From our correspondent
BERLIN – One evening a few years ago in Berlin, casually close to the table, I asked Wolfgang Schuble what was the difference between him and Angela Merkel on Europe. None, but the chancellor does not see her with emotional eyes, was his reply. The president of the Bundestag must have been surprised too, two weeks ago, when Angela Merkel made the ritual speech in Parliament that precedes each European Council.
From the tone, the choice of words, even from the body language, it became immediately clear that the chancellor was entering a land unknown to her: Maybe Europe suffers from the fact that we do not say often enough what we can be proud of, or the fact that we convinced Europeans for too long have taken it for granted. She was an unpublished Merkel, almost sentimental in reference to her biography: As a person who lived the first 35 years of his life in the GDR, let me say that Europe’s promise of freedom raises a sense of deep and unchanged gratitude in me and imposes on me the duty to commit myself with all my strength to achieve it.
It is Angela Merkel’s last summer, before her discharge from power. It is the season that could deliver it forever to the history books. Start today on German Presidency of the European Union, which the chancellor is called to lead through the most serious crisis in its history, an unprecedented challenge beyond which Europe can rise or fall.
The time scarce goods. The coThe economic consequences of the pandemic are already devastating. The approval of the 750 billion euro Recovery Fund, proposed by the European Commission, it must be secured before the summer break, possibly already at the summit of 17-18 July, the first under the presidency of Germany. We know the resistances and the criticisms. We know it will be difficult. We know that a price must be paid to overcome the opposition of Holland, Austria, Denmark and Sweden, i four frugal countries who want to give loans and not subsidies, invoking almost theological topics such as moral hazard and the need to learn lessons, seasoned with the ancient distrust of what Thomas Mann’s Tonio Krger called the blue distances of the Southern countries.
It is against this background that it is necessary to frame theyet another metamorphosis by Angela Merkel. Which she wore many masks in her long season in power, but as in the Pirandello characters all with their own truth and justification. This time for different. Because in all its past incarnations some constants had always remained. Above all: under the cautious aegis of Merkel, the great and wealthy Germany never took the initiative, did not plan the future, if anything she drove, remaining behind. Or, as in the financial crisis of 2010, he rejected the great act of European solidarity, which probably would have allowed us to tell another story.
The pandemic regenerated Angela Merkel. Her scientific training, which makes her see politics as an intellectual exercise for solving problems, made her the challenge par excellence. But at the same time, Merkel has grasped the existential threat before Europe for others and therefore for Germany, which is its architrave. Europe needs us as much as we need Europe. May the chancellor throw her heart over the obstacle and do today what she did not do ten years ago, in fact proposing a partial debt mutualisation, possible thanks to multiple factors. Now in her last term, much freer and no longer held back by internal resistance against the CDU. The much reviled Grosse Koalition with the SPD also offers her the ideal ally for a new turn in Europe. Last but not least, theexcellent management of the pandemic crisis in Germany, in a few months he has given her back never before a political capital in all her 15 years in power.
Caution, not that Angela Merkel suddenly gave herself a vision, on the model of Macron. But the first time he explains and clearly repeats what is at stake for his country and for Europe. And the first time he openly claims leadership to Germany. In doing so, it reveals an unusual pathos: It is a matter of war and peace, he said on Monday after meeting the French president. A phrase that seems to come directly from Helmut Kohl’s vocabulary. That to pronounce it is a woman who came from the East, thirty years after the fall of the Wall, an extraordinary sign of the journey made and a good omen. Let another story succeed: for the chancellor a historic chance and a huge risksays Henrik Mller, who teaches economic journalism at the University of Dortmund. His legacy is affected. But also of our future. It will be our summer with her.
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