Who Will Lead Europe?

From the August 2005 Trumpet Print Edition

Germans are not content with their country’s place in the EU, according to recent polls. Meanwhile, German newspapers are blaming current EU crises largely on a leadership vacuum. What is Germany likely to do about the situation?

Up until now, the influence of Germany—the most populous EU nation—has been relatively subtle compared to the position of power it will attain in the near future. After all, the Union’s headquarters has not been Berlin, but Brussels—the capital of a tiny Benelux nation.

Now, according to a June 9 EUobserver.com article, a recent poll shows that “83 percent of Germans feel that too many decisions in Brussels are taken over their heads.” Another poll found that 96 percent of Germans would have voted against the EU constitution if it had been offered to them in a referendum.

Add that to another poll finding that well over half of Germans want to ditch the euro and return to the deutsche mark, and it is clear that Germany wants change in Europe—change that means Germany ruling Europe.

At the same time, German newspapers are bemoaning the lack of strong leadership in the EU. “As the political storm clouds gather over Brussels, the talk in German newspapers is not of any remote possibility of saving the constitution, but rather a complete failure of national leaders to sell the idea of Europe to the people” (Spiegel Online, June 3).

Spiegel Online quoted several of these sources. “The double blow of a leadership vacuum and a constitutional crisis is creating the biggest threat to Europe: a huge lack of vision,” said the center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung.The financial publication Handelsblatt said, “Schröder and Chirac lack the credibility for the strong declaration of belief in Europe which is now bitterly needed. The task [of rescuing the constitution] will be left to the next generation—probably Angela Merkel and [French politician] Nicolas Sarkozy.”

All this comes at an interesting time: Europe is in crisis, and Germany will likely be electing a new chancellor this autumn. Germans will elect someone who not only can rectify the growing economic woes at home, but also speak more boldly in Europe on behalf of Germany. It’s likely that the new chancellor will be Ms. Merkel, with Bavarian leader Edmund Stoiber at her side.

The Financial Times Deutschland wrote: “Berlin’s next head of government will play a decisive role in determining whether the EU is able to maintain its current status or whether chaos and doubt [destroy] the community.”

In other words, it will be up to Germany to steer Europe’s fate!

We will be watching the Merkel-Stoiber duo for several reasons. Not least among them is the fact that they will take Germany into an even more prominent role in European politics. Europe will become less bureaucratic and by necessity less democratic. There will be less talk, less consultation, less wheeling and dealing, and simply more lightning-speed action.

This is exactly what Europe is pining for! The crisis over the constitution has only highlighted this leadership vacuum.

Watch for European leaders to look more to Germany for the vision that the EU presently lacks. And likewise, watch for Germans to elect just the leader they need to put Germany in the driver’s seat of a Europe that meets the wishes of Germans and serves the nation’s grand designs.