Management with a Crowbar


BERLIN/ATHENS/LISBON (Own report) - The German chancellor is linking the perspective of the Euro to the persistence of peace in Europe. "If the Euro fails, Europe fails" and ultimately the "European ideal of peace", Merkel said yesterday in reference to the growing resistance to German demands for dealing with the debt crisis. Berlin's Euro-dictates are provoking growing anger in various Euro nations. For example, the Greek prime minister accuses the German government of provoking an escalation of the crisis in Ireland and Portugal with its current plans for regulating national bankruptcies. Similar accusations are to be heard in Dublin. In Lisbon, a withdrawal from the Euro is no longer seen as out of the question. Already at the beginning of the month, French government circles were insinuating that criticism of German policy is no longer possible. It is not even sure, if Berlin still cares about European integration. Warning that continued resistance could jeopardize peace in Europe, Germany has already tried to impose its demands for re-structuring the EU - most recently following the democratic refusal of the "EU Constitution", the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty.

"It Is About Everything"

The German chancellor links the question of the perspective for the Euro to that of continued peace in Europe. "It is our duty to anchor a new stability culture in Europe," is how the chancellor paraphrased Berlin's visions, yesterday, in her speech at the CDU party convention. The project of formulating the EU's financial regulations according to Germany's design is "a gigantic undertaking". This is quite often forgotten, "amid all the talk of crisis mechanisms, voting rights, contracts, stability culture, rescue packages, the IMF, currency, the European Central Bank," said Merkel. In fact "it is about everything:" "because if the Euro fails, Europe fails." Ultimately "the European ideal of peace is at stake."[1]

"Extremely Self-Confident"

The German Chancellor's quite open threat came at a time, when anger over Berlin's Euro dictate is growing in the rest of the EU. Just shortly after the last EU summit meeting, a pro-EU think tank in London noted that "Europe dances to Germany's tune".[2] Though Berlin was unable to deprive those governments of their EU voting rights, which are not willing to submit to the - German imposed - financial rules, the German government still "achieved most of its key objectives" at the summit. The "Centre for European Reform" noted that, just after the summit, Paris was using an unusually "deferential tone" when speaking of Germany. Germany was in a "supremely self-confident mood" because of its export surge to emerging markets, particularly in Asia. It was therefore not the right moment to tell Berlin that its economic export oriented model was "aggravating the Eurozone crisis."[3] Paris has begun to ask, "will Germany lose interest in the EU," the think tank in London reported.

Forced into Bankruptcy

In some of the EU nations, the "deferential tone" turned into open confrontation at the beginning of this week, because of German proposals for bankruptcy regulations for EU countries, which would cause a skyrocketing of risk premiums for state loans - particularly in Ireland and Portugal. Both countries now fear being definitely plunged into the crisis. The German position on who will be held responsible for state bankruptcy, could "break the backs" of some countries, and "drive them into insolvency," protested the Greek Prime Minister, Giorgos Papandreou.[4] Portugal is no longer excluding the option of a withdrawal from the Euro. The press explicitly attributes this to the German insolvency plans. "Does Germany have a strategy to force the southern countries out of the Eurozone?," asked a commentator last week, "if not, it sure seems like it."[5]

Policy of Threats

To the growing anger, particularly from southern Euro countries - whose concerned governments have publicly broken their silence with initial statements - Berlin has so far only responded with open threats. For example, the chancellor claims there is a linkage between the Euro, the survival of the EU and peace in Europe. Berlin has used similar threats often, when German projects are at stake in the EU headquarters. For example, when Bonn's demand for an eastward expansion of the EU was being discussed in 1994, the current Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, had declared in a strategy paper, that Germany could "be asked or tempted because of its own security necessities to undertake the stabilization of Eastern Europe alone and in the traditional manner." That strategy paper was published September 1, 1994 - the 55th anniversary of the German invasion of Poland.[6] When, after the EU Constitution had failed in two national referenda, the formulation of a substitute paper - the current "Lisbon Treaty" - was up for debate, the German chancellor announced, by way of the boulevard press, that "peace and democracy should never be taken for granted." "The idea of European unity is, even today, still a question of war and peace."[7]

Nothing Learned

Germany could impose the EU's eastward expansion, as well as the passing of the "Lisbon Treaty" by means of power politics and threats. Berlin is not sure, whether - in the midst of this difficult crisis and with the perspective of entire nations being driven into bankruptcy - the German dictate could still be successful. If the EU nations are not only supposed to "tolerate but rather accept" Germany's "leadership role," the German government should "not only demand" from its partners, "but also be cooperative and act in solidarity with them", warned an influential German daily yesterday and suggested that the Euro countries be taken more into consideration in the German proposals. "Those, who believe that management with a crowbar is appropriate, have learned nothing from history."[8]

You can find additional information here: The End of Sovereignty (II), The End of Sovereignty (III), Germanic Stringency, Breaking a Taboo, Thinking the Unthinkable, The New German Question (I) and The New German Question (III).

[1] Für Merkel bestimmt der Euro über Frieden in Europa; 15.11.2010
[2] Europe dances to Germany's tune; 03.11.2010
[3] see also Breaking a Taboo, Die Frage der Führung, Sparen für Deutschland and Das Spardiktat
[4] Griechen verurteilen harte Haltung Deutschlands; 15.11.2010
[5] Merkel quer dar cabo do Sul? 11.11.2010
[6] CDU/CSU-Fraktion des Deutschen Bundestages: Überlegungen zur europäischen Politik, 01.09.1994
[7] "Die europäische Einigung ist auch heute noch eine Frage von Krieg und Frieden"; Bild 23.03.2007. See also A Question of Peace or War in Europe
[8] Nur voran kann es gehen; Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 15.11.2010