The Prehistory of Merkel’s Latest Coup
German Chancellor Angela Merkel seems to see the historical writing on the wall. Her agreement to a €500 billion European recovery fund suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic has done what recent debt, refugee, and foreign-policy crises could not: inaugurate a new phase of the European project.
PRINCETON – Throughout her long chancellorship in Germany, Angela Merkel has repeatedly shown that she is good for a surprise. Now, she’s outdone herself.
In 2010, Merkel bucked expectations by insisting that the International Monetary Fund be included in the effort to rescue Greece. After 2011, she shut down Germany’s nuclear power plants, following the Fukushima disaster in Japan. Then, in 2015, she opened Germany’s borders to more than one million Syrian refugees. And now, she has agreed to a proposal for a joint €500 billion ($556 billion) recovery fund to help the European Union’s hardest-hit national economies through the COVID-19 crisis.
Every one of these policy decisions has provoked howls of outrage in Germany, as well as hand-wringing by other Europeans who are reluctant to allow Germany an outsize leadership role. But each time, Merkel has insisted that there was no alternative. Still, this latest surprise is by far her boldest. “The nation-state on its own has no future,” she declared during a recent press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron.