Clemens Wergin

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Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany during a visit to Ghana on Wednesday. Credit Felipe Trueba/European Pressphoto Agency

When Donald Trump was elected president, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany carefully drew a line between them. She offered cooperation, but with the caveat that it should be based on Western values like, in her words, “freedom, respect for the law, and the dignity of man independent of origin, skin color, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political views.” Such moral clarity earned her legions of fans abroad; pundits took to calling her the new “leader of the free world.”

Most of those pundits were, notably, not German. In contrast, experts familiar with Germany’s strategic culture — or lack thereof — were skeptical about whether the German government could follow through on what it meant to actually lead the free world.…  Seguir leyendo »

Helmut Kohl in 1990. Credit Mark-Olivier Multhaup/DPA, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Politics can be a cruel contact sport. Nobody knew that better than Helmut Kohl, the longtime German chancellor and the father of German reunification who died on Friday.

He governed his own conservative party at times like a fief and relentlessly went after possible challengers within his own party. Like Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, he towered over and defined his country’s place in the world, and alongside them he defined the center-right consensus that drove Western foreign policy at the end of the Cold War.

Unlike Mrs. Thatcher or Mr. Reagan, however, Mr. Kohl had an ignominious end to his career, perhaps the steepest fall from grace in German postwar politics, when his former protégée and now chancellor, Angela Merkel, pushed him from power over a scandal involving illicit campaign financing.…  Seguir leyendo »

A broker at the Frankfurt stock market on Wednesday as U.S. President-elect Donald J. Trump spoke on TV. Michael Probst/Associated Press

No one in Europe truly believed Americans would elect someone who seems so obviously unfit to lead the most powerful nation in the world. And yet, that is precisely what has happened, and now, across the Continent, people are trying to figure out what this will mean. Many fear that Donald J. Trump’s election might mean the end of the West as we know it.

To be fair, from Europe’s perspective, the West was already on shaky ground. Russia is barking at our borders. The war in Syria has unleashed a huge wave of migration that is challenging our identities and fueling a right-wing backlash.…  Seguir leyendo »

Germany is in crisis mode. Every day trains packed with refugees arrive from the south, and despite tightened border controls, as many as a million are expected by the end of the year. For all the warm and open talk coming from Chancellor Angela Merkel, everyone knows that the financial and social costs of absorbing so many people will be considerable.

Germany and its less-welcoming European partners are treating the wave of refugees, many of whom come from Syria or other parts of the Middle East, primarily as a humanitarian crisis. But it is also a security crisis for Europe, and it should force a thorough rethinking of how Europe approaches the regions of the world that abut its southern and eastern borders.…  Seguir leyendo »

Like most foreign-policy experts, I was shocked by Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its continuing “soft invasion” of eastern Ukraine. Can such a naked land grab really be happening now, in 21st-century Europe?

But Russia’s actions were not the only surprise. If you have followed the German debate about the Ukraine crisis, you have witnessed another strange phenomenon: a parade of former politicians and public figures going on TV to make the case for Russia.

According to these august figures — including former Chancellors Gerhard Schröder and Helmut Schmidt — NATO and the European Union were the real aggressors, because they dared to expand into territory that belonged to Moscow’s legitimate sphere of interest.…  Seguir leyendo »

When an 8-year-old girl on the Berlin subway asks her mother if it’s possible to have a male chancellor, you know something profound has changed in Germany. A woman ruling the country is not just the new normal; for millions of German children — including my daughters, ages 7 and 10 — it is the only normal they have ever known.

I am thankful for the example that Angela Merkel is providing for my daughters. But her quiet revolution raises questions about what it means to have a woman in charge.

Germany is by no means the champion of gender equality.…  Seguir leyendo »

Every four years, the silly season comes to Europe. As 16 countries vie for the European soccer championship, fans revel in the kind of nationalistic fervor that the European project set out to tame. “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death,” said the Scottish player Bill Shankly, who died in 1981. “I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.”

National tensions born on the soccer field have even weighed on my own family, since I am a German married to an Italian. And yet, in that weird way that sports parallels life, in recent years my wife has been won over to Germany’s allure; it hosted the World Cup in 2006 and its team came in third that year and again at the 2010 cup with a youthful and brash style that made Germany new friends in Europe and around the world, my wife included.…  Seguir leyendo »

Estimados griegos e italianos: nos encontramos ya en el segundo año de la crisis del euro, en el transcurso de la cual se han producido en ocasiones disonancias importantes entre nuestros países. Lamentablemente, son sólo nuestros políticos los que se reúnen para negociar. Nos faltan un idioma y una cobertura mediática comunes que nos permitan intercambiar opiniones. Por ello ha llegado la hora de que nos comuniquemos de ciudadano a ciudadano. Escribo esta carta para que comprendáis por qué los alemanes tenemos actualmente un sentimiento negativo cuando pensamos en Europa. Y os quiero proponer un pacto, al margen de la política, para proteger y mejorar nuestra Europa.…  Seguir leyendo »