Most Europeans believe Germany’s star is fading, a new poll revealed, as the country prepares to live without Angela Merkel.
The poll, released ahead of Germany’s federal elections on September 26, shows that 34% of Europeans surveyed think the best is behind the country.
Germans are the most pessimistic of the dozen EU countries surveyed, with 52% viewing their nation as a declining power, according to the survey, published by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) think tank.
Majorities in eight other countries (Austria, Hungary, Poland, Italy, the Netherlands, France, Bulgaria and Denmark) agreed.
Most Spanish respondents think that Germany’s golden age is now, while Bulgaria and Hungary had the highest proportion of people who believed that the country’s best times were yet to come.
“Without Merkel, the foundations of Germany’s leadership role in the EU will be significantly weaker, unless the new government implements a credible strategy that goes beyond Merkelism,” the ECFR writes in an analysis accompanying the survey.
“If many Europeans believe that Germany’s star is fading, this could undermine their confidence in Berlin. Her positive attitudes towards Merkel’s Germany appear to have had a lot to do with the country’s stable economic growth and low unemployment in recent years. two decades despite difficult economic conditions in Europe. “
German respondents also lack confidence in their country’s ability to lead the European Union countries in key areas.
In the realm of democracy and human rights alone, more than a third of Germans believed that the country could provide European leadership.
In areas such as defense and security, only 20% believed in Berlin, considerably less than the combined total of other European countries surveyed (29%). The same happened with economic and financial issues, with 37% of Europeans trusting Berlin, more than 31% of Germans.
“At the same time, the Germans are not afraid of falling back into nationalism,” wrote the ECFR. “Only 19 percent of them believe there is such a risk, compared to 27 percent in the other 11 countries surveyed. In turn, 36% of Germans expect their country to focus even more on helping others. Europeans, significantly more than 25% of respondents in other surveyed countries. Therefore, Germans have a fairly positive image of their own intentions, but do not seem to believe that their country’s ability to provide leadership is a precondition for be trustworthy and support other member states. In the post-Merkel era, this may not be the correct conclusion. Germans may need to get rid of their doubts about Germany’s leadership because other Europeans are counting on him to provide this. ” .
After four electoral victories and 16 years at the helm of the EU’s largest economy, the outgoing German leader will retire after national elections later this month.
The ECFR poll suggests Merkel will be missed: She enjoys wide support among Europeans, and many citizens in the region say she would be their preferred candidate if she ran for the presidency of Europe against Frenchman Emmanuel Macron.
Across Europe, 41% of those surveyed said they would like to see Merkel as president, while only 14% would opt for her French counterpart Macron.
“Merkel’s popularity surpasses Macron’s in different corners of the EU, including the Netherlands (58%), Spain (57%), Portugal (52%) and Denmark (46%), demonstrating her success in Germany’s positioning as a unifying power, “found the think tank.
“Angela Merkel has come to embody a strong and stable Germany, positioning herself as the anchor of Europe through more than a decade of crisis,” said Piotr Buras, co-author of the report and director of ECFR’s Warsaw office.
“But while European citizens are pinning their hopes on Berlin to lead the bloc, it is a legacy with which the Germans themselves are not entirely comfortable,” he added.
The report’s authors say the survey suggests changes are needed in Germany’s role in the EU.
“The key challenge, for whoever wins next week’s election, will be to convince Germans that a serious change is required in the way their country engages with the EU,” said Jana Puglierin, co-author and senior fellow at policies in ECFR.
Puglierin and Buras argue that Germany’s future leader may need to take a stronger stance against countries that violate European values while fighting for the bloc’s position in the world.
“The days when Europe could look to the United States for leadership and protection are long past,” writes ECFR.
“What the EU needs now is a visionary Germany that upholds the bloc’s values and defends its place in the world,” Buras said.