12 Angela Merkel: For Refusing to Give Up on the Dream of a United Europe

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Chancellor | Germany

More than half the countries in the European Union have changed leaders since the region's sovereign debt crisis erupted three years ago, but Angela Merkel has not only remained in charge--as the steward of Europe's largest economy, she has become the continent's chief crisis manager. And Merkel, long known as "Frau Nein" for opposing efforts to bail out Europe's troubled south, finally seemed to embrace that leadership role in 2012, prescribing a mix of austerity measures, structural reforms, and fiscal integration. She has tacked on mandatory spending cuts to aid packages for Greece, Ireland, and Portugal and spearheaded a historic EU deficit-reduction treaty. All along, the much-misunderstood Merkel has insisted on solving the regional crisis with more Europe, not less.

Yet she has done it by deftly catering to the frugal instincts of her political base. "We all have to resist the temptation to finance growth with increased debt yet again," Merkel cautioned in June. A month earlier, France had elected Francois Hollande, who supports the very solutions--stimulus spending and collectivizing eurozone debt--that Merkel opposes. …