Does Angela Merkel deserve a musical like Alexander Hamilton?

The German Chancellor's economic plan may strengthen the EU just like the American revolutionary hero's unified the US in 1790

epa08557776 German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks during a joint video press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron at the end of the European Council in Brussels, Belgium, 21 July 2020. European Union nations leaders agreed on a budget and a recovery mechanism after meeting face-to-face for a fourth day to discuss plans  to respond to the coronavirus pandemic and a new long-term EU budget.  EPA/JOHN THYS / POOL

It is difficult to imagine that someone will create a hit rap musical around Germany’s veteran Chancellor Angela Merkel. But her historical reputation stands now in parallel to Alexander Hamilton.

The American revolutionary war hero and the founding US treasury secretary has undergone something of a revival in recent years. The hottest stage play of the past decade has brought his legacy to Broadway and beyond. While it is delivered in rap and most of the cast members are people of colour, Hamilton: An American Musical is, in fact, a prolonged civics lesson. It is also a study in moral courage.

Which is why it is salient to the role played by Mrs Merkel last week in forging 750 billion rescue package for the eurozone economies. It is something that puts Europe back in the top league of global economic influencers.

FILE - In this June 12, 2016 file photo, Lin-Manuel Miranda and the cast of "Hamilton" perform at the Tony Awards in New York.  Next year, you'll be able to see the original Broadway cast of “Hamilton” perform the musical smash from the comfort of a movie theater. The Walt Disney Company said Monday, Feb. 3, 2020, it will distribute a live capture of Lin-Manuel Miranda's show in the United States and Canada on Oct. 15, 2021. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

It also puts a stop on the clamour for a break-up of the European Union – a 27-member bloc – because the paymaster powers have been given to the executive commission in Brussels. Mrs Merkel bore the heavy burden of getting the whole edifice to this point. And nothing fits her so well than the manner in which she is positioned leave the job that she has held since 2005.

By dint of longevity and the powerful forces shaping Europe, she has, in the words of former French president Valery Giscard d’Estaing, finally surpassed her mentor. Helmut Kohl, the German leader who mentored the East German scientist and pastor’s daughter amid the melee of the Communist collapse, is the man who guided reunification and built the euro from its foundations.

Mr d’Estaing said Mrs Merkel had become the historical centre of gravity of Europe by responding to the crisis with appropriate boldness. “It is rare for a personality to perform functions desired and expected by the population,” he wrote last week. “This is the case, for Germany.”

The German leader, 66, has shown courage before. There was the 2008 financial crisis when the Europeans collectively saw the weakest nations through the debt crisis. She acted alone and with foresight in 2015 to declare a "willkommen" – or welcoming – policy for more than one million Syrians and Iraqis.

Accommodation provided to refugees at the former Tempelhof airport in Berlin, as Germany tried to cope with a massive influx of people fleeing the Syrian civil war. AFP

Through it all, there have been plenty of detractors who picked the resentments caused by her policies and highlighted the black marks. There have been plenty of half-measures throughout her career. Coalition politics have essentially seen her government vacillate between centre-left and centre-right policies. For much of the time, there has been not much to make an exciting musical subplot.

She is not running for re-election next year but the baggage of Germany’s militaristic past has not been tackled. For all its manufacturing prowess and enormous wealth, Germany remains a diplomatic middleweight. It makes no choices that aren't either forged by conventional wisdom or forced on it. Unwilling to cause waves, it actively seeks the path of least resistance. Its massive resources are not employed to stand up a military capable of force projection, never mind provide regional leadership.

However, the working out of the bailout fund has required Hamiltonian determination.

U.S. one-hundred and ten-dollar banknotes are arranged for a photograph in Hong Kong, China, on Thursday, April 23, 2020. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority intervened for a third straight day this week to defend its currency peg as the local dollar touched the strong end of its trading band. Photographer: Paul Yeung/Bloomberg

Hamilton was one of America's founding fathers who helped forge the union of states. But until he found a way to absorb the debt borne by the American War of Independence from 1775 to 1783, the balance was decidedly against the federal governments. Once the power of the chequebook resided in the national government, the US as a world power was born.

It took courage because the instincts of the federal fathers lay with the states' right to supremacy. But with external financial events pressing in 1790, including foreign debt, Hamilton took the necessary leap.

The ideas behind the EU deal were alien to Mrs Merkel as recently as April, when the French President Emmanuel Macron began lobbying for the rich European states to fund the recovery of the most fragile members.

More than half the money is going to countries like Italy as grants.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) and French President Emmanuel Macron (L) arrive for a joint press conference at the end of the European summit at the EU headquarters in Brussels on July 21, 2020.  EU leaders approved a 750-billion-euro package to revive their coronavirus-ravaged economies after a tough 90-hour summit on July 21, along with a trillion-euro budget for the next seven years. / AFP / POOL / JOHN THYS
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The deal itself terms it 'New Generation EU' and has been launched on a solid economic platform. Angela Merkel can take a bow

The "Frugals", a group within the EU comprising Austria, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands and Sweden, bitterly opposed the idea of guaranteeing debts that would be handed over to Rome and Madrid without reform conditions. Mark Rutte, the Netherlands Prime Minister and the second-longest-serving European leader after Mrs Merkel, added more demands about the member states' compliance with European basic principles, such as the rule of law. This amounted to a position of trimming the amount on offer, adding external scrutiny and forcing concessions from countries that were on their knees.

It was the way that business was done after 2008, which stoked up much of the populist political crisis engulfing Europe since then. Mrs Merkel therefore fought doughtily against this over five days and nights in Brussels, occasionally losing her temper, but always in tandem with Mr Macron. Since he hopes to take her mantle in the European power pyramid when she goes, it is to be hoped that Mr Macron learned from the masterclass across the meeting rooms.

The deal itself terms it “New Generation EU” and has been launched on a solid economic platform. Mrs Merkel can take a bow.

Damien McElroy is the London bureau chief of The National

Damien McElroy

Damien McElroy

Damien is a  foreign correspondent who has covered politics and conflict across Europe, the Middle East, the US, Africa and Asia. Before joining The National in 2017, he worked for The Sunday Times and Telegraph titles as an editor and roving reporter. He started his career in China and has a degree in finance.