Angela Merkel would have expected a more monolithic assessment of her 16 years in office.

Although most politicians (even Alexis Tsipras) praise her for her contribution and most citizens (except the Greeks) express their trust in her, analysts do not limit themselves to praising her stable hand and her persistence in seeking consensus. They also criticise her for a lack of daring.

Domestically, she did not pursue a modernisation of infrastructure or a reform of the pension system.

Abroad, she did not exhibit flexibility in dealing with the problems of the European South. She did not promote a European policy with principles and she did not move boldly combat climate change.

The outgoing chancellor leaves behind her a tired party, without ideas, and a candidate to succeed her who does not inspire.

That is one reason that Social Democrat Olaf Scholz will in all likelihood be the next chancellor.

The other is the “centre-left wave”. The pandemic highlighted the importance of the state, which Social Democratic parties have always stressed, and their voters in one country after another realise that.

Even if the predictions are confirmed, the formation of a three-party government led by the current finance minister will not be easy. Consultations may drag on for months, and there are problems to be solved.

Moreover, Germany will not be able to effectively put the brakes on reforms being pushed by French President Emmanuel Macron and at the same time it will not be able to exert a drastic influence on the frugal countries of the European North.

Not only Germany but Europe as a whole is changing and it faces the challenge of redefining its role in an extremely rapidly changing world.

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