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All Eyes on Germany

Although distant observers tend to envy Germany for its relative stability and prosperity, the view from within is more complicated. As four recent books by German authors show, the country's political class has long indulged a dangerous complacency that can no longer be justified. 

BERLIN – This month, Germany will assume the rotating presidency of the European Council for the first time in 13 years. Its task will be to help lead the European Union through a period of deep uncertainty. Like the rest of the world, Europe is grappling with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the worst economic slump since World War II. European businesses and institutions are undergoing stress tests far greater than those experienced during the global financial crisis a decade ago. Complicating matters further, the geopolitical situation is quickly deteriorating, owing to an erosion of the transatlantic alliance, changing relations with China, and renewed Russian belligerence.

Against this background, expectations for Germany’s performance are high, both at the European Council and more generally. Around the world, people have increasingly looked to Germany as a model for how to manage the pandemic, inspiring confidence through sound political leadership, a strong public-health system, and a degree of crisis preparedness unmatched by most other advanced economies.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s matter-of-fact speeches stand in stark contrast to US President Donald Trump’s narcissistic blathering and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s feckless leadership. While Germany rolled out widespread COVID-19 testing early on, the United Kingdom’s National Health Service and much of the health-care system in the United States have been overwhelmed by the virus’s all-too-predictable resurgence over the past few weeks.

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