Two crises: financial and migration. Two complete different approaches & leaderships. Two surprising Angela Merkel. A consistent focus in one strategy is one of the conditions to be a leader with global dimensions. However, Chancellor Merkel has shown different approaches towards the European Union and in relation with Germany´s role for those crises. Because of these disparities, cartoonists portrayed her from Hitler to Mother Theresa. From a not flexible position without empathy towards Greek population, to full empathy to Syrian refugees. How we deal with this contradictory image and where relies this confusion? It basically comes from a double leadership: leading European Union and leading Germany. The first one is strongly needed, the second is highly dangerous because involves important conflict of interests: financial, economic and politically with the EU. A supremacy of one country over others within a common market is absolutely unacceptable and is threatening the own constitution of the Union.
“Merkeln” is a word that has become a trend among young Germans refereeing to “doing nothing” or “not being enough clear”, questioning Merkel´s leadership and personal skills to face challenges. Complains achieved mainly through internal political decisions but also a political and personal attitude with an important lack of empathy with indebted countries on the financial crisis process.
Having austerity and fiscal policies as main defence of their strategy have had as a direct consequence a devastating failure with the financial and social destruction of Greece. A clear mismanagement of Eurozone debt crisis in conjunction with the failure of Troika´s approach that surprisingly, instead of accepting their responsibility is punishing indebted countries (like Greece, Spain, Italy, etc.) by applying policies that lead to higher rates of unemployment, low rates of growth and general economic stagnation.
Obstacles on financial crisis process brought thoughts from Merkel as: “….they lead us into a debt union, not a stability union. Each country has to take its own steps to reduce its debt….” A statement that is a truly attempt to break European Union´s spirit and project. EU is indeed a matter of debt union, because debt is about investment and growth, and assures the sustainability of that debt is one of the main duties that European institutions need to take control and demand accountability. Just to sustain that those countries are indebted because of corruption or with poor management decisions is not enough to demarcate responsibility as repeatedly Troika and Merkel have tried to establish.
Financial shocks do not come because of just an irresponsible government but to the context of a global financial system with poor or no mechanisms for a correct control, letting certain countries suffer more as a consequence of a mismanagement of the own lend institutions, missing the social-political context of the country and the correct follow-up of the process.
Europe is also about sharing debt with the benefits and failures that means belonging to a community. Condemn countries, as Greece could be fair but only in the context of a transparent process in which European institutions play its role of controller and supporter without any kind of conflict among national interests and with a strong focus on the “European project”.
Now, in an attempt to conciliate this “uncomfortable past”, Angela Merkel comes with a dare, challenging and somehow pioneer decision to lead in hosting Syrian refugees addressing also a global refugee emergency.
The so-called “Iron woman” is being enough flexible and adaptable to see in this crisis an opportunity for Germany, for Europe and for her personal image on vindication and consolidation of her leadership. Lessons learned from financial crisis help Chancellor Merkel take this tough decision that is raising too much expectations in Germany as a “promised land” maybe without having measured correctly their internal capacity.
Paradoxically is the same sense of solidarity widely demonstrated with migrants, that it should have been displayed for indebted European countries in need of support. In times that not only inequality but also poverty rate -including child poverty- is growing dramatically.
With this gesture Merkel erase all trace of accusation of racism against Germany and clean her personal & national image by also a long-term plan for a full integration of the new refugees in German society. Sharing much more quotas of refugees that others countries -has set $6 billion aside to care for 800,000 refugees this year- and building an international image of empathy and solidarity.
With these two crises we see to faces of the same leadership, the first one with the arrogance of an adolescent and the pride and indifference of feeling part of a powerful financial elite. The second one, migration crisis, shows the reflexion of an adult, the will to learn from the past and the serenity to face criticism that only an individual, solid and consolidated leadership could face, even with strong internal political pressures.
Between this two phases, her leadership grow up quickly, skilful and over all stronger than before, under the idea that “we really can see the tunnel” (Merkel). From the darkness that brings mismanagement, pride and lack of empathy, to the light of the vision of visualizing Germany within 20 years in advance. A profitable combination of factors that will help Germany to face future demographic challenge and also be seeing as world leaders on solidarity and sense of humanity.
Mental and psychological strength is paramount for a successful leadership, but to build two contradictory strategies and stand to criticism, you need also criteria and only one sense of mission, straightness and internal coherence to convince yourself and others that is the correct strategy. Angela Merkel has successfully achieved that, no matter receiving bitter criticism against austerity & fiscal policies, or currently with the overwhelm number of refugees arriving day-to-day to the country.
To appreciate Chancellor´s style of leadership is important to see it from a subjective perspective more than a political one, as a way to conciliate this apparent contradiction.
Two crises, two Germany’s, one Angela Merkel.
*Picture: Angela Merkel by Andy Warhol