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.
UPDATE: FP Blog 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.