Angela Merkel

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Angela Merkel

THE SEAT-WARMER

DOER #5 — GERMANY

Illustration by W.Flemming for POLITICO

For someone who has been Germany’s chancellor for a decade and a half, Angela Merkel has accomplished surprisingly little. A signature achievement like Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik or Helmut Kohl’s reunification has eluded her. Though some credit her with saving the euro, many economists argue she did more harm than good — by holding the German line, she deepened the crisis in Greece and did nothing to address disparities in the eurozone. Her response to the migration crisis in 2015, when she opened Germany’s borders and tried to broker an EU-wide deal on resettling refugees, divided the Continent’s leaders and fueled a far-right resurgence at home and abroad.

Since announcing last year that she would not stand again, Merkel has exercised her power mostly in the negative — as a check on the ambitions of French President Emmanuel Macron. The chancellor might have reason to be happy at the elevation of her one-time protégé, Ursula von der Leyen, to Commission president, but it was Macron, not Merkel, who claimed credit for the selection. With Germany’s grand coalition fraying at the edges, and with Merkel’s would-be successor Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer struggling to gain traction, the next year is likely to find the chancellor in her now customary position: watching from the sidelines.

Check out the full POLITICO 28 Class of 2020, and read the Letter from the Editors for an explanation of the thinking behind the ranking.

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