In a recent article the past German Foreign Minister, Joshka Fischer, argues that on the night of July 12-13 2015 Germany made a momentous decision during the talks on Greece. Under the influence of her Finance Minister, the German Chancellor shifted from wanting more Europe, a European Germany, to wanting less Europe and a German led Europe.
I agree with Mr Fischer that Germany argued strongly for a Euro in Germany’s own image. He went on to explain how the economic policy put onto Greece will not work and how Germany now wants the Euro as a sphere of influence rather than as a European project. I do not agree with him that this means less Europe, as he puts it. It means more Europe of the kind Germany seeks. It will mean more budgetary controls over other member states, more common economic policies. States other than Greece will become in Mr Fischer’s words “European protectorates” following German led policy.
Germany’s main interest now seems to be to avoid making the transfers and payments that rich parts of a currency zone have to make to allow it to work. That is why Germany recommends more austerity for a country like Greece, in preference to sending Greece grants to assist her in a time of need. The policy is not working so far, as Germany has been party to large loans with strict terms that now may not be repaid, or will be repaid with less interest over a longer time period, making them more like the grants Germany opposes.
The latest disaster is the impact of the EU generated banking crisis in Greece on economic output and tax revenue. The longer the Euro members took to argue over the next bail out, and the meaner the ECB was in making money available to the Greek banking system, the more damage was done to the incomes and budgets of Greek people and the Greek state. There is a danger that the damage done to the Greek accounts mean that the third bail out package still being negotiated will not be enough.
That will just confirm the German view that they need to be tougher in requiring financial discipline and economic reform from the rest of the Eurozone. Mr Fischer is right to tell us we now have a German led Europe. In view of the stresses and strain, and the need for more discipline and centralised policy for the Euro area, the case for UK exit from the EU or that fundamental change of relationship becomes clearer by the day.