Ronald G. Asch

Europe will suffer as Germany drifts

Over the last 15 years Germany has come to be seen by many in Europe as a paragon of political stability. Whereas other countries have suffered rising unemployment, unmanageable levels of public debt or a rising wave of far-right support, Germany’s perennial chancellor Merkel demonstrated that her talents as a political fixer were superior to any challenge. Never very keen on taking the long term view of politics, she cultivated the most essential art of politics: survival.

There were certainly moments of real danger for her. The Euro and migrant crises triggered discontent both in her party and the electorate at large. But she never lost her nerve and in the end she was always able to sit the challenges out. Of course a price had to be paid for such triumphs. Although she fought a long series of rearguard actions against all attempts to fully mutualise Eurozone public debt, she ultimately lost the war against a French-led coalition of southern countries without being able to extract any significant concessions in return. The EU acquired the right to take out loans on its own and it is doubtful that this Pandora’s Box can ever be closed again.

Whoever becomes chancellor in the coming months, Germany will in all likelihood enjoy very little real leadership

Merkel never tried to reform Germany’s very liberal asylum arrangements (although she did cut deals with Turkey and others) and she refused to address immigration concerns in public. If there is another refugee crisis this winter — this time fleeing Afghans — it is all too likely that we will see a repeat of what happened six years ago. That might even revive the fortunes of the right-wing Alternative for Deutschland, a party unsurpassed in its talent for internecine conflict and now more than ever dominated by fruitcakes.

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