Her career as chancellor of Germany began in November 2005. With now twelve years in office, Angela Merkel is the longest-serving incumbent in the European Union. And chances are high, that she will be reelected for a fourth term in September. Which is quite fortunate, since Merkel was described as “the Liberal West’s last defender” by The New York Times after the election of Donald Trump. But critics argue she does not have a strict line in decision making, instead she is quite flexible in changing her opinion, adapting it to the respective situation. How successful is the most powerful woman in the European Union with her policies, especially domestic politics, but also energy and economic politics?

The German economy might be as strong as it hasn’t been in the last years. There is a record in employment, while the unemployment rates are extremely low, the international export in the first half of 2017 outnumbered last year, with 638 billion Euro of goods being transferred out of Germany. But those positive numbers can be dated back to Merkel’s social democrat predecessor Gerhard Schröder, and his Agenda2010. Merkel is now taking benefit from Schröder’s policies, which caused him is political end at his time. In addition, Germany is one of the leading countries when it comes to high tax rates, taxes in Germany account for almost 50% of income. Tax reductions are announced for the new legislative period, but they already have been promised before the elections in 2009 and 2013.

Merkel’s behavior regarding the energy revolution is another aspect, she is being criticized for. In 2011 after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, the chancellor demanded a U-turn in energy politics, after having extended the period for nuclear energy in Germany only before. While this was a support-worthy project in general, it failed because of its implementation. This policy change will cost the state up to one billion Euro, the money will have to be paid by German people with higher bills for electricity. In addition to that, it is not sure if there will be any ecological benefit, since there is energy that is still produced by coal-fired power plants.

In economic and energy politics, Merkel has adorned herself with borrowed plumes, but what did she achieve in domestic politics? In a TV debate before the 2013 Federal Election, Merkel stated: “With me as chancellor, there will be no highway toll”. Earlier that year, the partner of Merkel’s CDU, the CSU has made the demand for a toll for “all foreign travelers” on German highways one of their priorities. Merkel then agreed the proposal, and after some legal problems, the plan for a highway toll passed the vote in the parliament. Experts assume, that Merkel only agreed to the toll, to calm down and gain back support by the CSU, which had often attacked her for her actions in the migrations crisis in 2015. The economic value of the toll is a controversial issue, even today.

Even more controversial was her sentence “We can do this” during the migration crisis in the fall of 2015. From a humanitarian point of view, there was no alternative to opening the borders for Syrian refugees in that September. Merkel acted on her own, without her partners, but with the European solidarity in mind. The European Court of Justice attested Merkel in July 2017, that she had the right to take up refugees, in order to take off some weight of its European partners. But the mistakes Merkel, and of course also the EU, have made way before, was ignoring the civil war in Syria and the problems in the Middle East for too many years. A migration movement of this size maybe could not have been prevented, but at least it could have been tried to make it less drastic for all participants, by investing money in refugee camps in Lebanon. But totally ignoring the world outside the European Union did not work, and Merkel had suffered a decrease in popularity.

With measures for a better integration, but also with considering conservative values (which she had left out for a long time), she gained back popularity, and according to recent surveys have proven that. During her election campaign in 2013, one of her slogans was: “You know me”. In fact, the only thing potential voters know about her, is that Merkel might change her opinion on certain topics during the next legislative period. And saying “next legislative period” means, that the CDU is very likely to win the election again, without a need to improve themselves. The SPD just doesn’t manage to capitalize on Merkel’s mistakes.


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