Berlin – While the eurozone crisis in 2013 lingered in most countries, Germany seemed to be doing better than ever.
It had low unemployment, high productivity and exports so strong that the European Commission asked it to do more to help ailing periphery countries in the single currency bloc.
Merkel’s “safe pair of hands” are appreciated by Germans. They like her cautious governing style; the fact that she rarely rushes into decisions.
A giant billboard close to Berlin’s government quarter did not even feature her face, just her signature ‘rhombus’ hand gesture. It suggested that all Germans needed to do was to keep “Mutti” in charge.
Her election message was simple: “Germany is doing well.” By reelecting her, Germany would continue to be well-off, an “anchor of stability” in a shaky Europe where several countries have had to apply for a bailout.
The coalition programme agreed after almost two months of negotiations promised more of the same: more sticks than carrots; supervision; control and a little bit of “solidarity” with troubled euro peers.
This approach has dominated the major euro policy decisions taken in Brussels.
China’s Prime Minister Li Keqiang visited Berlin in May. He did not bother to go to Brussels. Merkel said she supports China’s stance in an EU trade war on solar panels and a grimacing commission bowed to Berlin once again.
US President Barack Obama also visited Europe for his second time since taking office. He skipped the EU capital, but he also went to Berlin.
His visit was overshadowed by the US spying scandal. Merkel remained courteous and even joked in a TV interview that she did not think her phone was being tapped.
But the joke was on her a few months later, when US whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that US spooks had bugged her mobile.
They were not alone – British, Chinese, Russian and even North Korean spies were also keeping tabs.
The famous question – “Who do I call when I want to talk Europe?” – has no answer. The EU is too complicated. But 2013 showed that calling Berlin (or bugging its calls) is a good place to start.
Full article: EU power shifts from Brussels to Berlin (EU Observer)