For ten years Angela Merkel has been the undisputed leader of Germany. What has become clear during the Greek financial crisis is that Germany is now the undisputed leader of Europe. At every turn it has been primarily Germany leading the European Union, and it has been primarily the Germans with whom the Greeks are having to negotiate the terms of a bailout.
With Merkel at the helm Germany’s striking resurgence in recent years – especially in comparison with England and France – has not presented a major problem. Other countries in the European Union, and the United States, have been content to let Germany take the lead. Among other reasons, Merkel herself is low key, anything other than blustery and boastful; anything other than inclined in any obvious way to throw her weight around. Years ago she seems to have deliberately, if not necessarily consciously, adopted a leadership style designed not to give offense, either at home or abroad.
But even Merkel is mortal. What will happen when her days as chancellor are over is impossible to know. It’s not inconceivable however that her successor will be a different sort of German altogether, one whose style if not substance is more difficult for the rest of the world to swallow.