Angela Merkel was the most sane when the crazies took over asylum

For many Australians, the most striking image of German Chancellor Angela Merkel is a photo taken during the 2018 G7 summit in Quebec City where, at the head of a group of world leaders, she leans over a desk in looking at a grumpy Donald Trump.

The image sums up the role that Merkel, who is about to step down as German Chancellor after 16 years in office, has played in particular in recent years, in combating Mr. Trump.

The differences between Ms. Merkel and Mr. Trump begin with her understated style. She enjoys gardening and walking vacations. She is sometimes known as “mutti” or mum.

A trained physicist, she speaks with precision and calmness about climate change and the pandemic. When a million refugees from the Syrian civil war crossed the border into Germany in 2015, its slogan was: “Wir schaffen das” or “We will handle this”. She is a technocratic compromise rather than a leader. But at a time when madmen seemed to have taken over the asylum, this was exactly what the world needed.

Under her, Germany was a rock of stability even as Britain embarked on Brexit, protesters stormed the U.S. Capitol, and far-right parties took the lead in d ‘other EU countries.

Ms Merkel, who grew up in East Germany in the shadow of both Communism and Nazism, foiled the populist and xenophobic fringe that was agitating in Germany as in other countries, by discreetly appealing to Germany’s historic obligation to reconcile Europe’s divisions and prevent a repeat of its terrible past.

In 2011, the German political right and the tabloid press were shouting at Merkel to throw Greece, Italy and other indebted countries of the European Union out of the single currency, but she convinced voters that the Germany could not revert to the German mark and abandon its EU partners.

When migrants invaded the borders in 2015, she justified her decision to keep the borders open by evoking the still fresh memory of the Berlin Wall.

Ms. Merkel is not a holy liberal. As a price for saving the eurozone, it imposed brutal austerity policies on Greece. As Germany absorbed the Syrian refugees, Merkel pushed the EU over the following years to build borders almost as impenetrable for asylum seekers as Australia’s.

Here in Australia, Ms Merkel is sometimes seen as an example of how pragmatic the world would be if it were run by women, but she has not made gender an important part of her political identity. She has only recently started to describe herself as a “feminist” and the party she leads is socially conservative.

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