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“The U.N, was not founded to take mankind to heaven, but to save humanity from hell,” the United Nations’ first secretary-general, Dag Hammarskjold, once said. The hell he had in mind, of course, was World War II and the Shoah, next to which most of today’s challenges pale in comparison. Nonetheless, disruptions like the COVID-19 pandemic and Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union have called into question many beliefs that Europeans previously took for granted.

Thanks to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s leadership within the EU, Europe survived 2020 relatively unscathed. In fact, her stint in the European Council’s rotating presidency during the second half of the year will probably be remembered as one of the great political masterstrokes of postwar European history.

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