How Merkel fares has broad implications
For some, she might look like everyone’s idea of their favourite older aunt whose home was always clean and devoid of clutter.
But for many Germans, and others, Angela Merkel has been a major factor in ensuring present-day Germany is viewed with respect and admiration, much of it attributed to her calm and unflappable leadership over the past 12 years as chancellor of Germany.
And, unlike such controversial and divisive leaders as U.S. President Donald Trump, she has managed to keep her fellow Germans proud of their nation’s progress and eventual return to democracy after the Second World War.
On Sept. 24, German voters will vote in national elections, offered the opportunity of deciding whether Merkel will win enough votes to lead yet another coalition government in Berlin, her fourth since assuming power in 2005.
In view of increasing polarization within some European societies, the results of the German election could have significant implications not just for member nations of the European Union, but also for other countries, including Canada, and particularly the U.S. under Trump, whose erratic and divisive polices are increasingly undermining national unity.
Canada’s relations with Germany are significant. Germany is Canada’s sixth-largest export market, and bilateral trade is expected to increase substantially under the terms of the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade agreement.
Germans comprise the fourthlargest tourist group to visit Canada, and close to 2,000 Germans attend schools and universities in this country, with the numbers likely to increase.
What happens in Germany — along with unpredictable developments in the EU — can have both favourable and unfavourable consequences for other countries, including Canada.
For her part, Merkel is again placing her electoral emphasis on the need for the German people to continue their support for successful socioeconomic and international policies that have made Germany a success story and are widely acknowledged and praised internationally.
And, to a considerable extent, even Merkel’s German critics have to admit that her “steady-as-she-goes” pragmatic social and economic programs have made present-day Germany an unquestioned success.
This has happened at a time when many countries in the EU — Poland, Greece and the United Kingdom, for example — are encountering growing domestic divisions and the increase of radical and extremist groups within their societies.
In the case of Germany, despite criticism of Merkel’s open-door policy that has allowed the entry of nearly one million asylum seekers — and the social disruption and tension that followed — Merkel has held firm in accepting the burden and heavy cost of such a massive flow of people seeking to flee the violence in the Middle East and elsewhere.
Some would say that if anyone qualified to win the Nobel Peace Prize, that person would be Merkel.
Notwithstanding Merkel’s unquestioned humanitarian assistance for Middle East refugees and displaced persons, she is not unaware of the need to deal firmly with some dangerous and intolerable issues that arise on the international scene.
She has demonstrated this capacity in her approach to dealing with Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s actions facilitating dismemberment of areas of the Ukraine.
Merkel also made it clear following the election of Trump that European counties must face up to the new reality affecting Europe’s traditionally close and warm relationship with the U.S.
While Trump and key EU and NATO leaders still emphasize the positive nature of their relationship, Merkel has unequivocally stated that NATO countries, as well as those in the EU, will henceforth have to look to themselves to protect their interests and security.
Ironically, as Germans prepare to vote on Sept. 24, a candidate from Merkel’s CDU ruling party has prominently plastered electoral posters everywhere quoting former U.S. Barack president Obama: “If I could vote, I’d vote for Merkel.”