Troublesome issues for leader include ailing steel industry, diesel engines crisis, digitalisation lag and low birth rates

In what will be her fourth and likely final term in office as German chancellor, Angela Merkel is unlikely to get complacent about the tasks ahead. She has told confidantes she would like to step off the treadmill of power at a time of her choosing, but it would not be in her nature to leave mid-term – unless, she has herself said, her health became an issue.

Neither would it be characteristic of her to leave any major loose ends undone. But the challenges she faces are considerable and weighty. While Germany is enjoying something of a golden age in economic terms, there are plenty of signs of trouble ahead, from challenges in the ailing steel industry, which employs thousands of workers, to the diesel crisis and calls for the abolition of the combustion engine, which needs her leadership to ensure it doesn’t do lasting damage to the German car industry on which around 800,000 jobs are dependent. Merkel is also aware that Germany needs to make huge strides in improving its digitalisation performance, with many indications that it is lagging behind other international players.

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