The Irish Times view on Germany’s EU presidency: Merkel’s last experiment

Europe’s longest-serving leader faces an Olympian test of her eye for detail

Angela Merkel suggested the ongoing pandemic would require “considerable adjustment” to Germany’s EU presidency plans at the last minute. Photograph: Henning Schacht/ Pool/Getty Images

Angela Merkel suggested the ongoing pandemic would require “considerable adjustment” to Germany’s EU presidency plans at the last minute. Photograph: Henning Schacht/ Pool/Getty Images

 

After two years of planning, Germany assumes the Europen Council’s rotating presidency in a month. Thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, the only detail of its presidency plan to survive is the logo: an endless loop known as a “Möbius strip”. You can create one by taking a tape-like strip of material, giving one end a short twist and fusing both ends. What makes a Möbius strip interesting is how two lines, sent off in different sides and on opposite sides, eventually meet. For Germany this phenomenon reflects how, in the EU, 27 sovereign states’ divergent positions eventually converge.

Chancellor Angela Merkel will need something far stronger than Möbius strips to get her through to Christmas. Last week, with characteristically laconic understatement, she suggested the pandemic would require “considerable adjustment” to Germany’s EU presidency plans. German civil servants know that, culturally speaking, busking is not their speciality. But they are being led by a woman who, in her 15 years in power, has become the uncrowned queen of drive-by-sight politics.

The EU’s rolling schedule meant this was already going to be a crucial presidency, with deadlines looming on a final Brexit deal and agreement on the EU’s upcoming seven-year budget.

Covid-19 has now upended everything. But like epidemiologists grappling with the novel coronavirus, Dr Merkel, a physicist, treats politics as a long-term laboratory experiment: when new information comes in, the procedures are adapted, the experiment is adjusted and run again.

With an eye on her political legacy, Dr Merkel hopes to use the common Covid-19 thread of crisis to draw together EU challenges new and old – economics, health, migration, climate and rule of law – to make a major integration push.

As Merkel’s fourth and final term enters its last year, Europe’s longest-serving leader faces an Olympian test of her eye for detail, her nose for negotiation and her ear for compromise. In this time of crisis, as the limits and potential of politics are being recalibrated, the EU can draw one last time on Europe’s safest pair of hands.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.