There’s nothing like imminent bankruptcy and the prospect of sovereign default to focus the attention of a national leader on what’s really important: gaining increased political power.
That’s what German Chancellor Angela Merkel sees in the threat to the euro brought about by the Greek debt crisis. Where others see lemons, Ms. Merkel is salivating over the prospect of political lemonade. According to Reuters:
BERLIN, May 13 (Reuters) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday the euro’s troubles offered a chance for the EU to strengthen its economic and political union, not just its common currency.
Speaking at a ceremony in Aachen where Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk was awarded the Charlemagne Prize for furthering European unity, Merkel said the future of the EU was at stake in the challenges to its monetary amalgamation.
“If the euro fails, not only the currency fails. Europe fails too, and the idea of European unification. We have a common currency, but no common political and economic union. And this is exactly what we must change. To achieve this — therein lies the opportunity of this crisis.“ [emphasis added]
It seems that Chancellor Merkel is taking a page from Rahm Emanuel, who once said, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” She and her fellow EUniks are not certainly going to let this one go to waste. The imminent collapse of the euro offers Brussels the unique opportunity to upgrade the degree of European central governance to “Full Stranglehold”.
Ms. Merkel recognizes the scope of the current crisis:
In a speech broadcast live on WDR television, Merkel said the crisis over the euro’s future was “not just any crisis, it is the strongest test Europe has faced since 1990, if not in the 53 years since the treaties of Rome.”
“This test is existential — it must be passed. If it does not manage to (do that), the consequences for Europe and beyond are unforeseeable,” the conservative Christian Democrat said.
Greece’s debt emergency and a worsening deficit crunch in Spain, Portugal and Ireland have eroded the euro’s strength.
But Merkel held off on backing a 110-billion-euro ($139.7 billion) bailout for Greece until it was clear contagion was starting to afflict the euro zone, dismaying France over the delay. Germany and France had long been the twin engines of EU integration.
The structure of the EU sets up Germany as the economic powerhouse and makes France the political controller. In effect, Germany provides the huge engine for the European economy, but France gets to sit behind the wheel and drive the car.
As a result, Germany has hitherto been reluctant to cede any further control to Brussels, but the magnitude of the current crisis seems to offer an irresistible lure to Ms. Merkel:
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In the decade since the euro was created, Germany has resisted the idea of tightening economic policy coordination, fearful states like France could exploit such a discussion to try to exert influence over the European Central Bank.
Germany was also concerned that its export-reliant economic model could come under fire from EU partners that want Germany to do more to boost long-stagnant domestic demand.
But the contagion crisis has forced Merkel to drop her resistance to closer coordination, inviting recognition that it is the price Germany must pay to win agreement from other EU members to a radical strengthening of the EU’s Stability and Growth Pact that Berlin wants.
“Closer coordination” means that Brussels will control the budgets and fiscal policy decisions of the eurozone’s member states. In other words, the nations of Europe would surrender the last vestiges of their sovereignty, and there would be nothing left but “regions”. Yes, the old national parliaments would remain, but only as quaint tourist attractions and the source of sinecures for favored political acquaintances of the elite.
Here’s where you can see the boilerplate about an “ever-closer union” leave Earth’s gravity well and reach rhetorical escape velocity:
Merkel was confident that Europe would overcome the crisis in her speech in Aachen, a western German city that was for centuries the place of coronation of German kings.
“The euro is more than just our currency. It is the furthest achievement of European integration so far. It stands for the European ideal. And I stick to my vision that one day, all EU member states will also have the euro as a currency,” she said.
“The furthest achievement of European integration” is to have all the affairs of the member states — legal, social, fiscal, and monetary — controlled by a single unaccountable bureaucratic entity which has never been elected and can never be removed by the people over whose lives it has assumed control.
Europeans: say hello to the Great Jug of Ever-Closer Lemonade.
Hat tip: Paul Weston.