Angela Merkel has dominated Europe’s politics for a decade now. She is the only Continental leader whose term in office predates the 2008 financial crisis, a winner of three general elections who has also seen off countless intra-party rivals. But last year, after a decade of hard-nosed and decidedly cautious pragmatism, she became a conviction politician: She put charity and compassion ahead of Realpolitik by welcoming more than 1 million hard-pressed migrants and refugees to Germany.
It was an action that sealed her legacy as a great leader, but it may be the beginning of the end of her power. Merkel is facing a virulent anti-foreigner backlash at home and a “Schengen crisis” in the neighborhood as other European Union members hastily re-erect the national borders that were lowered by earlier, landmark union agreements. The EU in March offered billions of euros to Turkey to stop the flow of migrants. Nor is Merkel’s other great achievement—saving the eurozone from its debt crisis—truly secure. Her example is inspiring, but her star is waning: How far and how fast will it fall?