THE Germans go to the polls later this month. The likely outcome -- victory for Chancellor Angela Merkel -- underlines why Irish voters should support the Lisbon treatywhen they troop to the polls five days later. Angela Merkel is a trail blazing chancellor in many ways. She is the first East German and the first woman to lead Germany, but more importantly she is the first German who did not experience Germany's dreadful history first-hand. Her predecessors, men such as Helmut Kohl and Helmut Schmidt, experienced war and this gave them a drive to create the Europe we know today. This fervent support of the European project embraced poorer countries such as ours and allowed us to create modern Ireland. Chancellor Merkel and any of her possible successors, while mindful of Germany's past, don't share Kohl's fervent interest in the EU.

Germany is, in short, fast becoming a normal country and normal countries do what we have always done -- look after number one. Anybody who doubts this should look at Germany's relations with Russia. Merkel has wooed her giant neighbour single-mindedly to secure gas supplies for Germany. Just 10 years ago, Germany would have been uncomfortable going it alone and would have sought to secure a supply for Europe -- while also objecting to Russia's actions in places such as Georgia. Today, Germany pursues her owns interests much as France and Britain do. It is not for nothing that we use the German word realpolitik in international relations when describing politics based on practical rather than moral or ideological considerations. Read full article.