Germans love her, Europe loathes her. Why?by Katinka Barysch / December 12, 2012 / Leave a comment
Published in January 2013 issue of Prospect Magazine
Angela Merkel signs autographs at the Bayreuth Festival in 2012 (photo: Marc Müller/DPA/Corbis)
Greek newspapers like to portray German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Nazi uniform. The Italian daily Libero has greeted her with a rude Vaffanmerkel! on its cover. The New Statesman has declared her “Europe’s most dangerous leader.” Many here in Britain think that Merkel’s austerity drive is destroying the euro. In my home country Germany, meanwhile, Merkel is the most popular politician bar none. She is almost guaranteed to be re-elected for a third term in 2013. Why do the Germans cheer their leader while the rest of Europe seems to loathe her?
One fundamental reason for Merkel’s persistent popularity is the German economy. It’s hard to imagine if you sit in Greece, Spain or even depressed Britain. But German output has risen by around 8 per cent since the start of the euro crisis, according to the German economics ministry. The German export juggernaut is purring along nicely. Unemployment is at a record low and wages are finally rising. What’s not to like?
The Germans give Merkel a lot of credit for having protected them against the crisis. That credit is not fully earned—the labour market reforms pushed through by her predecessor Gerhard Schröder have a lot to do with Germany’s current success; as does strong Asian demand for German cars and machine tools and a modestly priced euro. But Merkel appears careful not to squander taxpayers’ money on euro bailouts and she is tough on southern European countries that are slow to reform. Most Germans wholeheartedly approve of Merkel’…