that year.


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During the climax, Merkel decided, after consulting the Austrian and Hungarian Heads of State, to allow the entrance of unregistered refugees, mostly Syrian and Afghan, into national territory. Hereby she launched the Willkommenskultur (Welcome Culture), which promoted the integration of migrants and foreign culture in German society. However, Merkel faced strong backlash for this measure, even from her coalition partner Horst Seehofer, who did not approve of Merkel’s policies, instead supporting an upper limit on the number of asylum seekers entering Germany. Regardless, Merkel managed to withstand her critics and maintained an openness towards migrants, in contrast to most Heads of State across Europe.

From 2015 to 2016, around 1.5 million migrants were registered in the database of the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees. This number only decreased in 2017.


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Merkel argued on the importance of a homogenous Migrants Agreement for the EU, that should prioritize the integration of said refugees and speed up the process of the acceptance or denial of their request for international protection. Due to her stance on the refugee and Crimean Crisis, Merkel was nominated Times’ Person of the Year in 2015.

But which legacy did Germany’s current Chancellor leave its country?

part I


Sources:

  • New Yorker

  • TIME

  • Bloomberg

  • Telegraph

  • DW

  • Independent

  • New York Times

  • VOX

  • The Guardian

  • Infratest Dimap

  • Pewresearch

  • Spiegel

Article Written By:


Ana Catarina Salgado -
Catarina+Salgado.jpg

Ana Catarina Salgado


Christian Weber -
Christian+Weber.jpg

Christian Weber


Ana Maria Terenas -
ana.terenas.jpg

Ana Maria Terenas


Rui Ramalhão -
rui.ramalhao.jpeg

Rui Ramalhão


João Maria Sande e Castro -
joao.sc.jpg

João Maria Sande e Castro