For the fourth time since 1870, Germany domestic policy is at the heart of a
serious crisis threatening the stability of Europe. For the fourth time, the
reaction of the other Europeans, no matter if they oppose or adhere to
Berlin’s diktat, could trigger a disaster.
This time, the risk is purely economic: if Germany continues to oppose a
budget integration of countries in the eurozone, the European Union will go
to disaster. And Germany with her. Therefore it’s not by approving Germany,
for fear of angering her, as the French president has just done at the
Franco-German council of ministers, that we will avoid the disaster.
To avoid this, it is also no use to oppose Germany head-on. It is necessary
to understand her and make her understand.
First understand her: After 20 years of efforts to develop the East, the new
power believes it is out of trouble: low unemployment, lots of exports; its
auto industry brings added value six times greater than its French rival,
and the country enjoys the trust of markets, which lend at very low rates.
No way, said the Chancellor, to jeopardize this stability in financing the
deficits of those who have not made similar efforts. Obsessed with the
previous ones (repairs and inflation), she does not want to pay once again
for the rest of Europe; and she no longer regards the Union but as a
flexible alliance with 27. Fiscal federalism, which was proposed by the
Germans in 1994 and which the French had then, terrible mistake, refused, is
no longer relevant.
Then make her understand: First explain to her that the deepening of the
crisis among other European countries will cause her downfall, because the
bulk of her exports goes to countries that she would let collapse, and
because her banks have lent a lot to countries threatened with bankruptcy.
Then explain that she cannot cope alone, because she is the sick man of
Europe: her demographics are disastrous, her public debt is as high as that
of France; her industry is threatened: for example, she does not master at
all the technologies needed for an electric car; and her unemployment is low
only because of immense public subsidies; inequalities have increased
massively over the past ten years, more than any other country in the OECD;
only 30% of young Germans born after 1974 have a general high school
diploma, 50% of the young people (formerly integrated and trained at age 16
in business) are not qualified enough, there again more than any other
country in the OECD. The markets have understood that and begin to be
reluctant to lend to Germany.
The Chancellor and the German public opinion, could then admit that Germany
would suffer more than anybody of the breakdown of the Euro; that she is
nothing without Europe; that the following generation is more European than
the one that leads now for reasons different than the preceding generation:
Erasmus replaced Adenauer.
Germany could then realize that it is suicidal for her to argue about whom
will fund a public debt, when markets are attacking them all, and know who
will sell a Eurostar train when Chinese competition is announced. She could
then finally realize that Europe must pool budgetary resources and develop
an industrial policy.
Nothing is more important today than talking to Germany. With no fear. With
no taboo. By reminding her of her past. Because it is also ours.