Maybe the story is just a story. But the story looks great. The late Henry Kissinger, former US Secretary of State, once said, “If I want to call Europe, who do I call?” (Kissinger, of course, left the government at that time). But for so long there was a good answer to this question. The answer in the 1980s or 90s was German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. Angela Merkel was the answer to this question from 2005 to 2021. It is said that Germany is so big, rich and powerful that nothing important happens in Europe unless the German chancellor wants it. German chancellors usually get what they want. But that scenario has changed.
After Merkel, Olaf Scholz became the chancellor of Germany. Google shows that now the leader of Germany is one Olaf Schultz! But he is so dull and faded that many people may not know his identity.
As Europe’s economy stagnates, with the hard right leading in polls almost everywhere, Russian President Vladimir Putin raining rockets on Ukraine, Shultz is an almost invisible presence despite being a key member of the European Union. His political party, the Social Democrats, is third in popularity in Germany. Support for his party is only 15 percent, like a joke! Schultz spends most of his time maintaining his fragile three-way alliance.
The impact of this shocking incompetence goes far beyond Germany’s borders. Schultz’s absence has left the European Union leaderless. Germany must be the driver of the EU. Raising funds for Ukraine and other countries to solve immigration problems, creating a capital market union, leading structural reforms aimed at making Ukraine an EU member. Apart from this, it should be kept in mind that this year the US presidential election. If former US President Donald Trump wins, Europe should be prepared to deal with the situation. Kohl and Merkel were aware of these demands. They used to go from country to country like Charaki, negotiating and mediating. But the whole thing was completely new to the curmudgeonly Shultz. Despite being a staunch supporter of Ukraine, he has already failed to inspire others.
But Germany’s strong position does not depend entirely on the German chancellor. France is also associated with it. Because the stronger France is, the stronger Germany will be. On the other hand, the popularity of French President Emmanuel Macron has declined. In 2022, he won majority in parliament. He has to gain momentum to pass any law. As embattled French presidents tend to do, Machon recently fired his prime minister. 34-year-old education minister Gabriel Attalke was made the prime minister. Makhon was seen as a champion of reform in the past. But these days his power to influence Europe has waned.
Sources close to Schultz and Makhon say that the relationship between the two is not good. One of the reasons may be that their personalities are completely different. Within Europe, I favor spending more money. He wants to distance himself from the influence of the Western military alliance NATO and the US. He prefers government control over economic policy. Schultz likes none of that.
Shultz and Makhon’s views have nothing to do with each other. Differences of perspective may come in handy if there is a willingness to work together. But they don’t seem to want to work together.
Once upon a time, Europe was run by the power of France and Germany. But their motor is broken. But hopefully, some helpful mechanisms are still working. One such supporting force is European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. As a German citizen, he is more effective than Schultz. Ursula is a leader who deserves to be hired again in the future. He has been working for the creation and utilization of the Covid Recovery Fund. But his powers are limited. He is no Jacques Delors, who was able to unite Europe for a single market and a single currency.
Another driving force for Europe is Donald Tusk, Poland’s new prime minister and a former president of the European Council. But he is struggling to manage the house.
Now, even if Joe Biden wins the US presidential election in November, the US may withdraw from the role of Europe’s security guard. Europe needs to spend more and do more to keep its citizens safe. But instead of meeting this new challenge, Europe’s leaders remain self-centered.