By GEIR MOULSON
BERLIN (AP) — Angela Merkel will leave office as one of modern Germany’s longest-serving leaders and a global diplomatic heavyweight, with a legacy defined by her management of a succession of crises that shook a fragile Europe rather than any grand visions for her own country.
In 16 years at the helm of Europe’s biggest economy, Merkel did end military conscription, set Germany on course for a future without nuclear and fossil-fueled power, enable the legalization of same-sex marriage, introduce a national minimum wage and benefits encouraging fathers to look after young children, among other things.
But a senior ally recently summed up what many view as her main service: as an anchor of stability in stormy times. He told Merkel: “You protected our country well.”
“All the major crossroads you had to navigate … we never mapped out in any election program — they came overnight and you had to govern well,” Bavarian governor Markus Soeder said.
Merkel passed her first test in 2008, pledging at the height of the global financial crisis that Germans’ savings were safe. Over the following years, she was a leading figure in the effort to save the euro currency from the debt crisis that engulfed several members, agreeing to bailouts but insisting on painful spending cuts.