Sunday, 14 December 2008

Merkel the Obstructionist?

If there's one thing the global economic turmoil has taught us, it's how suddenly everything can change. Angela Merkel definitly doesn't need to be told this twice. Just a few months ago she was Europe's champion; a practical, no-nonsense leader whose pragmatism and spirit of compromise had earned her great respect throughout Europe. But since the onset of the financial crisis she has largely been in the background, failing to come up with new ideas or solutions.

In the past week, this transformation has continued even more dramatically. Suddenly she's become Europe's 'Mrs. No,' the adversary to Gordon Brown's new self-styled 'hero of the world' role. Tensions have been simmering between Germany's chancellor and the British prime minister since last week when Brown didn't invite Merkel to a summit he held in London with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and European Commission (EU) president Jose Manuel Barroso. After that the German foreign minister publicly criticised Gordon Brown's plan to rescue the global economic crisis through government bailouts and shore-ups.

Also last week, Merkel appeared to do a flip-flop on Germany's climate change target commitments, as Germany argued in Posnan that it should have its target lowered, causing many environmental campaigners complaining that Europe seemed to be abandoning its commitment to tackling climate change.

In the end, Merkel ended up relenting for the most part and signed the agreements both for a Europe-wide bailout plan and an EU consensus on climate change. In the end she probably had to relent because although she has suddenly found herself in the role of 'Mrs. No,' she has no alternative plan to propose either for the economy or climate change. Merkal has always been short on ideas but long on action (the exact opposite of her French counterpart Sarkozy), so it's not surprising that she doesn't seem to be excelling in times that require quick and bold acttion. But even still, it's clear she has strong and profound objections to the idea of taking on more debt to solve the economic crisis. It will be interesting to see if the pattern of the last week will be repeated in the coming months. For the time being, it is clear that the relationship between Brown and Merkel has soured. And with her relationship with Sarkozy already notoriously rocky, Merkel could find herself isolated politically.

1 comment:

Grahnlaw said...

The FT Brussels Blog had an interesting take on the so called stimulus package. Perhaps Chancellor Merkel is not as isolated as all that...