The debt crisis of 2010–2013, the migrant crisis of 2015, the need to react to Brexit in 2016, and the United States' changed rhetoric under President Donald Trump all rocked the EU, but Germany — and particularly Chancellor Angela Merkel — were still seen as the only possible leader of change.
Today, as Germany faces its own challenges, Merkel is preparing to step down, and is no longer seen as the architect of a future Europe. At the same time, the relationship between various powers in the EU is changing. The withdrawal from the EU of the UK, which had acted as a necessary counterbalance to the continent on many issues, creates the need for a new balance between major countries, above all Germany and France, which have different ideas about how the EU should be developing.
The momentum for disintegration within the EU is exacerbating Germany's fears of once again being left alone with its inner demons and neighbors' troubles. There is little cause to expect that AfD will become a leading political force: historical constraints are still in place, and the far right is still lacking in political skill. Yet the political landscape will inevitably take on a different form, as Merkel-era centrism gives way to growing ideological polarization. People across Europe want to see clear views from politicians that correspond to their needs and demands. They could be divided into progressives and national conservatives.
The Europe conceived after the disasters and suffering of the first half of the twentieth century is coming to an end. This is primarily because the conditions that enabled it to exist (both external, such as the Cold War, and internal, such as a clear societal structure) are no longer in place. The vaccine against the maladies that led to the tragedies of the twentieth century had been considered indefinite, but there are more and more signs that that vaccine has an expiry date. European harmony is giving way to uncertainty, and as was always the case in the Old World, these changes will not pass without upheaval.