Whether we like it or not, the next German Chancellor will shape Europe in their image – and so it better be good. The only thing to do is for Germans to go out and vote.
Chances are, if you are reading this column, that you’ve seen something or other about the German elections coming up at the end of this month. The air is thick with debate about whether the new Chancellor, replacing Angela Merkel after so many year, will be able to “fill her shoes”. In many ways, that is entirely the wrong question to ask.
For very understandable reasons, and with some compounded wisdom over decades of European integration, Germany is reluctant to take up or acknowledge its leadership of Europe. That in itself, is not a bad thing. Understated and judicious, the German government has been able to pull its weight over the years while keeping stability. However, whether we like it or not, it is unavoidably clear, and ever more so in times of crisis, that the German Chancellor shapes the direction of travel for the European Union.
And after 16 years in power, Angela Merkel, as so many have written about in the run up to her retirement, has left her mark. She has been the key decision-maker in the room throughout the many global and European crisis of her times – the financial crisis, the Eurozone crises, the ‘refugee crisis’, and of course Covid. She has been through them all, and we are still here to tell the tale.
The question of ‘filling her shoes’ has come up again and again. Will anyone be able to move into the Chancellery and camp out there for another 16 years? Probably not. Is that what Europe needs? Probably not.
The many crises Europe has seen in the last decade or so have not gone away, they are still here, and in many ways getting worse. Covid is still with us, and will be for the foreseeable future, climate change becomes more urgent by the day, and eight European governments just swore an oath not to reform the Eurozone, ever.
Europe needs some urgent, clear-eyed, and responsible leadership from the new German Chancellor. They should not try to spend much time in Merkel’s shoes, regardless of size, they should leap right out to set out a vision and get to work.
The Conference on the Future of Europe might amount to something, although chances get slimmer by the day, if there is concerted political leadership pushing for meaningful outcomes. From digital technologies legislation to the aftermath of the Afghanistan withdrawal, the new Chancellor will have their work cut out. The future they shape will be all of ours.
So what to do? Go vote for the future you want. Europe has a role to play in the public debate around this election, and our partners at Pulse of Europe are sending out that message. Project Together has launched the Unmute Now campaign to encourage young people to vote for the first time. These are the kinds of efforts that really make a difference.
So if you’re wondering what shoe size the new Chancellor should have, you can probably let that go, and instead go out and get involved – support a campaign, get out the call. If you want to know what the new Chancellor will be like, there is only one way to find out.
Written by Omri Preiss, Managing Director at Alliance4Europe
Photo courtesy: Shoes by Cynewulf