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Il voto in Germania e l'eurocrisi

03/07/2013, Rome

With the approach of the German Bundestag elections on September 22, the apprehension of other European countries about the future direction of Germany is increasing. An alternative to the austerity policy advocated by Chancellor Angela Merkel seems unlikely, as she is ahead in the polls, but the growth of anti-European movements is also causing concern. The strengthening of the Social Democrats could result in a “grand coalition” between the Christian Democratic Party (CDU), the Christian Social Party (CSU) and the Social Democrats (SDP), while an alliance SPD / Verdi is a less likely hypothesis.

How can the Merkel’s popularity in Germany be explained? What are the controversial points of her policies? What impact will the German Bundestag elections have on the EU? These were the issues discussed during the roundtable, "The vote in Germany and the Euro crisis. The elections that may change Europe”, organized by IAI on July 3, at Palazzo Rondinini in Rome. Experts on Germany discussed the challenges posed by the German elections. Taking part in the debate were Michael Braun, correspondent in Italy for the German newspaper Die Tageszeitung (Taz), Veronica De Romanis, economist and author of Il Caso Germania, Tobias Piller, correspondent of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), and Gianenrico Rusconi, professor of political science at the University of Turin. The moderator for the debate was Ettore Greco, director of the IAI.

Greco launched the debate by referring to the title of the June issue of The Economist, which defines Germany in Europe as a "reluctant hegemon", highlighting its unwillingness to accept the role of EU leader.

For Braun, the economic crisis that the EU is currently going through is rooted in the measures taken during the process of European integration. The functionalist approach has failed, a common currency and a common economic space have been created, but not a common economic policy. In fact, the financial successes and failures are still measured at the national and not at the European level. At the time of the creation of the euro, European countries showed large differences, but until the crisis of 2008 erupted there was the illusion that the convergence of economies was possible. Today, it is no longer possible to think of correcting the asymmetries with the economic adjustment programs available, taking Germany as a model; a sustainable euro for all components of the EU has to be created.

Rusconi’s response to The Economist was: "Germany is not a reluctant hegemon, but a nervous, restless and irritated one." Germany was able to maintain its national sovereignty alongside European sovereignty by building rules together with the other EU countries and positioning itself as one of the locomotives driving European, not only economic union. Now, this is no longer sufficient and Germany feels betrayed by its European partners who have not complied with the rules and are calling for reforms that contradict the letter, if not the spirit, of the Treaties. The polls will reveal whether or not Germany will follow the line of the anti-Europeans and find itself alone, or will continue to support the Chancellor and a transition towards a more federalist Europe.

For De Romanis, the policy of small steps pursued by Merkel has worked. Ten years ago, Germany was "the sick man of Europe", but with the structural reforms and fiscal consolidation undertaken by Gerhard Schroeder, the country has been able to recover. Germany have been criticized for its pragmatism and the slowness in taking decisions, especially when the crisis broke out in Greece. But without the help of the IMF demanded by Merkel and the adjustment program involving spending cuts, more taxes and structural reforms, Athens would have gone under. Now, we no longer speak of "Grexit" and Ireland, which has also followed the German model, has regained stability as well.

Concluding the debate was Piller, who defended the austerity policies advocated by Germany, and said that it is useless to revise the treaties when the existing ones are not respected. For the Germans, the real crisis is the loss of a share of the trade in the global market. It is useless to try to encourage demand with Keynesian policies because European countries are no longer competitive and greater consumption of products would only benefit the Chinese or the Koreans, not Europe. To overcome the crisis, European countries must regain competitiveness: cuts and structural reforms are needed at the national level.