Merkel has last laugh in euzo-zone debate
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's step-by-step approach is panning out in efforts to save the euro while at home she has blunted the opposition to emerge politically stronger, analysts said. Although Merkel was earlier criticised for appearing slow to act and provide leadership in tackling Europe's debt crisis, the 57-year-old physicist earned plaudits for her style at this week's landmark E.U. summits. In addition, Germany's first woman chancellor has strengthened her position domestically, analysts said, midway through her second term after a string of stinging setbacks for her coalition government. "She now has a stronger position than before," Merkel's biographer Gerd Langguth of the Institute for Political Science and Sociology at Bonn University said. Twice in the space of a month in high-stake parliamentary votes on the eurozone bailout fund, Merkel won enough support from her own centre-right coalition to not have to rely on the opposition's support. "It's very important because the euro question is not very popular in Germany," Langguth said adding she had come away from the EU summit having achieved all her goals. According to an opinion poll for ZDF public television, 51 percent of German voters asked said they believed Merkel had handled the euro crisis well, compared to 40 percent who disagreed. Influential news weekly Der Spiegel commented in its online edition that Merkel had "reduced the role of the opposition parties in the euro rescue debate to that of extras", saying that future decisions should now be easier. "Be it the Social Democrats or the Greens, they will merely rubber stamp whatever she hands to them," it said. While in the past summit triumphs have often faded within days, Frank Engels, an analyst at Barclays Capital said that "market reaction in this case is already different". "And if it actually stabilises, Merkel can already write that down as a success domestically," he said, as financial markets continued Friday to gain succour from the eurozone deal. During the protracted negotiations on the debt crisis, much of the focus has been on the "Merkozy" chemistry of Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy and their roles in bringing Europe back from the brink. Merkel, however, has effectively emerged as Europe's leader by default, Langguth said, highlighting that France and Italy faced their own problems at home, while Britain was outside the eurozone. Hailing her as the "fairy godmother of Europe", the mass-circulation Bild newspaper commented Friday that Merkel had "finally taken over the command of the eurozone" at the emergency talks in Brussels. Critics had accused Germany, as Europe's biggest economy and effective paymaster, of failing to grasp the reins in leading a way out of the European debt turbulence. During the 2008 crisis Merkel even became known as "Madame Non" for appearing to dither over a stimulus package for Germany, but observers have now praised her "point-by-point" approach to negotiations. "Merkel's apparent weaknesses have worked to her advantage in the crisis. In contrast to others, she doesn't charge ahead like a bull in a china shop -- she goes about her work in a cautious and considered manner," Spiegel said. But looking beyond the euphoric reaction, the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung had a more sober take on the deal, which aims to avoid a Greek default and backstop other countries struggling with debt. It said the crisis had got so bad there was no other alternative to the decisions finally taken by leaders which, it added, were "very expensive". "Whoever believes the crisis is over its worst is massively mistaken."
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