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Leonid Bershidsky

Merkel Tries Not to Go Out With a Bang

Her big speech on the future of Europe was all caution and no ambition.

A call for action? 

A call for action? 

Photographer: Frederck Florin/AFP/Getty Images

It could have been a call for decisive action by a leader no longer tethered by domestic politics. But German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s appearance at the European Parliament on Tuesday was nothing of the sort: Merkel unbound is the same cautious, gradualist Merkel.

The speech, coming as she prepares to hand over leadership of her party, was billed as her vision for the future of Europe, an event to match French President Emmanuel Macron’s ambitious Sorbonne speech of September 2017. But she didn’t have a grand vision to present — or even clear answers to Macron’s proposals for a euro-zone budget, a common military force, a unified European asylum office and a smaller European Commission.