(Bloomberg) -- Angela Merkel said that the next German chancellor will have to pick up the pace of technological progress to ensure Europe’s biggest economy can remain competitive in the digital age.
Speaking at an extended press conference before what will be her last summer break as German leader, Merkel said that the next government will have to do more to digitize the public sector, help businesses take advantage of cutting edge technology and accelerate the effort to eliminate carbon emissions.
Microphone malfunctions in the press room underlined the fact that for all its engineering prowess, Germany still struggles with the basics at times.
“We could be better,” Merkel said. “There’s a lot to do.”
While Merkel has seen solid economic growth add more than 5 million jobs during her 16 years in office, she’s stepping down at a time of when questions are mounting about the country’s future. The fabled German car industry is wrestling with the end of combustion engines and competition from the likes of Tesla, the German tech industry lags behinds its European rivals and manufacturers are fretting about the cost of the energy transition.
Read More: Five Big Problems Merkel Is Leaving Next German Leader to Tackle
The country’s first woman leader and the first from formerly communist East Germany has won four straight German elections as head of the center-right Christian Democrats. If the coalition negotiations following September’s vote stretch on past Christmas, she’ll surpass Helmut Kohl to become Germany’s longest-serving postwar chancellor.
Her last victory, in 2017, was strained by a lackluster result six months of tumultuous talks before she could form a government with the Social Democrats. In 2018, after political fight over refugees that nearly brought down her administration, she announced she wouldn’t run again as CDU party chairwoman or chancellor.
Merkel has done much to tout her ambitious climate agenda, and in her first term she was dubbed “the green chancellor” (she was environment minister in the 1990s). But her record is more mixed.
In 2011, she was forced to reverse a nearly-complete plan to extend nuclear energy by a decade in the fallout of the Fukushima disaster in Japan. Her 2019 plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by the end of this decade ran into opposition from climate activists and the opposition, who said it wasn’t ambitious enough.
Similarly, she did little to encourage German automakers to embrace the shift to electric motors until the diesel scandal of 2015 foreced their hand.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.