One year Merkel – so what?

A year ago today Angela Merkel succeeded Gerhard Schröder and became the first female chancellor and the first chancellor from the former East Germany. I was not thrilled. She is a political protegé of Helmut Kohl, aka Birne, the corrupt, corporatist pigdog chancellor from hell of the 80s.

Yet, 2006 so far was a pretty good year for Germany: the Worlcup was a huge success and is thought to have produced quite an economic boost; unemployment is down and the federal government is less in the red than last year. The country was riding a wave of patriotic bliss this summer, during and after the Worldcup. But Ms. Merkel has been unable to harness any of these good news and her approval ratings are not particularly good.

The main issue that drags them down is the inability of Merkel and her “grand coalition” of Germany’s two major parties to pull off a meaningful reform of the countries vast network of entitlement programs. And Germany has problems with a growing tide of hate, racism and antisemitism – especially in the east.

Internationally, Germany has to figure out if it wants to be a “major player” and commit troops to more dangerous assignments in “nationbuilding” efforts, like in southern Afghanistan and “peacekeping” missions like in Lebanon. If so, there has to be a clear commitment to such missions, AND there has to be political leadership that creates the environment that properly supports such missions. Otherwise the military will be stuck in impossible missions without a clear mandate. Merkel’s administration has shown little leadership in this issue.

Leadership. A vision for the country. That’s what is needed. Schröder is a flamboyant, somewhat charismatic leader. Merkel is none of that. But neither has shown a clear vision for Germany. Schröder was just worried about his career. And Merkel? what makes her tick? I think that Gemany needs some reforms and a real vision for a truly unified country. Germany does not need to be a “global player” – the country needs to get its house in order. Is Merkel the leader to bring Germany on track for unity, prosperity and social justice? So far I don’t see that.

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