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Angela Merkel’s Long Goodbye

Summary:
With the chancellor's announced retirement, Germany, together with the rest of Europe, is heading into a new period of uncertainty. A full-scale reorganization of the post-war German party system is likely, as are fundamental questions about the country's international role. BERLIN – With Angela Merkel having announced that she will step down as leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and not seek reelection as chancellor when her current term ends in 2021, Germany is approaching a watershed moment. Since 1949, the country has had only eight chancellors, which means that Merkel’s departure will be anything but an everyday occurrence. Moreover, a change at the top in Germany is usually accompanied by broader political and

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With the chancellor's announced retirement, Germany, together with the rest of Europe, is heading into a new period of uncertainty. A full-scale reorganization of the post-war German party system is likely, as are fundamental questions about the country's international role.

BERLIN – With Angela Merkel having announced that she will step down as leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and not seek reelection as chancellor when her current term ends in 2021, Germany is approaching a watershed moment. Since 1949, the country has had only eight chancellors, which means that Merkel’s departure will be anything but an everyday occurrence. Moreover, a change at the top in Germany is usually accompanied by broader political and social change.

Merkel’s decision was not entirely unexpected. Having elected her for the fourth time in September 2017, German voters were unlikely to give her a fifth term. People tire of leaders over time. Even without her recent announcement, it thus could have been assumed that Merkel’s current term would be her last.

But the ongoing transformation of Germany’s domestic and foreign-policy position is more important than a change in leadership. International ruptures are shaking the very foundations of Germany’s post-war democracy. Under President Donald Trump, the United States has repudiated the West and everything it stands for. On March 29, 2019, the United Kingdom will leave the European Union. And to the east, China has emerged as a new global power.

More broadly, the world’s economic center of gravity is quickly shifting from the North Atlantic to East Asia. The digital revolution, big data, and artificial intelligence are changing the way we work and live. And the EU’s internal crises have not just continued but intensified, while chronic turmoil in the Middle East and Africa represents a persistent external risk to Europe’s stability.

These and other developments have shaken Germany’s once-firm foreign-policy footing. For years, the country’s economic model and security strategy have both centered around integration with the West and Germany’s role within the EU. But today’s challenges require a new strategic outlook. The question for the...

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