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Merkel's political style remains

Rosalia Romaniec
Rosalia Romaniec
December 7, 2021

Now that Chancellor Merkel has left the political stage, many abroad wonder whether Germany will remain predictable. Such concerns are unfounded, says Rosalia Romaniec.

 Angela Merkel waving
Angela Merkel wisely chose when to leave office Image: Getty Images/Sean Gallup

People initially underestimated Angela Merkel. But then she led four governments and mastered a series of crises in 16 years in office. She worked with four US presidents, five British prime ministers, and four presidents of France, not to mention the multitude of chancellors of Austria or prime ministers of Italy. In many capitals, leaders came and went — but Angela Merkel stayed.

And so it is understandable that many people, especially abroad, find it hard to get used to Germany and Europe without Angela Merkel and wonder whether the economically strong nation at the heart of the continent will remain stable and predictable even without this chancellor.

Not muscle, but backbone

She was unpretentious, unruffled, and pragmatic when handling difficult partners. Even when provoked, she always dealt calmly with Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. Often enough, her political principles were evident only when reading between the lines, a fact that was often recognized more clearly abroad than in Germany.

The German chancellor made her way in a male-dominated world. She didn't flex her muscles but relied on her backbone. "Above all, it takes truthfulness to others and — perhaps most importantly — to ourselves," she said in a Harvard commencement address in 2019. That includes, Merkel said, "not calling lies truths and truths lies."

Rosalia Romaniec
DW's Rosalia RomaniecImage: Ronka Oberhammer/DW

A new political style

Merkel was liked and respected for her style almost more in other countries than in Germany, even though, of course, she is and was not always just popular abroad. She had to make a series of unpleasant decisions. To this day, the Greeks deplore her steeliness in the financial crisis, the Italians are at odds with the fact she turned a blind eye to the migration crisis that had been brewing since well before 2015, and people in Poland oppose her approval of the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline. However, her controversial decisions do little to lessen the respect that Merkel enjoys internationally.

That is because Angela Merkel embodied a political style that you would be hard-pressed to find with other politicians: She governed scandal-free for 16 years. By choosing when to leave office, she has set a benchmark for how the voluntary transfer of power can be carried out with dignity and respect.

A long apprenticeship

So it's no surprise that many people abroad are wondering what kind of Germany the world can expect after Merkel has left. Incidentally, many Germans are also asking that very same question. 

If party politics are put aside aside, it is not at all certain whether that is even true. Her successor, the Social Democrat Olaf Scholz, most recently served as Merkel's vice chancellor for four years. He, too, values stability and continuity as the most important guidelines of German politics.

So the international community need not tax its brains: The new chancellor has spent plenty of time learning from Merkel.

This article has been translated from German.

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