All over the world, the views about the Euro crisis are seemingly becoming more apocalyptic. Analysts say it is “five minutes to 12”; that Europe has only 3 months left to act. In Germany, the clocks seem to run in a different timing when taking measures to tackle the crisis is concerned. How come?
Even 3 months might be an optimistic assessment, but actually nobody seems to know just how to put an end to this crisis. Over the last year or so, the German government has time and again agreed to (and sometimes proposed) measures that it considered unthinkable only months and weeks ago. Many times, Greece/the Euro/Europe were “saved”, only to find themselves in mortal danger the next week, so the public is growing tired. Yet, I think if the government had a clear strategy for solving the problem, it would act decisively.
The pressures for Germany to act (specially for Merkel) are growing by the day. Do the expectations this time have a different nature?
For a long time, observers in Germany and abroad were focused on yet more guarantees or loans. Only now citizens and politicians begin to realise that there is a political problem at the core of this crisis (i.e. a lack of integrated fiscal and redistributive policies in the Eurozone), but there is obviously no quick fix for this problem.
To which extension Merkel’s position reflects her own personality?
Merkel’s approach to policy making is pragmatic and incremental. She tends to act only if she has a clear understanding of the problem and if she is sure that she has enough political support.
Are there internal political reasons for Merkel not to act like other countries expect her to?
You bet. Merkel heads a coalition of three parties that disagree on many domestic issues. At the moment, it seems not likely that the coalition will win another term in the 2013 election.
Saving Europe only adds to these woes. While her own CDU is staunchly pro-European, many of her MPs consider Germany’s responsibilities under the current bailout packages more than a little daunting. The CDU’s Christian-Democratic sister party CSU is a regional party whose main purpose is to protect Bavaria’s interest in Germany. They have a fair number of closet eurosceptics in their ranks. Finally, the liberal FDP has been teetering on the brink of self-destruction and electoral implosion for years now. They have faced a minor backbenchers’ rebellion over the bailout, and their leadership does not seem to believe that Greece can stay in the Eurozone.
As far as the public is concerned, saving the Euro is not exactly a vote-getter. Germans were very reluctant to join the Euro in the first place. In real terms, their wages have stagnated over the last decade, and they have reluctantly accepted massive cuts in welfare programs. Over the last 22 years, the West-German majority has transferred a net sum of about one trillion Euros in East-Germany, and yet the Eastern states are lagging behind economically.
A vast majority of the public is convinced that Greece cannot be kept within the Eurozone, and many believe that Greece is some sort of European welfare scrounger. The government has framed all previous bailouts as exceptional emergency measures and has made no attempts to prepare the public for any fundamental changes to the EU’s treaty base.
Which political groups play an important role as on views to tackle the crisis in Europe? Does the struggle between Merkel and SPD to ratify the fiscal pact represent something unusual for the political scene in Germany? Where do their positions are different, fundamentally?
The SPD’s support for the fiscal pact is a constitutional and political necessity. Regarding European affairs, there is normally a very broad consensus amongst the major German parties. The SPD backs the consolidation measures in principle but wants to ease the burden for the southern economies somewhat. They also believe that the EU should launch a stimulus program, and that the banks should contribute to the reconstruction of the Eurozone through a transaction tax. I’m sure that the SPD and the coalition will come to an agreement eventually.