Germany condemned to dominate Europe?

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (left) with French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris, 5 December 2011 Mr Sarkozy (right) has enlisted Mrs Merkel (left) for his electoral campaign

Related Stories

The mutterings are growing. Germany - with its economic strength - is becoming too powerful. There is growing resentment at what is seen as Berlin's attempt to shape the rest of the continent to its own image.

It emerged a few days ago that Chancellor Angela Merkel would appear on the French campaign trail in support of President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Apparently it was the French president's idea. Angela Merkel is hugely respected in France. Her endorsement is no small matter.

The German chancellor sees a Socialist victory as threatening to her new pact for budgetary discipline.

Yet already French Socialists are complaining that Germany is interfering in the French elections. Some politicians complain that France has already ceded too much influence to Germany.

And what happens if Francois Hollande, the Socialist candidate, makes it to the Elysee? He will not forget where the German chancellor's loyalties lie.

German 'occupation'

And then there was the German suggestion that Greece could not be trusted to implement reforms and that an EU commissioner should in effect run its economy.

This met with outright fury in Athens.

People on the streets said: "There is no way we, as Greeks, can accept this."

"It is like an occupation," said one if them.

Even the former Prime Minister, George Papandreou, who when in power was a great advocate of solidarity, warned of the danger of "undermining democracy".

One Greek paper described it as a demand for "unconditional surrender".

The Germans have backed off - a little. They still believe they have a right to insist on fiscal discipline. Angela Merkel said that strict controls were needed "if a country doesn't comply with requirements".

Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said: "Unless Greece implements the necessary decisions and doesn't just announce them, there's no amount of money that can solve the problem."

He may be right but the Greeks do not want to be told that by Berlin.

'Back to 1945'

And then there is the culture of austerity. It has German prints all over it. But in southern Europe economies are heading into recession and the unemployment lines are growing.

It was Mario Monti, the Italian prime minister, who warned the Germans that unless they did more to ease Italy's problems, they would face growing resentment.

If austerity fails, the blame will be laid at the German door.

And then there is the fiscal pact to enforce budgetary discipline that was agreed at a summit on Monday. Structural budget deficits are to be capped at 0.5% of GDP.

This was Angela Merkel's project. She pushed for it. She wanted to end Europe's culture of running up debt.

Countries will now be severely restricted over their options if their economies are heading for a slump. One critic said it was a "straightjacket that will condemn Europe to eternal austerity and stagnation".

It is a difficult time for Germany. There are calls for German leadership. There are frequent demands on it to commit more resources to bail-out funds, firewalls and eurobonds.

But as the Suddeutsche Zeitung newspaper recognised, "Germany stands where it never wanted to stand again after 1945, as the dominant power in the middle of Europe".

Gavin Hewitt, Europe editor Article written by Gavin Hewitt Gavin Hewitt Europe editor

More on This Story

Related Stories


Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    What will be ironic is that the most rabid anti-German comments will come from those who most trumpet the sovereignty of the nation state. Ergo the most powerful state (economically in this case) will dominate until the bullet is bitten and the EU progresses either to a proper federal set up or reverts to a free trade area. The current halfway situation helps no one in the current crisis.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    "It is a difficult time for Germany."

    Hard to say. High unemployment rate, high deficit, ... It is the immediate surroundings, not the Germany. One must suspect, just by watching the everyday facts, that something is wrong with the distribution of work and capital in the EU. The core of everything is now Germany. But this cannot be the EU anymore.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    GH: "already French Socialists are complaining that Germany is interfering in the French elections."

    It's interesting whether Mr. Hollande used the world 'Gauleiter' or 'Commissar'.

    [He didn't complain much when Soci alist Party's leader and presidential candidate was called Royale.]

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    The only plausible solution, I say because we speak about the EU, is a momentary dissolution of the EU. Then, on the basis of a firm and undeniable constitution, raising it again as a form of a common market or whatever. With invitation to all of the present members, to finally decide, whether they wish or not to be in or out, but with no supplemental ponderings and referendums.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Re #2..; It remains to be seen what an economic condition of Germany will be in 2013 (election year) considering that a lot of German exports have been going to EU countries Germany subsidized for that very purpose.

    Even now already Deutsche Bank's shares are down in view of the much lower profits (loss of 351 million euros actually) in the last quarter of 2011. And it's just a beginning.


Comments 5 of 417


This entry is now closed for comments


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.