Dan O’Brien: Merkel’s successor may face existential challenges to the EU

Whatever the outcome of today’s election in Germany, it will matter a lot for Ireland’s spending and tax plans and could reopen the gap between between the ‘frugal’ northern countries and

‘Like Ireland and many other peer countries, German politics is splintering. For decades after World War II, the two big parties – the Christian Democrats and Social Democrats – enjoyed a near duopoly on power. Then fragmentation started’. Picture: Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images

When Angela Merkel became chancellor in November 2005, she took over a country that was very different from the Germany of today. Then, the country at the continent’s core was still referred to as the sick man of Europe.

Germans had endured a dismal decade of sluggish economic growth and high unemployment following the post-unification boom in the early 1990s. Though hard even to conceive now, the German economic motor was at that time only ...