Merkel rules out top EU job after term as German chancellor ends

Angela Merkel had fueled speculation she was seeking a top EU post after she spoke about her "renewed sense of responsibility" for Europe in an interview. Her final term as German chancellor is scheduled to end in 2021.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday that she would not take on a senior post at the European Union after her fourth and final term ends in 2021.

Merkel said she "will not be available for any political office, no matter where, not even in Europe" at a press conference with her Dutch counterpart, Prime Minister Mark Rutte, in Berlin.

The chancellor had ruled out a move to the EU in October after she said that she would be stepping down at the end of her term.

But she sparked a fresh wave of speculation after she told the Süddeutsche Zeitung on Thursday about her "responsibility" for Europe's future.

"Many people are worried about Europe, including myself," she told the paper. "This gives me an even greater sense of responsibility to take care of the fate of this Europe of ours together with others."

Merkel's friends and foes in the EU

The Partner

If anyone can be called Merkel's political friend, it is French President Emmanuel Macron. Like Merkel, he is an advocate of a European solution to the migration problem. Like Merkel, he sees the issue as axiomatic to the EU's future existence. However, some in Germany believe Macron's support comes at a high price.

Merkel's friends and foes in the EU

The sympathetic one

The new Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sanchez, may have acted in the spirit of Merkel when he took in boats with African refugees after the Italian government had turned them away. Such humanity is rare at the moment, but the socialist has also said that his country needs assistance in coping with migration.

Merkel's friends and foes in the EU

The Mediator

The trading nation of the Netherlands is very interested in keeping the EU's internal borders open. On that issue, its prime minister, Mark Rutte, agrees with Merkel. On the other hand, the mood in the country is now more hostile to migrants. Rutter's fence-sitting strategy means he could take a mediating role.

Merkel's friends and foes in the EU

The Tactician

There is an ideological gulf between the Christian Democrat Merkel and leftist Greek leader Alexis Tsipras. Nevertheless, the prime minister is very much in favor of "European solidarity" in handling migration and also supports Merkel personally. Merkel has been more flexible in negotiating during the Greek debt crisis, and Tsipras may hope for further concessions on that front.

Merkel's friends and foes in the EU

The Radical

Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen may not look like a radical, but on migration matters he is. Hardly any EU government has pursued a policy of deterring asylum-seekers as strict as his. Earlier than others, Rasmussen also launched the idea of ​​establishing reception centers outside the EU. If a European solution were to look like that, he would be in favor.

Merkel's friends and foes in the EU

The rival

Although Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz is polite with Merkel on a personal level, he makes no secret of his rejection of her liberal refugee policy. But he gets on swimmingly with Merkel's domestic opponents on migration, from Health Minister Jens Spahn to CSU Interior Minister Horst Seehofer and Bavaria's Premier Markus Söder.

Merkel's friends and foes in the EU

The hounded one

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is one of the biggest obstacles for Merkel. Dependant for his political survival on the xenophobic Lega party, a coalition partner, Conte is on the backfoot over migration. The Lega's Matteo Salvini is interior minister, and his demand that Italy not take in any more refugees is becoming increasingly popular in Italy.

Merkel's friends and foes in the EU

The indifferent one

Few have criticized Merkel's policy of open borders as vehemently as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. For him, the crisis is Merkel's problem, not his. He did not even show up, like the other leaders of the Visegrad states Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Poland, at a meeting on Sunday with Merkel. They all reject any redistribution of refugees.

Merkel said Thursday that she had given the interview "as Germany's chancellor."

"I, as German chancellor, should intensify rather than not intensify my efforts towards a good, functioning Europe," she said.

The president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, said in April that Merkel was an "endearing work of art" who was "highly qualified" for a top EU job.

Will Merkel make it to 2021?

Merkel resigned as head of the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) at the same she announced her intention to continue as German chancellor until 2021.

Her term could end prematurely if her governing coalition, comprising the CDU, its Bavarian sister party, the CSU, and the Social Democrats (SPD), breaks down before then.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, Merkel's successor as CDU chief, told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper on Sunday that she expected Merkel to stay until 2021.

"The chancellor and the government are elected for a full term and citizens are right to expect that they take this mandate seriously," she said.

"Speaking for myself, I can rule out that I am working in my own interest for a change."

amp/msh (dpa, AFP, Reuters)

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