Angela Merkel has been Europe’s most important leader since the end of the Cold War.
In the course of her 16-year tenure as German chancellor, she steered the continent through the 2009-2012 eurozone crisis, Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and invasion of Ukraine, the 2015 refugee crisis, Brexit, and the Covid-19 pandemic. Often, she did this against the political currents and at considerable political cost. Without her political skills, adaptability, and courage, the European Union would be poorer, more divided, and less powerful than it is today. It might not even exist as a bloc.
Her legacy is all the more extraordinary because it was built at a time when effective and moral leadership was in such short supply elsewhere. It is no wonder, then, that she is the most trusted leader in the world.
Merkel’s departure from the stage raises the question of who in Europe can succeed her. Who are the contenders for the title?