Merkel’s endgame

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Janus was a god in ancient Roman mythology – he was usually depicted as having two distinctly different faces. In current vernacular, it is applied to persons whose intentions and deeds are ambiguous or difficult to fathom. But public opinion does not tolerate Janus-faces indefinitely: sooner or later they have to come down on a side.

Up until the 2015 migration crisis, the two-faced nature of Merkel remained hidden and she seemed to govern Germany in the grand tradition of her predecessor and mentor, Helmuth Kohl. But since that crisis, she is more and more difficult to figure out, saying one thing on any given day and the exact opposite the next day.

Just before the crisis erupted, Merkel was of the opinion that multiculturalism has failed, as did the integration of immigrants from outside Europe. But with the onset of the crisis she announced her Willkommenskultur (German for “welcoming culture”) and magically transformed all migrants – legal or otherwise – into refugees who were entitled to shelter.

Nowadays even she recognizes the need for effective controls of the European Union’s external borders, but at the same time also wants to force countries that protected those borders from the very beginning to take in refugees invited by her.

Merkel’s meteoric rise within the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) began in 1998 when she became secretary general of the party, then president in 2000. In 2005 she was elected Chancellor. But the CDU/CSU coalition is now in disarray and failure is imminent.

Germany is now barely governable and the erstwhile backers of Merkel seem to have different plans. So when will she lose her position? That is a difficult question and the only certain answer is: not before the European election, as those who back her and (French President Emmanuel) Macron want to see a new Brussels leadership accomodating to their goals. But after that, anything goes.


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