How did Merkel do on Europe?
Commentators from Greece, Portugal and the Czech Republic use the election of the new CDU leader Armin Laschet as an opportunity to take stock and look ahead at what awaits Germany and Europe in the post-Merkel era. Their assessments of the chancellor's 16 years in office differ widely.
We will miss her
With Armin Laschet as CDU party leader, Germany's relationship with its eastern neighbours may weaken in the future, Deník fears:
“Angela Merkel was always 'our Chancellor' too in a way. ... She always had a certain understanding for who we are and why things happen the way they do here. Merkel was an East German after all, and for a large part of her life she shared with us the fate of all citizens in the socialist bloc, which is not easy to explain to western Europeans. Laschet has his roots in Aachen. The city with the magnificent cathedral where Charlemagne was crowned and probably the German city furthest away from the Czech Republic. Laschet's view of our country, our Central Eastern Europe, will be that of a western European, a West German.”
She also had her scandals and weaknesses
Taking stock of the Merkel era, Naftemporiki does not share the rosy view of the many tributes to the outgoing chancellor:
“For all the international praise for her European 'successes', let's not forget scandals like 'dieselgate' or the collapse of the payment processor Wirecard. Not to mention her management of the Greek crisis. And as for social inequalities [in Germany]: these have increased, with one percent of the workforce earning almost 50 percent [of the total national income] and more than 20 percent earning less than two-thirds of the average wage. Moreover, 15.8 percent of the population (around 13 million people) now live below the poverty line, compared with 14.4 percent in 2008”
A better EU without Merkel
The chancellor spent too much time thinking about Germany and not enough about Europe, Diário de Notícias concludes:
“The way Merkel stuck her nose into other countries' budgets, those of the south in particular, was utterly unacceptable. She was a false friend for Portugal, in stark contrast to the selfless help offered to us by Willy Brandt and Helmut Schmidt in the early days of our democracy. ... An EU without Merkel could be more united, more democratic and show more solidarity, fulfilling the ideals of its founder Jean Monnet. The old continent, which stands to benefit from the change of leadership in the US, should always be the alternative to the hegemony of the superpowers. Germany, too, must respect the rights of other countries to sovereignty. We expect this from Merkel's successor, whoever that may be.”