Eurozone crisis: The end of all-powerful Germany
24 May 2012
The advent of a new administration in Paris has shifted the balance of power in the European Union away from Berlin and German austerity — a development that has been welcomed in Athens as a source of renewed hope and a light at the end of the tunnel for the Greek population.
With regard to what we have seen in recent years, something changed at yesterday’s extraordinary summit: there were no “guidelines” prepared a few hours in advance by the German chancellor and the French president. François Hollande did not adhere to the “tradition” established by Nicolas Sarkozy. His “baptism of fire” in Brussels was “direct” and not shielded by Berlin.
The summit also had another peculiarity. For the first time in many years, Germany had to contend with an agenda that was not dictated by Berlin, and in particular with issues linked to economic growth. No concrete decisions were taken on Wednesday night, but an important development clearly emerged: Germany’s hegemony has been called into question by Europe. And its leaders in Berlin, who are acutely aware this change, already feel they have been dethroned.
The fact that German pre-eminence is now being contested will have a direct impact on Greece. Before yesterday's summit began, the German central bank made public a report which argues that no further efforts should be made to accommodate Greece, whose bankruptcy would at least amount to a final outcome for what is now an ongoing saga… At the same time, François Hollande reaffirmed his support and confidence in the Greece and its people.
The new balance of power that is emerging in Europe is evident in the conclusions of the summit: “We will ensure that European structural funds and instruments are mobilised to bring Greece on a path towards growth and job creation.”
New balance of power in Europe
Germany’s hegemony in Europe is now on the wane. As many commentators in the German press have pointed out, Angela Merkel is more than ever isolated with regard to her partners. The reality is that her policy has no allies. Now that it has been rejected by international organisations and the United States, which have adopted the line advocated by Paris and Madrid, there is no one to defend it.
So what can we expect the Germans to do? Will they start over and adapt to the new realities as though nothing had happened? Certainly not. They will refuse to back down and fight on. They have the political will and the power to do that. But they are no longer in total control, and they will no longer be the sole arbiters of policy. And this is the change that is the focus of enormous hopes Europe, and especially in Greece.
Conditions faced by our country have changed radically over recent weeks to a point where Greece will now have an opportunity to fight for a better future. Of course, as a majority of our partners have consistently pointed out, we will have to make good on our promises. There is no denying this fact. But at the same time, no one anticipated the new balance of power in Europe which emerged yesterday.
The “commitments” that we are obliged to honour, and which we should honour, are no longer caught in the grip of an impenetrable dogma that no one is allowed to touch. The parameter of “economic growth”, which has now been tabled, is a game changer.
Fanaticism has become the major danger
Greece can base its position on growth, and, perhaps even more tellingly, it can fight more effectivley against an austerity that served to hide a German nationalist approach. Berlin is no longer the sole dealmaker, which means that we can now expect to achieve results, for example, in the area of privatisations, and the energy sector. And there is no denying the critical importance of progress towards these goals.
Having emerged from the tunnel of despair which was the sole outcome of German hegemony, it is time for Greece to show that it intends to become a genuine European state – and not one that needs to be shored up. In any case, we will have to do what is absolutely necessary for our survival either within or outside Europe. But all of this will be made much easier now that we have been released from the suffocating position we were forced to endure.
Since yesterday, our control over the future has grown considerably. This is a positive development, but one that must now be reflected in politics – and, let’s not forget, politics is the art of the possible. It follows that fanaticism has become the major danger. And it is worth wondering how we should oppose the many fanatics that have emerged on all sides of the political spectrum. The first observation and the one that should be emphasised today is that, in spite of all that has been said, the outlook for Greece has improved considerably.
Now is the time to focus on the light at the end of the tunnel. Now we have the opportunity to fight to change our destiny. Europe is no longer what it was a few weeks ago. The context is different, and the change that has emerged has resulted from the expression of the will of two peoples: the people of France and the people of Greece. The French have exercised their power to contest the will of an all-powerful Germany, which had completely subjugated their former president to the point where he could no longer remain in office. The Greeks showed they had the strength to demonstrate their discontent through an unequivocal anti-austerity vote. Now that all-powerful Germany has been forced to retreat, a major obstacle to Greece’s future in Europe has now been removed. We should show that we have understood this change and that we are willing to fight for our future. At least we have the conditions in which such a fight is possible.