We congratulate German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, on her victory in the general elections of September 24 and on her return, for the fourth time, as chancellor of the German Federal Republic. She has thus joined the tiny elite club of Konrad Adenauer and Helmut Kohl, the only two former chancellors who were so honoured. In contemporary world ratings, she is considered the leader of the ‘free world.’ She is also perceived as the unchallenged leader of Europe and the most powerful woman in the world.
Although she won with a reduced majority (32.5 per cent) compared to her party’s performance four years ago (41 per cent), it was clear that she won the campaign on the strength of her ability to provide both political and economic stability for Germany and continuity in Europe. Germany has only 3.7 per cent unemployment and is rated as having the fastest growing Gross Domestic Product (GDP) among the G7 industrialised nations.
The world will for long remember her as the German chancellor who “saved the honour of Germany and of Europe” by her humanitarian approach and her strict adherence to international humanitarian law concerning the welfare of refugees in 2015. She courageously, in the face of domestic and European opposition, stood firmly and took into Germany nearly one million destitute Syrians who were in dire circumstances. Her critics came from far and near, including the President of the United States, Donald Trump, who publicly berated her immigration policy as disastrous.
Observers believe that her policy on immigration probably lost her votes and created an opening which enabled the Alternative For Germany (AfD), a far-right party, to win 13.5 per cent of the vote by virtue of which it would occupy 93 seats in the Bundestag. The AfD would be the first far-right party to take seats in the Bundestag since the end of the Second World War, and this is causing many observers sleepless nights. But, Merkel has a rather positive attitude to the situation. While she has vowed not to have any dealings with the AfD, she has said she would listen to those who voted for the AfD and work to win them back “by solving problems, by taking up their worries, partly also their fears, but above all by good politics.”
Chancellor Merkel radiates a great deal of political wisdom which has marked her out as one of the world’s great leaders. She seems to have promptly taken the first step by reaching some agreements last week with one of her party’s coalition partners, the Free Democratic Party (FDP), conceding to place a ceiling of 200,000 on the number of refugees. We must express our concern on Europe’s unorthodox arrangement with militants in Libya to serve as Europe’s first line of defence in stemming the tide of migrants from Africa. Reports from Libya say that those militants, who are accountable to no government, subject African migrants to cruel and degrading treatment in concentration camps before repatriation. Much as we understand Europe’s anxiety, we urge the EU authorities to look closely into the modus operandi of the Libyan militias which are operating in an anarchic atmosphere.
Chancellor Merkel’s humanitarian approach to the refugee problems tends to mask her toughness as a leader. Her stringent conditions on Greece’s debts were unpopular in some circles, but they were like tough medicine for a dangerous disease. At the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2013, she enunciated the parameters of her policies when she stated that Europe had only “7% of the global population and produced only 25% of the global GDP, but that it accounted for almost 50% of global social expenditure.”
As interpreted by the Economist, she was arguing that if the region (Europe) is to prosper in competition with emerging countries, it cannot continue to be so generous. This should send a note of warning to beneficiaries and intending beneficiaries of Merkel’s social policies, especially on immigration.
It is, however, noteworthy that the French President, Emmanuel Macron, consults closely with Mrs. Merkel. Both leaders share the same vision of Europe and working together, they are likely to stem the wave of right-wing populism and nationalism that has been rearing its ugly head in Europe and beyond.