"The leader of the free world", "eternal chancellor", "austerity queen", "climate chancellor", and many more — outgoing German chancellor Angela Merkel earned several titles in her 16-year-long term.
Merkel is seen as a steady and pragmatic leader not just by Germans, the world looked up to her. Her 'middle-of-the-road' approach has helped Germany tide over every global crisis in the past one-and-a-half decade. In fact, political experts agree that she would have won the fifth term had she sought it.
A generation of voters have never seen any other person at the top post in Germany. After long, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) — to which Merkel belongs — lost to centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) by a narrow margin. This time, Merkel didn't lead the CDU election campaign, Armin Laschet did.
The change didn't go down well with Germans and a majority of them voted for SPD's Olaf Scholz, who was part of Merkel’s governing coalition.
However, Merkel will not go right away. The SPD will have to form a coalition to take charge and the Merkel government will stay in office until then.
What Merkel's exit means for Europe and the world
Merkel was arguably the world’s most powerful woman and her absence in the office will not only be felt in Berlin, a vacuum will also be felt in Paris and Washington DC as well. Her stable hand has helped Europe deal with crises like the 2008 financial crash, influx of migrants, Brexit, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Merkel’s supporters often call her the “Chancellor of Europe” as Germany became Europe’s largest creditor nation in the wake of Britain's exit from the European bloc. Despite an ongoing monetary crisis of the Euro Zone, Germany under Merkel managed to remain a regional superpower.
During Merkel's term in office, Germany outperformed France, the United Kingdom, Spain, and Italy in exports. While inequality rose across the globe, Merkel managed to sustain a vibrant middle class in Germany.
Germany's economic rise provided stability to the European Union. Germany also led the European effort to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, her successor will need to continue the momentum.
Merkel also served as the 'centrist' figure in Europe. While parties on the far left and the far right were growing more popular around Europe, Merkel's Germany always voted for centrists. In 2015, when several European nations didn't allow refugees from war-torn Syria, Libya and Iraq, Germany opened doors to nearly 1 million of them. Merkel famously said, “Wir schaffen das” (We can manage this). Now, with her imminent exit, Europe is likely to become more polarised.
Additionally, when the United States under former President Donald J Trump turned 'hostile' to Europe, Merkel lead the European Union with her pragmatic policies. Despite America's ire, Merkel managed to sustain strong ties with Russia and China. Time will tell if Merkel's successor can fill her shoes.
Relationship between Germany and India
India and Germany have been strategic partners since 2001. India is one of the few countries with which Germany holds cabinet-level inter-governmental consultations (IGC).
After Merkel assumed office in 2005, she continued to strengthen the bilateral relations. From trade and investment, the relations between India and Germany expanded to artificial intelligence, digital transformation, sustainable energy, and smart cities under Merkel. She has also been favourable toward Indian students pursuing higher education in Germany.
Merkel has always supported India's push for a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council.
The Narendra Modi government seeks greater defence cooperation and a collaborative effort toward building sustainable energy solutions in India with Germany. However, with Merkel about to quit the office, New Delhi may have to recalibrate and come up with a new approach to engage with Berlin.
(Edited by : Bivekananda Biswas)
First Published: IST