On Feb. 10, AnnegreT
the head of Angela
to the chancellorship—announced that
she would be resigning as party leader, a
position she narrowly won just over a year
ago. AKK, as she is known, was Merkel’s
preferred successor; the
announcement marks the true
end of the Merkel era. That
should worry Europe a lot
more than it does Germany.
AKK’s short tenure as head
of the CDU was marked by a
number of unforced errors,
and she never found traction
among the German popu-
lace. But the final straw that
forced AKK to step aside was
the decision of the local CDU
chapter in Thuringia to ig-
nore her order to refrain from
voting alongside the far-right
Alternative for Germany (AfD) to elect
a leader to the state parliament. That vio-
lated the long-standing agreement of es-
tablishment German parties to refuse to
work with the far right, forcing Merkel
to step in. There was no recovering from
that—AKK bowed out.
It is tempting to blame AKK for not
being the same caliber of political opera-
tor as Merkel. But AKK also had the bad
luck to be the one responsible for unit-
ing a CDU split by the issue of refugees,
a division laid bare by Merkel’s 2015
announcement that Germany would take
in more than a million.
The race to succeed AKK is on; among
the front runners to replace her are Health
Minister Jens Spahn and Prime Minis-
ter of North Rhine-Westphalia Armin
Laschet, as well as the runner-up in last
year’s CDU contest, Friedrich Merz.
But the reality is that Germany
doesn’t change all that much if it’s AKK
at the helm of the CDU or somebody else.
Nearly 70% of Germans continue to have a
favorable opinion of the E.U., and roughly
70% also believe their economy has been
strengthened by the economic integration
of Europe. As the fourth richest country in
the world—and one of the least corrupt—
it has social safety nets that work.
This is not to say Germany is immune
to the antiestablishment push sweeping
through other advanced industrial de-
mocracies lately. But unlike most others
grappling with the phenom-
enon, Germany’s electorate
isn’t running to the political
extremes in droves (though
the recent rise of AfD is worth
monitoring); instead, they
are opting for parties like the
Greens, who represent a break
from traditional German poli-
tics but remain firmly within
the pro-E.U. fold. There are
plenty of countries that wish
they had these problems.
But German leadership
matters for many more peo-
ple than just Germans. For
the better part of her nearly 15 years in
power, Merkel has made German lead-
ership indispensable to the functioning
of the E.U., especially in times of crisis.
That has meant everything from standing
up to Vladimir Putin over his land grab
of Ukraine to shepherding along an un-
popular Greek bailout needed to keep the
euro-zone crisis under control. Even that
2015 refugee decision that cost Merkel so
dearly domestically was critical as lever-
age to govern the E.U. as a whole. For the
past decade, every time the Europeans
have come to an existential crossroads, it
has been Merkel who has shown them the
The next German Chancellor
won’t be Angela Merkel, and won’t have
near the political capital to take the
difficult European decisions that she
made. At a time of U.S. retrenchment,
U.K. dysfunction and growing global
instability, Germany will be fine
no matter whom the CDU selects.
The E.U. is another matter. •
THE RISK REPORT
What Germany’s election
bumps may mean for the E.U.
By Ian Bremmer
For the past
have come to
it has been
them the way
A season of
Spring training is truly an
occasion for optimism.
When players report to
camp in February, warmer
weather feels closer. No
team owns a losing record.
Happy thoughts abound.
Not this year, since the
Houston Astros are set to
spoil the baseball season.
Houston had already
given away all goodwill. In
January, an investigation
found that the team took
part in an electronic
espionage scheme to steal
the signs of opponents
in 2017 and 2018. Then,
in a universally panned
Feb. 13 press conference,
Houston owner Jim Crane
argued that the Astros’
cheating didn’t impact the
outcome of any games.
He contradicted himself
less than a minute later.
Picking up on Houston’s
remorse was difficult when
you’re almost in awe of the
lashed out at the Astros
and MLB commissioner
Rob Manfred, who hasn’t
stripped Houston of its
2017 World Series title
or punished any players.
The Astros could have
owned their errors and
begged for forgiveness.
Instead, all Houston can
do is prepare for a season
of jeers. ÑSean Gregory
on Feb. 13