German egotistic inward turn to badly hurt Europe after Merkel’s exit

On 18 January 1991 Angela Merkel, then 36 years old, gets her first government job as Federal Minister for Women and Youth in Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s Cabinet. Photo: Federal Government/Christian Stutterheim.

Angela Merkel’s era in Germany definitely comes to an end. It coincides, not necessarily in a causal manner, with the extreme right and xenophobic rising tendencies in the country’s political and social structures. These developments will put not only Germany to a political limbo but they will also freeze the progress of the European Union project. A waned Merkel said she will soon step down from her CDU party leadership but added she would like to remain in the Chancellery, until the next general election of September 2021.

While her departure from the Christian Democrats’ helm is then certain, Merkel’s wish to remain as Chancellor during the next three years looks like a highly uncertain project. All the possible successors in CDU’s Presidency would surely for many reasons be reluctant to follow her European agenda. This discrepancy, then, would most likely be resolved at Merkel’s political expense.

New CDU leadership

By the same token, the new CDU leadership would scrap her plans for Germany to spend just a bit more for Eurozone’s consolidation. And that, despite the strong reserves by many, that the euro money doesn’t serve all the euro area member states in the same positive way, as it does for Germany. Yet, no Christian Democrat leader would dare fight the next electoral campaign with a plan to help euro area work profitably for everybody.

The much discussed issue of Eurobonds or the creation of a powerful fiscal instrument under a Eurozone minister of Economics and a common bank deposits guarantee scheme, will be dangerous stuff in Germany. After Merkel, the German political system s won’t even discuss those giant European steps. The country seems complacent watching the EU project freeze. The vast majority of voters don’t understand that the profitable arrangement for Germany cannot last for long. The Italian rebellion is a strong indication where Europe is now heading. Rome is not going to give in to pressures from Brussels and Berlin, at least not before the May 2019 European election.

A complacent German society

The Germans, then will understand what a grave danger for their complacence, a rebellious Europe can be. Accustomed to more than full employment and huge surpluses, the Germans will find it difficult to adjust to a politically hostile for Berlin euro area. Not to forget they are quite unable to react logically and coherently in a real crisis. The 2008-2010 financial meltdown didn’t really threatened Germany at all, the country being inundate with cash. Nevertheless, Berlin bailed out the banks without even asking permission from Brussels.

The last time the Germans had to deal with a real crisis, which badly dented their well being, they drove Europe and the world to hell…If Germany had suffered the unemployment rates which ravage Greece, Italy, Spain, France, Croatia, Cyprus, Finland and other euro area countries would have already produced another One Thousand Years Reich.

France cannot wait any more

The French President Emmanuel Macron has been waiting for more than a year now for a German response to his proposals for the badly needed consolidation of Eurozone. He simply proposes “a much stronger euro area, more integrated, with its own budget which will support investments and convergence because this is the only means to open the way to all member states who wish go forwards, to go in this direction”. This is what he said from Aix-la-Chapelle, on 11 May 2018 while receiving the Charlemagne Prize.

Merkel replied Germany can discuss a much watered down version of a Eurozone Budget. Unfortunately, she was blocked by her own party on that. And this happened before her losing one third of CDU’s vote in the Bavarian mid-October election and last Sunday in Hesse. Germany remains happy to continue taking advantage of the Customs Union, the huge Internal Market and the single euro money.

Surpluses and deficits

The most affluent country with no visible real problems whatsoever, obstinately denies to recognize her obligations towards its euro area partners, who’s deficits constitute Germany’s surpluses. The problem is that the German voters have been poisoned, with the venom about ‘the lazy Southerners who want Germany to pay for their debts’.

Certain German power circles have favored the anti-Greek propaganda in the difficult years of 2012-2015 and repeat the same ‘technique’ now with Italy. Surely this triggers anti-German sentiments in the South, which may lead to a Southern wide rebellion. Spain and Portugal could join Italy in that. Greece and Cyprus having already paid the dear price and would rather not follow. Still, the May 2019 election may produce more rebellious euro area member states.

No cooperative successor

With Angela Merkel’s conciliating powers disappearing, there is no other political figure shining in the German political horizon, able or willing to play the cooperation card. It’s not a personal issue of Merkel losing her touch. It’s the logical outcome of twenty years of economic neo-liberalism, without however this leading also to political liberalism and real internationalism with fruits for all.

Against this background, the current wave of isolationism and fear for the future is now touching the middle classes, after EU’s internal economic globalization devastated one third of the population even in Germany. That’s why the rising extreme rightwing political groups thrived on anti-immigration nationalistic platforms and are now knocking on the door of the middle classes.
Growing conservatism

CDU’s youth organization is criticizing Angela Merkel from the right. The young Christian Democrats are today much more conservative, nationalistic and xenophobic than their baby-boomer parents. The problem is the immigration crisis is not settling down. Africa and the Middle East will continue producing immigrants and refugees in growing numbers. If nothing changes, the European middle classes will soon become aggressive, nationalistic and unworldly.

In conclusion, the problem is not that Merkel won’t be around after a few years, and probably sooner than September 2021. The euro money as it is structured now cannot any more fit all the euro area member states. Germany has to recognize it and start investing and spending on consumption her hoarded surpluses all over Eurozone, as the US did in the post WWII era which Trump is now reversing. In this light, the May, 2019 election results will be a good lesson to read.

 

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