The Merkel era: Europe's press looks back

With just a few days to go before the elections to the German Bundestag the outcome is still open but one thing is clear: once the voting has ended, for the first time in 16 years Angela Merkel will no longer lead the Federal Republic. The commentaries in European media oscillate between praise and criticism of the outgoing chancellor.

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Dnevnik (BG) /

Continue Merkel's EU poilcy

Dnevnik hopes Merkel's successor will also ensure that Germany adopts a strong and integrating role in Europe:

“In addition to preventing an irrevocable rift in the EU - Merkel's top priority and greatest achievement - Germany will have to fight the two most dangerous threats that the EU faces in the coming years, first and foremost the violation of the rule of law in the bloc. ... The EU cannot survive without common standards for judicial independence, respect for common values, and recognition of the European Court of Justice as the supreme arbiter.”

Libération (FR) /

An outdated formula

Let's hope that the chancellor takes her style of governance with her when she leaves, editor-in-chief Dov Alfon writes in Libération:

“Her successor will probably be tempted to adopt her approach to governing: avoid change, react to crises only once they've occurred, adopt a firm stance but go easy on the big industrialists. ... However the limits of this formula are already visible. Germany has never been so rich, and no major industrialised country has ever had such a high growth rate. And yet the country is lagging behind in all the important areas of the approaching era: digitalisation, climate, public transport, energy transition. If the new chancellor manages the feat of catching up with the backlog that Angela Merkel has allowed to accumulate, he or she could stay in office even longer than she did.”

Kathimerini (GR) /

A belated renunciation of austerity

Former Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras takes stock of Merkel's performance as chancellor in Kathimerini:

“During the financial crisis, Angela Merkel consolidated Germany's hegemonic role, advocating that the driving force of the EU should be a strong monetary union based on the implementation of neoliberal austerity policies, particularly at the expense of the economically weaker member-states. ... This EU paved the way for those who supported Grexit, for those who supported Brexit, and of course for the rise of the far right. ... When Merkel strongly advocated a more humanitarian management of the refugee crisis, or the opening of accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania, this was the EU she found herself up against. Therefore, her support for the Next Generation EU recovery instrument is a positive turn and an extremely important contribution to her legacy.”

La Libre Belgique (BE) /

She deserves the Nobel Peace Prize

Angela Merkel made history in the refugee crisis of 2015, La Libre Belgique writes in praise:

“Her greatness was above all a moral one. ... She put her faith in generosity by accepting thousands of Muslim refugees from Syria as well as Yazidis, whose integration seems to have succeeded despite general scepticism. The media was reluctant to believe her, but eventually it yielded. She said it, she did it, end of story. And that is a lot. For these were not empty words. That is why her admirable 'We can do it!' has already gone down in history like Kennedy's 'Ich bin ein Berliner'. Far more than Obama, she deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.”

Público (PT) /

Under her leadership Germany became a key power

Público takes stock of Merkel's performance in the international arena and is thoroughly impressed:

“For some, the German chancellor was an efficient manager of several European crises. ... For others she has been a leader without vision, confined herself to managing the status quo with pragmatism and too often putting her own country first. ... One thing is certain: when Merkel first conquered the chancellorship in 2005, Germany was in crisis and adapting to its new status as a 'normal nation' after reunification. Now, as she takes her leave, Germany is Europe's centre of gravity politically and economically, and its influence on the fate of the EU is greater than ever.”

Kurier (AT) /

A rock of stability

Merkel stands for stability but not for innovation, says the Kurier:

“A week from tomorrow the German chancellor's successor will be decided, and there are those who are glad that her era is drawing to a close. ... But irrespective of this, the chancellor's achievements for Germany and for Europe are undisputed - she has above all been a reliable, reflective rock in a sea of increasingly erratic and egoistic politicians, from Trump in his day to Orbán today. ... Equally obvious are her failures, for example when it comes to making her country fit for the future. ... A change of colour in the Chancellery after 16 years would not be a bad thing in itself, but nor would it change that much. ... Germany will hold a steady course in any case, even after the Merkel era.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

A strange German blend

Rzeczpospolita is rather critical of the chancellor's legacy but doesn't anticipate any major changes:

“Barring some new catastrophe in the next few days, the Social Democrats and their chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz will win the election and a coalition government could be formed without the Christian Democrats. This will then lead to the rare situation in Germany where a democratic election actually leads to a fundamental change of government. ... Will it bring real change? Under Merkel, politics in Germany has become a strange blend of the ruthless corporate interests of the German financial and industrial world, climate radicalism, European value moralism and avoiding military and security responsibility. And that will not change.”