Europe is losing its moral compass – how will it find its way without Merkel? | Marion Van Renterghem

The pragmatic chancellor’s departure will be a turning point not only for Germany but also the EU

During a farewell tour of European heads of state and government this summer, Angela Merkel went to see the Queen. The few filmed minutes of her arrival in Windsor are irresistible. On one side, the Queen in a green floral dress, her smile controlled by centuries of code and tradition. On the other, a shy-seeming woman in trousers and purple jacket, nodding her head too many times, trying to observe the correct rituals for greeting a monarch. Elizabeth and Angela: two opposite worlds, two entirely different functions, and yet, similarities. Those boring speeches no one dares to make any more. That style, that calm, that stability and that way of embodying their countries.

Merkel now embodies more than Germany; she embodies Europe. She’s a pop icon, who has entered our consciousness like a song. Mugs, T-shirts and even lemon squeezers are sold in her image. But her rise and longevity remain a mystery. How could this woman, so strangely indifferent to the trappings of power, take over a party held for half a century by conservative males, and then be elected four times in a row to lead one of the world’s great powers? How did she become such a role model that a schoolboy once asked her in all innocence: “Can a boy also become chancellor?”

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