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Germany’s Crisis of Complacency

Over the past decade, Germany has gone from being the “sick man of Europe” to a bastion of stability. But with German Chancellor Angela Merkel poised to gain a fourth term, it is worth asking if too much stability can be a bad thing.

BERLIN – What a difference a decade makes. Ten years ago, Germany was cast as “the sick man of Europe,” owing to its apparent unwillingness to reform. The country suffered from high unemployment, declining competitiveness, a failing education system, an aging and shrinking population, and public debt that exceeded the limits set by the European Union’s Stability and Growth Pact.

But that was then. Today, Germany is regarded as a bastion of political stability and an island of widely shared prosperity in Europe and the world. This Sunday, Germans will elect a new government, and will most likely give Chancellor Angela Merkel a fourth term. She will then be on track to surpass her mentor, the late Helmut Kohl, as Germany’s second-longest-serving chancellor, after Otto von Bismarck. Germans can thus expect continued political stability in Berlin, and in most of their country’s 16 Länder (federal states).

Political stability follows economic success. Germany’s exports and imports are booming, wages are rising, unions are content and cooperative, and the economy is near full employment. The 2008 global financial crisis is long forgotten. And an influx of almost a million migrants and refugees in recent years has been accommodated, while public budgets remain in the black.

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