Ever since the euro crisis broke in late 2009 this newspaper has criticised the world’s most powerful woman. We disagreed with Angela Merkel’s needlessly austere medicine: the continent’s recession has been unnecessarily long and brutal as a result. We wanted the chancellor to shrug off her cautious incrementalism and the mantle of her country’s history””and to lead Europe more forcefully. She is largely to blame for the failure to create a full banking union for the euro zone, the first of many institutional changes it still needs. She has refused to lead public opinion, never spelling out to her voters how much Germany is to blame for the euro mess (nor how much its banks have been rescued by its bail-outs). We also worry that she has not done enough at home: in recent years no country in the European Union has made fewer structural reforms, and her energy policies have landed Germany with high subsidies for renewables and high electricity prices.
And yet we believe Mrs Merkel is the right person to lead her country and thus Europe. That is partly because of what she is: the world’s most politically gifted democrat and a far safer bet than her leftist opponents. It is also partly because of what we believe she could still become””the great leader Germany and Europe so desperately needs.