Europe's quiet leader
By Anne Applebaum
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Did you know that there were elections in Germany a month ago? Were you aware that the German Socialists were soundly defeated? Had you realized that there was now a new government in Germany? No? Then give credit — both for the victory and the fact that you haven't heard about it — to Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany. ...
... (P)artly by default and partly by design, Merkel is now the de facto leader of Europe
. Over in Britain, Gordon Brown's Labour Party is immolating itself. Over in France, President Nicolas Sarkozy's attention-deficit issues propel him from one project to the next, to the irritation of everybody. The Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, is under endless investigation, and everyone else is too small or too preoccupied to compete. Even when the European Union chooses its next president later this year, he (and it almost certainly will be a he) will find it extremely difficult to do anything that contradicts the wishes of Merkel, who regularly tops lists of the world's most powerful women.
In fact, the more I watch her, the more I am convinced that her femaleness holds the key to her success. Under her watch, Germany has continued to grow more powerful, more influential, more dominant than ever before. Yet not only has no one noticed, they applaud and ask for more. ...
If, in the coming months, she wants a bigger, louder role outside Germany, Merkel can probably have that, too. I'm not sure, though, that "big and loud" is quite her style. It's equally possible that she will take over European foreign policy
— but so quietly and so politely that no one will notice.