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Andreas Kluth

Why Germany Will Never Be Europe’s Leader

Italians and other Europeans are eager for Germany to take responsibility for the EU and share their financial burden. Even if it could, it wouldn’t.

No hegemon in sight.

No hegemon in sight.

Photographer: Bloomberg/Bloomberg

The timing is certainly awkward. The year 2020 was supposed to be the moment for Germany to show leadership, as it takes over, on July 1, the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union, analogous to an upper house in the EU’s legislature. But now a virus has come along and thrown the world and the EU into chaos. As other European nations ask it to take charge and show solidarity, Germany appears to be balking.

The Covid-19 pandemic is thus a tragic rerun of last decade’s euro crisis. Back then, it was above all the Greeks who were angry at the tightwad Germans, even drawing Hitler mustaches on posters of Chancellor Angela Merkel. Today, it’s primarily Italians and Spaniards who are livid.