The day ECB President Mario Draghi had to announce that Eurozone growth is at its slowest pace for more than four years, Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel told the world that she will step down as President of her party, the German Christian-Democrats CDU.
Although she will (try) to stay as German’s governments leader till the end of her term, her reign as unthreatened EU leader is coming to an end.
Merkel is a lame duck now, in German and in EU politics.
In a remarkable coincidence, the same day, French President Emmanuel Macron let us know, that he had cleared his diary to take four days off.
His European initiatives need reorientation. Macron had counted on Merkel’s co-leadership of a French-German axis to overhaul the EU and to give it a more federal definition.
Without doubt, Merkel’s successor will take a more conservative path, not only in Europe but certainly in their own country to try to stop the fast growth of the far-right party Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD).
After the last regional elections, this party is now present not only in the national parliament, the Bundestag, but also in every German state parliament.
Merkel’s decision to open Germany’s borders to a barely controlled influx of almost a million migrants and refugees in 2015-2016 can be seen as the inflection point, even if the number of migrants arriving has slowed and the number of deportations has risen.
It was the moment when government action made many citizens feel unsafe. It ended up shattering Schengen, exposing these EU states with external borders.
It also drove a wedge in the EU between the willing western-European countries and the former Soviet countries in the east, which refused to accommodate refugees and migrants.
To stop the influx of refugees and migrants, Merkel was forced into an agreement with President Erdogan that would give the autocratic Turkish leader leverage over the EU. This stoked support for the AfD in Germany and for right-wing parties in many other EU member states.
The Merkel bubble has burst. Only recently hailed as the true leader of the free world, the anti-Trump; will she be finished off by her party, just as she finished off her predecessor and mentor Helmut Kohl, eighteen years ago?
The CDU party-congress in December will bring us the beginning of an answer.