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Germany

Merkel Seen as Europe's Top Dog, Says New Study

Germany is considered to be the current leader of Europe and Chancellor Angela Merkel the Continent's most influential politician, according to a six-nation poll published Friday, April 4. Only the US begs to differ.

Angela Merkel

Don't you just love her?

Citizens in the five EU nations surveyed see Germany as leader of the bloc, including 57 percent of Spaniards and Germans, 39 percent of Italians and 35 percent of Britons, according to the Harris Interactive poll published by France 24 television and the International Herald Tribune. The poll of 6,478 people was conducted online between Feb. 27 and March 6.

Merkel came out well ahead of President Nicolas "Bling-Bling" Sarkozy as Europe's most influential personality -- even in France where 38 percent cite the German leader against 18 percent their own president.

Although Sarkozy is doing his best to seize the reins in Europe, 68 percent of respondents in France still believe Berlin is calling the shots in Brussels -- and Germany is also seen as the country likely to have the most influence on the rest of Europe over the next decade.

Trans-Atlantic differences

US President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown sit next to each other at the start of the NATO Summit conference in Bucharest

Brown (l) and Bush -- still close

In the United States, meanwhile, perceptions are altogether different, with the much-touted "special relationship" between Washington and London still very much in evidence.

Across the Atlantic, a clear majority of 63 percent of Americans believe Britain to be the current leader of Europe, a view shared by 33 percent of Britons and 34 percent of Italians.

US respondents also believed British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to have most influence in Europe at 23 percent, while Sarkozy lags a long way behind with 9 percent and Merkel with 8 percent.

A potential Ms. Europe

But back in Europe, Merkel can't be topped. Although most British and Americans say they would choose former British Prime Minister Tony Blair as a potential president of Europe, on the Continent it is Merkel who gets the popular vote, making her the only serving leader to be considered appropriate.

The question has particular resonance with the prospect of an election for a newly empowered presidency of the European Council looming on the horizon. According to the Lisbon Treaty, EU leaders would, in future, choose a president for a 30-month term rather than the current six-month, rotating presidency system.

Earlier this week, even a high-ranking EU official suggested that Merkel would be an ideal candidate to sit at the head of the EU table.

"There are few women in the running when it comes to the EU's top jobs," said European Communications Commissioner Margot Wallstrom, pointing to Merkel as a highly capable woman more than eligible for such a post.

Old Europe gathering strength?

German Chancellor Angela Merkel listens, as French President Nicolas Sarkozy speaks at a joint press conference

Closing ranks

The six-nation poll was published the same week of the NATO summit taking place in Bucharest, which saw Merkel and her Sarkozy challenge US President George W. Bush over the question of NATO's eastwards expansion, making it clear that Berlin firmly opposed NATO membership for Georgia and Ukraine in the short term.

Bush was forced to abandon his hopes for the two countries, while Merkel, together with Sarkozy, demonstrated that when Germany and France close ranks they have considerable clout.

On Thursday, the French and German leaders, also announced that their nations would be jointly hosting the alliance's 60th anniversary summit next year in the eastern French city of Strasbourg and its German sister town of Kehl, just across the Rhine River.

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