Angela Merkel’s legacy dismantled as chancellor’s ‘biggest failure’ in Europe laid bare

Germany election: Juncker reflects on Merkel’s time in office

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It almost three years since Mrs Merkel, 67, announced she was stepping down as Chancellor in 2021. Her conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party has fallen out of favour with the German public in recent years. The race to succeed Mrs Merkel as Chancellor took a major step forward at the federal election on Sunday, as the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) claimed a narrow victory over the CDU.

SPD leader Olaf Scholz said the public want the CDU, which is led by Armin Laschet, to remain in opposition.

However, Mr Laschet said today: “No party has emerged from this election with a clear mandate to form a government.”

The SPD and CDU have ruled Germany as coalition partners before, but Mr Scholz has said he wants to form a government with the Greens and the liberal Free Democratic Party.

For now, Mrs Merkel will remain as Chancellor until a coalition government can be formed.

The outgoing leader’s 16-year premiership has been marked by her response to several crises.

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However, according to political expert John Callahan, her legacy may be defined by her action on migration into Europe.

Mr Callahan is the Dean of the School of Graduate and Professional Studies at New England College in the US and has worked for the US State Department and in intelligence.

He told that Mrs Merkel’s approach to the Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa amounted to her “biggest failure”.

He said: “What are the big crises? They were inheriting massive tension in the transatlantic alliance from [Gerhard] Schröder – not discounting that we Americans had something to do with that.

“She inherited the world financial crisis, especially the implosion of Greece.

“The Arab Spring and the mass migration, and I would probably characterise that as her biggest failure, and I think I’m on pretty safe ground with that characterisation.”

The Arab Spring saw pro-democracy rebellions mounted in several Arab countries in the Middle East and North Africa during the early 2010s.

Uprisings began in Tunisia and Egypt, before others followed in Libya, Morocco and Bahrain.

Millions of people were displaced by the Arab Spring and the Syrian civil war, which began around the same time as the uprisings.

In the years that followed, Mrs Merkel chose to open the door to an unlimited number of refugees fleeing the crises.

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Between 2015 and 2016 Germany accepted more than one million asylum seekers, many of whom were from Syria, but also from other countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

However, the Chancellor drew fierce backlash over the move both from within her own government and the wider EU.

In 2016 Mrs Merkel defended her approach to accept so many asylum seekers, saying that Germany should “show humanity” amid the situation.

Mr Callahan added: “She’s provided a steady hand to Germany and in many ways to Europe through some hella bad crises in the last 20 years.

“And if she steered in some directions that I didn’t appreciate, that’s fine but the German people by and large did appreciate it.

“So, she’s got a legacy. Of course, the problem with a legacy is it’s not the way it’s written when you write it.

“Her legacy won’t really be known for 50 years. We say in the States that a president’s legacy really isn’t known until 40 years later when the documents become unclassified.

“It’s not quite the same in Germany but it evolves, it’s about where do things end up that will determine her legacy.

“But for now, is her legacy as awesome as it would have been four or five years ago? I think no. But I think it’s still a positive one for Germany.”
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