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Chancellor Merkel and Queen Victoria (UPDATE)

"In her keynote speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for closer trans-Atlantic cooperation, saying it would benefit both American and European economies." reports Spiegel International.
Foreign Policy Passport has learned in Davos:
The most powerful female political figure in Europe since Queen Victoria has turned the methodical scientific training from her upbringing in Communist East Germany into a formula for gaining admirers worldwide.
Has Foreign Policy Passport forgotten Margaret Thatcher? I wonder how long this admiration for Mrs. Merkel will last... When will they realize that Chancellor Merkel is not all that powerful? Unlike Baroness Thatcher, Merkel is in a coalition government. Besides, power depends on having international partners, but Blair, Chirac, and even Bush look more and more like lame ducks.

Meanwhile in Germany: "
Only 22 percent of Germans were of the opinion that their government was run in an effective and goal-oriented manner, according to a survey conducted by Infratest dimap for German public broadcaster ARD.
Another 79 percent of those polled said the grand coalition of Christian and Social Democrats spent more time dealing with political questions inside of their own parties instead of facing the nation's business." wrote DW World in December.

gives "credit to Davos for sparking a mini-revival of Doha Round trade talks. The Economist is excited that the EU and the United States now seem serious about a deal."

UPPERDATE: I am still surprised by the American media's love affair with Mrs. Merkel. Clay Risen's article in The New Republic Online has the headline "Angela Merkel, Superstar" and starts with this comparison:
Gender differences aside, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President George W. Bush seem to have a lot in common. They are both conservative heads of government. They have both seen their market-oriented agendas stymied by opposition, often from within their own parties (though in Germany, such reforms are actually needed). And they are both deeply unpopular among voters--in fact, both are outshone in polls by their top diplomats, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. But those similarities stop at the water's edge. For while Bush is one of the world's most reviled leaders, Merkel is just a few fans shy of international rock star status.
In my humble opinion none of these comparisons are correct. Conservatism and market-oriented reforms in Germany are different from those in the US. Besides, due to the Murat Kurnaz affair, Steinmeier's popularity rightfully took a dive: Merkel and Steinmeier currently both have a popularity rating of 1.6 at Politbarometer (slide 3), i.e. both are now the most popular politicians in Germany; followed by Kurt Beck (1.1).
Clay Risen praises Merkel for resolving a bitter European budget dispute soon after taking office in 2005, for restarting the EU constitutional talks, for sending German warships to help police the ceasefire in Lebanon and for taking "tough stands against Iran, China, and Russia," as well as reinvigorating transatlantic trade talks. He continues to praise Merkel's "clear vision" without describing how exactly that vision looks like:

"The 52-year-old chancellor has emerged as the leading political actor in Europe--not to mention the go-to person in Europe for Washington," wrote The New York Times's Mark Landler. What makes Merkel particularly attractive is that, unlike her predecessor, Gerhard Schröder, she has a clear vision for where Europe and the world are going, and for how Germany can play a role. As she wrote in a recent essay for The Economist, "Globalisation brings with it a host of new and different challenges--for politics, economics, and society. The European Union, too, must respond to these. The world will not wait for Europe." This means market reforms to make German and European companies more competitive, legal reforms to strengthen intellectual property rights, and regulatory coordination to make international business more efficient. While Merkel usually focuses her attention on the EU's economic and political consilience, one of her underlying themes is the importance of European values in the twenty-first century world. As she said in her opening speech at the European Parliament last week, "Europe's soul is tolerance."

Related posts in the Atlantic Review: Germany's Growing Foreign Policy Role and Merkel's Blitzvisit and the Harmonization of Technical Standards

Endnote: Financial Times columnist Gideon Rachman describes the peculiar "Davos nights." Very funny.


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Zyme on :

"When will they realize that Chancellor Merkel is not all that powerful? Unlike Baroness Thatcher, Merkel is in a coalition government. Besides, power depends on having international partners, but Blair, Chirac, and even Bush look more and more like lame ducks." hihi :) Don´t you think power can also result from an international competition being in a weak political position? ;) Especially a weak leadership in France and Britain is perfect for our leadership. This way, they can´t interfere in european matters all the time.

Fuchur on :

'Davos Nights' is brilliant :-). Nice to see that our tax money is being put to good use ;-) ...

Don S on :

One distinct improvement on last year, anyway. Senator Kerry has not been reported as phoning instructions to his fellow Senators from Davos to his fellow Senators this year. Senator Kerry learns slowly it sometimes seems. But never say he doesn't learn after having been seared with a blowtorch..... ;)

Don S on :

"phoning instructions to his fellow Senators from Davos to his fellow Senators this year." But I repeat myself! Unlike Senator Kerry I do not learn to proofread from experience!

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Google Alerts brought me another article about "superstar" Angela Merkel. So I wrote an upperdate. I know Schroeder was not popular in the US. This explains some of Merkel's huge popularity, but it does not explain it all. Popularity is one thing, but having the capability to deliver is another... Merkel is in a coalition government and the German public will probably oppose German participation in a war with Iran, if it comes to that... Describing Merkel as a "superstar" and a "rock star" and comparing her power with Queen Victoria is a bit over the top, isn't it? I think Merkel is okay. I appreciate that she is improving transatlantic relations and is talking tough with Putin, but otherwise I am not very impressed with her foreign policy. She was successful with those EU budget negotiations etc., but I doubt whether the EU constitution push will go anywhere. I don't quite get it. Was Helmut Kohl as popular in the US as Merkel is now? Hm, I guess he was... What do you think about Merkel's stardom?

Don S on :

Huge populsrity, Jorg? As in 'the huge polularity of John Kennedy in Germany'? No I don't see it either. What I might see is a sense of relief more than anything. S choeder was driving the US-Germany relationship right off a cliff. Merkel has changed the path to drive along the edge or perhaps backward a little. Not a reversal of the Schoeder/Fischer policy but an improvement.

Bill on :

Just the fact that she can hold her own in the acrimonious, backstabbing atmosphere of German politics today makes her likable. Plus she has up to now not attempted to create a new "Axis of Weasels" and destroy decades of transatlantic relations as Gerd (Gerhard Schröder) and Jacques ChIraq (Chirac) did. Her apparent lack of "power" amongst the German voting public has more to do with her team members (the present coaliton partners) than with her own abilities and willpower to govern. If I were you guys (the Germans) I'd do my best to keep her around for awhile because the alternative "is not an option" at the moment. In other words, the German poltical bench of wannabes that would succeed Angela Merkel as Bundeskanzler(in) sucks. Whatever you do, whatever-you-do, DON'T send Guido Westerwelle (leader of the opposition FDP party) to the top job in Berlin. I can see the international press headlines now...

Pat Patterson on :

The less power they have the more popular the politicians seem to be. But when they actually exercise some of that power then the popularity fades. We seem to love our politicians to stand pugnaciously astride the word and speak of good deeds and of good hopes. But when the solutions involve discomfort we cry out that they have betrayed all that wonderful unity and support.

Saa on :

No doubt she is a competent woman but her govt. without coalition cannot run the country alone. Her popularity in US is only as she has given a cooperative hand to Bush, while last govt. did not.

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