As ‘Mutti’ leaves her position in Germany after sixteen years, what will it mean for the Nordics and the rest of Europe?
Chancellor Merkel in the Nordic countries
Bullerbü-Syndrom is the German love of Sweden, and their obsession with the north was covered here late last year. The German premier, Angela Merkel, was a European unifyer. Yesterday, for the first time in sixteen years, her name was absent from a German federal ballot paper. This dependable stalwart, who grew up behind the Iron Curtain in the paranoia of DDR daily life, announced her decision to step down in 2018. In the 1990s, when freedom and democratic unification was offered (in the form of the European Union), Merkel used a base in the deliberately mushy Germany to bring nations large and small together. She, along with President Macron, kept the dream alive, recently advocating such plans as a European army. Merkel spent as much time with the UK and France as with the smaller countries up north. Those included the Nordic countries, and she never stopped her attempts to bring Norway and Iceland into the union, tearing down barriers and putting up starry blue flags. She hoped to gently get rid of the krones in Sweden and Denmark, allowing the Eurozone to live up to its name. And, sure, on the surface, Merkel was met with stubborn opposition. But that hid friendly European amity. She made fifteen visits to the Nordic countries, and they made many more to her in Berlin. She met every one of their prime ministers (they, unlike her, came and went… unable to keep control of equally changeable coalitions). And, when they’d almost all accepted defeat on further economic collaboration, together, instead, they championed solutions to immigration and climate change.
The historical links
In the 1600s, Sweden ruled areas of modern-day Germany. In the 1940s, Germany took revenge by going to war in Finland. Even today, the Nordic nations are Hanseatic in stature, tied as much to German merchants as to those in France and Britain. The children of the 1950s in Norway, Sweden and Denmark learned German in school, not French or English. Undoubtedly, and perhaps unavoidably, during the Second World War, these historical ties were to Sweden’s peril. Later, however, as a fellow member of a forgiving European Union, Sweden morphed into a ‘mini Germany’. When Merkel let out a plug that proved her slow end, the stream of migration continued north to Malmö. They travelled through Denmark, physically stuck to the north of Germany (who took much of its territory but saved it from a bilingual maelsrom). Here, in the grey streets, knuckles of pork and tankards of beer have seeped in from down south. And, though Bavaria is a Catholic stronghold, this country is a continuation of Luther’s homeland: the Protestant heartlands that saturated the childhood of both Angela Merkel and so many Danes and Germans. For, in many ways, they are one and the same. A generation of Germans, Europeans and world citizens have lost a figure of continuity. And that loss will be sorely felt in the Nordics.
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