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As Angela Merkel steps down as Chancellor, what is her legacy?

On September 26th, Germany’s federal election did not provide a clear successor to Angela Merkel. However, Germany’s third longest serving Chancellor will be stepping down and her legacy will inevitably be debated.

Angela Merkel will be remembered for her stable leadership of Germany during a select few major crises in her 16 years of chancellorship. Known by many Germans and the media as ‘Mutti’, she guided the country through a global financial crisis, the Eurozone crisis, the European migrant crisis, a rise in right-wing eurosceptic populism and the global pandemic.

Merkel’s four terms have not just made an impact within Germany. Her strength and cohesion as a figurehead of the European Union has also protected the bloc from a decade of threats. Notably, she supported Greece’s membership of the eurozone and instigated structural economic reform following the European debt crisis in 2009. Merkel’s recent contribution to the common European debt policy in response to the COVID-19 pandemic has also cemented her as a stalwart of the 21st century European Union.

Under her leadership, the cheap supply of labour to German businesses, as a result of many former Warsaw Pact countries from Eastern Europe joining the EU in 2004, has also boosted the economy.

Further afield, Merkel developed strong relations with China after the country’s admission to the World Trade Organisation in 2001, which “opened a vast market for mighty German exporters” and has become an integral part of the German economy.

Perhaps what Merkel will be remembered most for is her role in the 2015 migrant crisis. The Chancellor kept her word that Germany would lead the way in allowing more than one million refugees into the country. Regardless of the divided opinion surrounding this decision, Merkel’s bold immigration policy in a time of need encapsulates her leadership.

During her 16 years of power, Merkel introduced a minimum wage, abolished national service, tightened social media laws and legalised gay marriage in Germany. Yet there is also much that she leaves to her successor, especially a response to the climate crisis, with Germany “still emit[ing] more carbon per head than any other big EU country”.

However, despite her arguable failings, it is testament to Merkel’s leadership that she maintained four terms of coalition, acting as a powerful, stable influence in German politics and beyond.


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