Germany’s prudence is Europe’s poison

The spending cuts planned in Berlin by finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble to balance the budget a year early will make it impossible for others to grow

There is an amusing perversion of the expression “it is always darkest just before the dawn” – sometimes attributed to Mao Tse-tung – which goes something like this: “No it isn’t. In fact, it is always darkest just before it is completely black.”

escritor: During the ERM crisis of two decades ago, Germany acted in the interests not of the UK, nor of Europe, but of Germany. (And why ever not?) During the Eurozone crisis of today, Germany acts true to form. It just baffles me that so many constipated Euro-zealots think for a minute that it would ever sacrifice national interest for the benefit of its neighbours. Long live Europe - but death to the European Union.

clandulla:   Why should any nation sacrifice its national interest? "Euro-zealot" or not, running a well-managed economy is very much in every national interest. Do you think it just a coincidence that countries that routinely top the lists as the best countries in which to live like Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Canada, Australia and New Zealand also have well-managed economies? Germany is doing a favour to the usual band of economic incompetents like Greece, UK, Portugal by setting a good example.

Titus__Pullo: And yet our LibLabCon seem to fall over themselves to sacrifice our national interest time after time to the European political pipedream. No regulation is too petty to implement, no terrorist too odious to let live amongst us and no demand for more money goes unheeded - I expect Cameron to capitulate at some point on the budgetary increase and skulk off like Gordon Brown did with the Lisbon Agreement to sign the necessary letters of capitulation in a Brussel's backroom. Keep an eye out for a weekend in the summer when parliament is in recess, half of Fleet Street is on holiday and maybe there's something good on the TV. The Friday before the Mens' Final at Wimbledon would be worth a punt.

sammy:  One thing that many commentators (especially rabid leftie's in the UK) don't seem to be aware of, is that 70% of Germany's economy is represented by the services sector. Of course they have important motor and machinery exporting industries (representing over 30% of total exports), but if Greeks, Spanish, Italians, Brits et al, can't afford to buy them then Germany's economy will suffer too. Germany is not only right to act in its own best interests, it is also right to be further battening down the hatches in expectation of even more pain ahead. If only our politicians were so prescient.

rastusctastey:  The ERM proved conclusively that a single currency would not work. But this is not what politicians wanted to see so they refused to see it.

ashestoashes: I'm afraid you're wrong, and I say this as a eurosceptic. A single currency in Europe can work perfectly well - but only with a fully functional fiscal and transfer union, with a single treasury. It's the half-arsed and deceitful manner that EMU has been implemented thus far that is the problem, not the intrinsic concept of it. The great tragedy of the EU has been that it *could* have been hugely more open, democratic, inclusive and well-run than it actually is. The eurocrats have tried to enforce their will by obfuscation and misdirection rather than just trying to incrementally persuade the people of the merits of integration, without coercion. It's too late for any of that now - a pyrotechnic breakup probably awaits.

maverick01: Ashestoashes: "A single currency in Europe can work perfectly well - but only with a fully functional fiscal and transfer union, with a single treasury" Sounds very much like the Roman empire or the Napoleon conquests or even the old USSR to me and what all have in common is a loss of sovereignty and democracy and all countries being ruled by the oppressors (the EU) with no sovereign parliaments.    

chaswarner:  EUSSR. Vote UKIP, avoid bloodshed.

RCTurner: When the euro was introduced there were rules in place about how governments should operate, in order to safeguard the single currency. Those rules were completely ignored (including by Germany) and hence we have the current mess.

banlieulondres:  … because they put the cart before the horse. You need Political Union to ensure rules will be abided by!

MJHopeC:  Probably right but loss of control of a Nation's finance is the ultimate loss of sovereignty. He who pays the piper calls the tune.

HydeParkSoapBox:  Well why are they still trying to fix this disaster?

chaswarner:  Snouts, trough…

conservativemind12: You also need political harmony for the EMU to work properly.

greggf: "A single currency in Europe can work perfectly well…" Yes it could ashes, and it will but maybe not everywhere. The financial crisis has exposed those who were serious about it, those who were not sure but willing to try and those who just wanted the danegeld to the plain light of day for all to see. Disparate national intentions are evident much to the chagrin of the EU elites. Whether they, the EU elites, can reconcile this with their hitherto overt enmity of anything nationalist or populist is the question. Because the financial crisis is not going to go away soon whereas nationalism is clearly here to stay - and growing.

elephantsittingonyourhead: 'A single currency in Europe can work perfectly well - but only with a fully functional fiscal and transfer union, with a single treasury.' Hahahahaha! You mean Europe could work if it wasn't Europe but a single country. Hahahahahaha! (PS Even that idea is wrong. Ever heard of the North/South divide in England.)

ashestoashes:   Um, yes, that's what a single treasury and fiscal union entails. I'm not saying that I endorse such a federalist model - merely that it's certainly possible and functional. The North-South divide in England exists, but Northern England hasn't had to go cap in hand to Westminster for a Greek-style bailout because we have a transfer union in place. Transfer unions don't make uncompetitive regions more competitive (perhaps even the reverse), but they do stop currency unions blowing themselves apart. Seems to have worked quite well in England so far, eh?

edwardgreen: There are none so blind as those who will not see Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results Beauty is only skin deep - but stupid goes clean on through to the bone

colophonius: Sigh… another "It's the German's fault"-article. The longer this crisis lasts, the more often such articles are published. They all offer the easiest solution of all: Germany has to pay, has to open the coffers, and everything will be fine. Wrong! You won't heal the corruption, the bad administration, the inefficient taxation and the incrusted structures in certain European countries with it, which - if they properly worked - are the foundation for any prospering economy. Certain European governments are very quick using the Euro as convenient excuse for their ineffective politics. Are we Germans bound to pay for those dysfunctional countries in all eternity without the right to ask for changes? Are we supposed to risk the foundations of our own wealth deliberately by throwing vast amounts of money into bottomless pits? We can offer advice, we can assume guarantees and we can create rescue funds (which we in fact do), but every help has its limits. Furthermore, the German government simply can't force the Germans to spend more money! Even if the wages were increased ridiculously, the Germans will mostly save their money "for bad times" (which luckily never happen). That is why it is so important for us to keep a stable currency. The key for success in other countries is that they keep reforming: they only can help themselves, we Germans can't! How much Italian wine and Greek cheese shall we consume in order to help Italy and Greece? Or do they make precision machinery now? And how comes that Finland, Austria and the Netherlands (all paying with the Euro) don't suffer from a currency union with the "German behemoth"? Perhaps the key is their approach to certain things?

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colophonius: @stoffel45 - Excuse me, did I overlook any valid reasoning in your comment? Apart from that, what has all this to do with the war? Poor old stoffel: as far as (modern) Germany is concerned you seem to be eaten up with envy, misinformed, prejudiced, plainly ingnorant, got never really over the war. Too bad for you, malicious gossip won't change much. Unfortunately you share this fate with too many of your compatriots.

roger_villan: Herr Colophonius, As a 'Brit', I'm afraid to say, that was a totally perceptive and spot-on comment. Oh dear, time we all (not only the Germans) realise that life is not fair, and that spending more than you earn will only lead to debt and eventual ruin…

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