Merkel is now Europe’s leader
There have been a lot of comments in recent years complaining about the lack of a powerful leader in European politics. Now there is one.
The Sept. 22 victory of German Chancellor Angela Merkel for the third consecutive term, especially at a time when her European colleagues have been losing their chairs one by one to the major economic crisis, is sufficient to call her the new leader of Europe.
Unlike other European, especially Eurozone countries, German voters approved the continuation of her politics - perhaps with a caveat on social policies, (like the minimum wage debate), which has secured a balancing position for the social democrats in the Bundestag.
Here are a few points that kept Merkel in her chair and promoted her to become a leader of Europe:
1- The German economy was the only big economy in Eurozone that managed to grow amid the major U.S.-originated economic crisis; in a way, Germany became the dictating power in Eurozone, as the Greek example has shown. With that capacity and with French support, Merkel held the Eurozone together, showing that the European Union has the ability to heal its own wounds. It seems that more people will hear the words of Jacques Delors, a former chairman for the European Commission, who said: “Not all Germans believe in God, but all believe in the Bundesbank.” Merkel should be grateful to the German Central Bank.
2- German foreign policy has started to rise again in global politics under Merkel. Everyone of us has started to become familiar with the P5+1 already. Though Germany is not a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, with this formulation, Germany - and thus the EU (with the presence of the U.K. and France) - happens in practice to be in the decision making implementation process of almost all strategic issues. From the Iran nuclear deal to Israeli-Palestinian dialogue, Germany has been acting as the silent mediator in the Merkel era.
3- In the field of the environment and energy, Merkel has managed to steal a number of portfolio items from the Greens, and perhaps some votes, too. An overnight decision to stop Germany’s recently restarted nuclear energy program following the Fukushima disaster in Japan also demonstrated her determination and pragmatism as a politician.
4- Taking criticism seriously, Merkel modified her immigration policy and managed to take some steps forward for the integration of non-Germans into the country’s system. Despite the suggestions from Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) and opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) that Turkey-originating voters (estimated to number 800,000) should vote for the Social Democrats (SPD), Merkel’s Christian Democratic bloc (CDU/CSU) had its first Muslim member in the Bundestag, a Turkish woman named Cemile Yusuf. The highest ever number of Turkey-origin German citizens, 11, have won seats in the German Parliament this term.
The results show that Merkel’s current policies will continue with a special emphasis on the European Union.
She has never been hypocritical on Turkey’s full membership, which she is openly against. However, three negotiation articles were opened under Germany’s presidency of the EU Council, under Merkel. Her distanced stance regarding Turkey could change, like her energy stance after Fukushima, if Turkey performs better in democratic rights and the economy.
In any case, the Turkish government would like to review its Europe policy under new circumstances following the German elections.