“How much longer?” wonders the Die Zeit headline over a picture of Angela Merkel, who no longer has many friends in Europe at a time when she is about to undergo a fresh electoral setback in 13-May regional elections in North-Rhine Westphalia. Arguing that virtually all of Germany’s chancellors have clung on for too long, Die Zeit editor Bernd Ulrich insists that now is the time for a look back over the Merkel years.

Simple and without any experience of speech making, the Protestant pastor’s daughter, who was born in East Germany, succeeded in establishing a rapport with the entire nation, and especially with West Germans whom she judged to be “spoiled, as well as a little cowardly, and lazy”. As for the West Germans themselves, they were soon to be “merkelised” — caught up in cult that worshiped her supposed weaknesses of sobriety and a lack of glamour. And it was the euro crisis that marked the high point of this transformation. As Ulrich points out-

In 2005, Merkel felt she had to give Germans a boost. Today she has to convince her voters to help others, to keep a clear head, and most importantly, to continue their wise and zealous consumption. Her policy has been completely reversed. The question is: has she completed her mission in Germany? Has she migrated to Europe? [...] Were it not for German normality, and the fact that it is protected by an ultra-normal chancellor, Europe would have been plunged into chaos ages ago.

Far from imagining an imminent end to the Chancellor’s career, Ulrich concludes-

It may be that the German Merkel is now in decline, while the European Merkel is still at the height of her powers. Perhaps we no longer need her here, but rather in Europe. [...] She is only 57 years old, and is thus a woman politician with a future. However, where exactly that future lies remains to be seen.