‘Mutti’, German for ‘Mummy’, is arguably the most common nickname for Germany’s Chancellor, who this autumn completes her tenth year in power. The nickname arose along with her image as being more of an administrator than a politician. Her implicit campaign message was never some sort of master plan for Germany and she always left the impression of a mother-ï¬gure, who says: ‘I’ll be at your side, come what may.’
To be fair, in many laws and decisions during her government, she was reactive, rather than proactive: Germany’s abandonment of nuclear energy was demanded by activists after Fukushima; the introduction of the minimum wage was her concession to the Social Democrats upon entering into coalition with them. Supporters see in her the calm mind of a conscientious leader, sensitive to the situation she ï¬nds herself in. Haters call it opportunism.
I think the latter are hugely mistaken when considering the most recent events of European politics, in which Merkel was and is ï¬ghting a tough battle for her convictions against many opponents, not least within her
own party and people. Take the Greek debt crisis; Yanis Varoufakis with his almost fanatic ï¬ght against austerity became and – looking at the Union’s termcard – remains more popular than a Greek ï¬nance minister could hope for. At the peak of the crisis in the early summer of this year, the papers were heralding the end of Europe as we knew it and so-called ï¬nancial
experts ï¬‚ed into words like ‘unpredictable’ and ‘potential chaos’. But Merkel didn’t waver.
Her credo ‘If the Euro fails, Europe fails’ still stood as a bulwark against the Grexit, when all over Europe the rats began to desert the sinking ship. Even her ever-so-loyal ï¬nance minister grew weak facing the pigheadedness of Alexis Tsipras – not to mention the constant frustration expressed by the IMF and other creditors.
This would have been the easy way out: ‘Yes, we originally wanted to save the Euro, but in light of present circumstances we have no choice but to organise a currency reform, which we believe to be for the better of the
Greek people.’ We could have all left the Greeks to deal with their own misery and the majority of creditor countries would have been happy to do just that. Merkel wasn’t, though.
She very likely didn’t know better than anyone else what a Grexit would have actually encompassed. The important thing is that she didn’t let frustration break her beliefs. She said she would save the Euro, so she fought to thelast minute to make it happen. Her iron will was rewarded eventually when the apparently unavoidable was avoided.
This Merkel is not the care-taker ‘Mutti’ the Germans would like to see in her. This is a woman of almost scary determination, who can ï¬ght her cause seemingly alone against all odds. We see the same thing happening at present with the refugee crisis, which is pushing Germany to the very limits.
Her own people blame her for the situation, but instead of meeting the refugees with fencing and stricter bordercontrols, she meets the Germans with the charisma of a true leader. “I deeply believe that we can do this”, she says, and if we learnt anything from the Euro crisis, we better believe that too.