BERLIN â€” Angela Merkel may be preparing to say goodbye to frontline politics but many across Europe would support her taking a leading role in the EU, according to a survey published Tuesday by the European Council on Foreign RelationsÂ (ECFR) think tank.
Given a hypothetical choice between Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron becoming â€œEU presidentâ€ â€” a job that in real life doesnâ€™t exist â€” a clear majority opted for the German chancellor, according to the survey.
Some 58 percent of Dutch respondents, 57 percent of Spanish and 52 percent of Portuguese gave Merkel support in this fantasy race, compared to 6 percent, 9 percent and 11 percent respectively in favor of Macron.
Only Bulgarians were cool on Merkel, with 31 percent in support of the German chancellor â€”Â equal to the number that said they would not vote at all. Just 12 percent of Bulgarians surveyed backed Macron.
However, when surveyed on expectations for Germany after Merkel leaves office, there was a great deal of skepticism about the country on foreign policy issues.
Only 17 percent reckon Germany can effectively defend European interests in relations with China, while for Russia the figure was 20 percent and it was 25 percent for the U.S. Respondents from France, Poland, Italy and Bulgaria were the most critical of Berlinâ€™s geopolitical positioning.
Meanwhile, within Germany, 52 percent of those surveyed said the countryâ€™s â€œgolden ageâ€ was in the past, indicating that the next chancellor has a lot of work to do after the September 26 election.
â€œThey can no longer afford to remain neutral, or pursue the status quo,â€ said Jana Puglierin, co-author of the study and senior policy fellow at ECFR, of the task facing Merkelâ€™s successor. â€œIt is time for Berlin to take sides.â€
The ECFR polled between 1,000 and 3,100 voters in Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Sweden in May and June.