Trip to Sofia: Angela Merkel knows where she is going

Written by on January 20, 2018 in Europe - Comments Off on Trip to Sofia: Angela Merkel knows where she is going

She was born in Western Germany, but raised in the communist GDR. At Leipzig’s Karl Marx University she studied physics, and then moved on to the Academy of Sciences in East Berlin, where her subject was physical chemistry.

The chemistry between Angela Merkel, the acting Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, and Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Boiko Borissov, is usually fine. She has been Chancellor since 2005 and has welcomed Borissov several times, during the time of his first two governments.

Now it is her turn to take the 1,600 kilometre trip from Berlin to Sofia. According to her government’s press office, the Bulgarian EU Council Presidency is the occasion. “European and bilateral questions have priority”, the boring statement reads.

The developments in the Western Balkans, one of the subjects she will discuss with her Bulgarian host, were “near and dear” to the Chancellor, it says. On the initiative of Angela Merkel, several Balkan conferences had taken place since 2014, which had brought together the heads of states and heads of governments of some EU member states and states in the region.

This is something Merkel and Borissov have in common. The Bulgarian Prime Minister has been active recently, organising meetings with his colleagues from Romania, Greece and Serbia, one of whom, Romania’s Mihai Tudose, just resigned.

Mrs. Merkel does have influence in Sofia, for more than one reason. First of all, she was one of the most powerful heads of government, until she recently ran into trouble while trying to form a new government coalition in Berlin. But she still has a say in the EU.

Like many Bulgarians, Angela Merkel grew up in a communist state.

Secondly, Merkel’s friends are advising Borissov during Bulgaria’s EU Council Presidency. Hans-Gert Pöttering, the former President of the European Parliament, is one of the most important advisers to Borissov during these six months.

Not only is Pöttering a European Union pioneer, since he became an MEP in 1979. The 72-year-old politician is also a VIP within Merkels Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and used to be Chairman of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung. This foundation is close to the CDU and has been present in Sofia for a long time, with close ties to Borissov’s government.

Chancellor Angela Merkel definitely knows where she is going today. She knows what kind of problems Bulgaria still faces, eleven years and 20 days after joining the EU.

What she does not know is the answer to the question whether she will still be Chancellor in a few months from now. Depending on a decision her potential coalition partner, the Social Democratic Party (SPD), is about to take at its party congress tomorrow, there are three possibilities:

> She might be able to lead her third grand coalition as Chancellor

> Her party might be forced to head a minority government

> Her party might have to face new elections

Especially the latter two possibilities might happen without Angela Merkel. At this stage, things are unclear, and the chair she is sitting on in Berlin is shaky. Her Sofia trip might help her forget about that problem, at least for a few hours.





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