As always, Germany came up on top by shifting unemployment to the rest of Europe with its export-led growth on the back of their meek Euro-partners.
But then came Germany's great unraveling in 2015 as a result of its ill-conceived, open-door immigration policies to welcome people from war-torn Middle Eastern and North African countries. Originally, German Chancellor Angela Merkel dressed that policy up around humanitarian considerations, while not hiding the fact that she wanted a large influx of foreign labor to man Germany's export powerhouse.
Predictably, Merkel's fateful mistake — derided by a French philosopher as "violins and adding machines" — quickly created unbridgeable divisions among Germany's two center-right governing parties and their center-left coalition partners.
To get out of that bind, Merkel, using a compliant European Commission, then unsuccessfully sought to impose mandatory immigration quotas on other European countries. Realizing that she could not manage the massive inflow of invited "guest-workers," she wanted to dump them on the rest of Europe.
That uncontrollable immigration was the last straw, a watershed event that unleashed pent-up tensions in the German society — rising poverty, crumbling infrastructure, xenophobic and quite dangerous extreme right nationalist political forces.
Politically, that was Merkel's undoing. If the elections were held now, Merkel would be presiding over a minority government. The most recent opinion polls show that the governing coalition of Christian and Social Democrats and the Socialist Party would only get 41.7 percent of the popular vote.
Those are cataclysmic events where the left-leaning Greens, polling at 20 percent, have emerged as the second-largest political party. At the extreme-right, the Alternative for Germany (AfD), coming out of nowhere in 2013, is now the country's third-largest party with 15.2 percent of the votes.
And there's worse. Merkel's own political family — the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) — is a deeply divided house. In a leadership contest last Friday, Merkel's handpicked stand-in and potential successor, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, just squeaked through with only 517 votes of 1001 delegates to the party's congress.
That's the Germany Merkel leaves after 13 years at the helm of the EU's largest country and economy. No wonder many German observers of all political stripes doubt whether Merkel deserves a long goodbye to finish her head of government's mandate in 2021.