Cautious welcome to Merkel announcement
The renowned Oxford historian Timothy Garton Ash did not meet with universal approval when he wrote: "I'm tempted to say that the leader of the free world is now Angela Merkel."
But that comment, in the wake of the German chancellor's conditional congratulation of the newly-elected US president Donald Trump, gained further currency yesterday when she announced she is bidding for a fourth consecutive federal government term next year. Ms Merkel's assertion that support for Mr Trump was conditional on him accepting "democracy, freedom and respect for the law and the dignity of man" was indeed impressive.
Her generous response to Europe's refugee crisis, at some cost to her own popularity, is in marked contrast with the threshing Mr Trump gave the world's dispossessed and disadvantaged during a most shameful election campaign.
There are good grounds for hoping that her leadership of the EU's biggest economy can continue for the good of Ireland and other smaller member states.
But there are dangers in taking an overly optimistic view of Ms Merkel's potential global impact, much less dubbing her "leader of the free world".
The fact is that Ms Merkel's response to issues like the eurozone crisis was lumbering and unduly cautious. There is also the reality that Germany's defence spending is a fraction of the USA's. It is hard to see Germany suddenly taking over the US role in that realm.
Similarly, we must recall that Germany operating effectively in the EU requires a partnership with France. That has been deficient under French President François Hollande.
The outcome of French presidential elections next May is crucial. If the far-right Front National wins, we could face very uncertain times.