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The paradox of Merkelism

How Angela Merkel became Europe's most popular leader—without Germany ever really understanding who she is

By Philip Oltermann   March 2020

Angela Merkel: the Arthur Dent of Europe? Illustration: Tim McDonagh

When Angela Merkel travelled to the town of Sopron on the Austrian-Hungarian border in August last year, the woman they call the leader of the free world had a global order to defend. Three decades earlier, the Iron Curtain had disintegrated at this very spot: citizens from across central Europe had attended a “Pan-European picnic” that ended with hundreds of East Germans rushing through the border gates into the west. Now it was the setting of a showdown…

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