The following is a revised version of an interview between George Soros and Gregor Peter Schmitz of the German magazine WirtschaftsWoche.
Gregor Peter Schmitz: When Time put German Chancellor Angela Merkel on its cover, it called her the “Chancellor of the Free World.” Do you think that is justified?
George Soros: Yes. As you know, I have been critical of the chancellor in the past and I remain very critical of her austerity policy. But after Russian President Vladimir Putin attacked Ukraine, she became the leader of the European Union and therefore, indirectly, of the Free World. Until then, she was a gifted politician who could read the mood of the public and cater to it. But in resisting Russian aggression, she became a leader who stuck her neck out in opposition to prevailing opinion.
She was perhaps even more farsighted when she recognized that the migration crisis had the potential to destroy the European Union, first by causing a breakdown of the Schengen system of open borders and, eventually, by undermining the common market. She took a bold initiative to change the attitude of the public. Unfortunately, the plan was not properly prepared. The crisis is far from resolved and her leadership position—not only in Europe but also in Germany and even in her own party—is under attack.
Schmitz: Merkel used to be very cautious and deliberate. People could trust her. But in the migration crisis, she acted impulsively and took a big risk. Her leadership style has changed and that makes people nervous.
Soros: That’s true, but I welcome the change. There is plenty to be nervous about. As she correctly predicted, the EU is on the verge of collapse. The Greek crisis taught the European authorities the art of muddling through one crisis after another. This practice is popularly known as kicking the can down the road, although it would be more accurate to describe it as kicking a ball uphill so that it keeps rolling back down. The EU now is confronted with not one but five or six crises at the same time.
Schmitz: To be specific, are you referring to Greece, Russia, Ukraine, the coming British referendum, and the migration crisis?
Soros: Yes. And you haven’t even mentioned the root cause of the migration crisis: the conflict in Syria. Nor have you mentioned the unfortunate effect that the terrorist attacks in Paris and elsewhere have had on European public opinion.
Merkel correctly foresaw the potential of the migration crisis to destroy the European Union. What was a prediction has become…
This is exclusive content for subscribers only.
Get unlimited access to The New York Review for just $1 an issue!
Continue reading this article, and thousands more from our archive, for the low introductory rate of just $1 an issue. Choose a Print, Digital, or All Access subscription.