Wretchard of The Belmont Club poses this important question: "What foreign policy will the new Chancellor of Germany pursue?" Along with citing DEL, he links to Hero von Essens' piece "Angela Merkel's Travels (And Her Limits)," which reasons:
"Under Merkel, Germany's foreign policy focus will free itself of Schroeder's shortsighted French fixation, and she will desist from the anti-American posturing which so disfigured Schroeder and Fischer's tenure. Germany assumes the EU Presidency in 2007, so these small signs of opening up to the outside world are mildly encouraging for proponents of such things as reform of the EU budget, including the ludicrous CAP system, a more Atlanticist foreign policy, and integration of the new, eastern EU countries."
Wretchard then asks in reflection of Ms. Angela Merkel's recent European tour:
"Dawn's Early Light in comparing Merkel to Bismarck made a suggestive comparison. Bismarck unified Germany: what might she do for Europe? Although the European Union draft constitution has fallen into a coma, its departure did not permanently answer the question of what Europe should be."
Therefore, taking liberty with his two questions, let me rephrase: "How will Ms. Merkel's foreign and domestic policy, even in her weakened grand-coalition position, affect European development and integration?"
Wretchard gives an interesting take on Germany, given its historical position on European and American relations.
"Now it is doubtful whether the European Union will be around in the year 2100 at all. Significantly the Germans did not share the French illusion of thinking the Second World War and the Cold War that followed was won from the Elysee Palace and Brussels. Germany knew that the fourth leading nation in Europe was located across the Atlantic. Puschmann noted, 'It may not be immediately obvious at present, but Germany does, at least potentially, share Britain’s positive outlook on the transatlantic alliance. Post-war Germany has historically been an Atlanticist nation, standing firmly by the side of the United States and the United Kingdom'. If Merkel sees Europe within the wider context of the West, rather than through the fantasy prism of the Euroleft, she will at least have Bismarck's breadth of vision, though not, perhaps, his opportunities."
Where Chancellor Merkel stands on domestic and foreign policy issues is important to the extent she can influence international relations.
Step 1: Ms. Merkel Needs to Increase her Political Capital
For Ms. Merkel to succeed in transforming Europe and retaining power, she must increase her political capital. Voters were reluctant to outright support Ms. Merkel's harsher economic reforms of her Christian Democrat Party compared to the Social Democrat approach of supporting the status quo that had failed to reform Germany's 11% unemployment rate. While America may be the 50/50 nation, German's unfortunately can't even get either party's plan to a 50% voter approval rate. Given the state of affairs in Germany's current government, Ms. Merkel benefits from extremely low expectations. Yet she and her chief political opponent share a good deal in common that may help with bringing modest economic change. As The Economist notes:
"Both of the country's big parties are now led by eastern Germans: the Christian Democrats by Angela Merkel, the prospective chancellor, and the Social Democrats by Matthias Platzeck, premier of Brandenburg. Predictably, the tabloids say that Ossis are the new Bossis. More striking are the similarities between the two.
Both leaders grew up in Brandenburg; both are 51; both are Protestant; both come from a relatively bourgeois background (Ms Merkel's father was a priest, Mr Platzeck's a doctor); both became scientists; and both are divorced, although Ms Merkel has now remarried and Mr Platzeck has three adult daughters. The pair's political lives have also developed in parallel. Both entered politics after the fall of the Berlin Wall (Mr Platzeck as a Green minister in East Germany's last communist government, Ms Merkel as a spokesperson for the first democratic one). Both rose through the ranks and took the helm of their parties more or less by accident. Both are modernisers, but also pragmatists."
Ideologues do not make for good compromisers but pragmatists do. Ms. Merkel has strong convictions but is shrewd enough to make incremental advances. This may buy her time domestically to bring about economic change. The negotiated "coalition contract" will raise the sales tax (VAT) from 16% to 19%, increasing the retirement age to 67 from 65 for workers born after 1970, cut spending by $41 billion in order to create a budget that does not increase debt beyond the 3% of GDP allowed by the EU (source The Economist). So while domestic policy may be limited for great short-term success, Ms. Merkel is unlikely to lead Germany along Schroeder's self-destructive path.
Step 2: Foreign Policy is Ms. Merkel's Key to Achieve Political Capital
Ms. Merkel's political capital for domestic reform and winning an election 4 years out will require a winning European foreign policy. I see her opportunities as follows in Europe:
- Tony Blair and Jacque Chirac have vastly different goals for the United Kindgom and France and are often bitter enemies politically. France and Britain need an "honest broker" to help compromise on the British Rebate and Common Agriculture Policy (CAP).
- Former Chancellor Schroeder's relations with President Bush were icy at best. America, fighting it out in Iraq, needs allies in Europe. Ms. Merkel, not caught up in the Blair/Chirac feud over the War in Iraq, can be an "honest broker" for America with Europe.
- French President Jacque Chirac, weakened by the recent internationally devastating Paris Riots, can no longer claim French Socialism is the model for Europe. Ms. Merkel can play an "honest broker" in a middle approach between Anglo-American capitalism and French socialism to pull together a weakened European Union.
Otto von Bismarck's brilliance was apparent in his ability to fashion alliances to strengthen Germany and keep a healthy balance in Europe, playing the French, British, Russians and Eastern Europeans at times against each other. Ms. Merkel's ability to be an "honest broker" towards Europe and with Washington across the Atlantic may allow her the flexibility to again bring about radical reform to restructuring a broken Europe. A more efficient Europe will enhance the German economic engine that has historically powered Europe.
This does not answer the important question of "what Europe will be," but it does hopefully address Ms. Merkel's ability to build the political capital necessary to push forward a Europe that would integrate East and West, with an economic model more towards capitalism than socialism and ultimately not at loggerheads with American foreign policy.