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The EU’s Post-Merkel Void

The German-led strategy of waiting until desperate times enable desperate measures has kept the European Union intact, but has also enabled the bloc to avoid taking clear stances on important issues. No matter who succeeds Angela Merkel as German chancellor, EU leaders are going to have to start making real decisions.

MADRID – The European project has always had its fault lines, but they have rarely caused earthquakes. That is thanks largely to Germany, which has proved to be a skilled arbitrator of disputes among European Union member states, especially during Chancellor Angela Merkel’s 16-year tenure. With Merkel’s final term ending in September, is the EU in for a tremor – or worse?

When Europe was focused exclusively on consolidating the single market, its fault lines were primarily economic. During the euro crisis that began in 2009, the economic cracks deepened, with many “frugal” northern eurozone countries finding themselves at odds with their supposedly “profligate” southern neighbors.

It was not until the COVID-19 pandemic that – thanks not least to Merkel – EU members agreed to anything close to a European fiscal-transfer mechanism. But even the joint recovery fund, Next Generation EU, has a limited scope. And national spending plans under the program have not been without controversy.

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