Politics

Goodbye Germany?

Two German Green MEPs outline the price of the latter, and how the former can come about. In Brussels, no one understands why Germany, of all countries, is risking the failure of the European project. The compromise negotiated by Merkel at the EU summit is clearly not enough to overcome the crisis. It is time to sharpen the debate: do we let Germany go down alone or do we rescue it together with Europe?

What we are experiencing in Germany at the moment is nothing more than an indulgent debate. Under the umbrella of full employment and record tax revenues we can apparently be relaxed in our discussions on the Euro. In combination with the one-sided belief that the Greeks themselves have brought about their own fate through laziness while we have had to work for our success ourselves through efficiency, wage restraint and Schröder’s reforms this comfortable position has blinded us to the reality. It should be the bounden duty of German politicians but in any case that of the European Party “Alliance 90/The Greens” to open the eyes of the people in Germany to the reality and to demand that clear consequences are drawn.

The reality is as frightening as it is banal. Germany cannot afford a break-up of the Euro. The EU countries are by far the largest consumers of German products, well ahead of Asia and North America. Were the Deutschmark still to exist, it would have been savagely re-valued years ago and strangled our exports.

A collapse of the Euro will immediately cost Germany a billion Euros and for decades to come incalculable sums as well. Economic performance would immediately fall by more than 10%. The Greeks have little more to lose – we have! At the moment we are even profiting from the inflow of capital and the historically lowest interest rates Germany has ever known.

The cause of the crisis is no longer controversial

German politicians must finally be honest enough to explain to people that one bail-out after another or one Euro exit after the other will cost the taxpayer more than the treatment to address the causes of the crisis. What the causes are is no longer a matter of dispute among economists. In the long run you cannot have a common currency without a common fiscal and economic policy.

Otherwise the imbalances will break up the monetary union in the way that we can see at the moment. As it is objectively impossible in the few months remaining for the rescue of the Euro to make up for everything that is lacking in political integration, we have to proceed in two steps.

As an immediate measure the ECB must be given all the necessary means to address the acute interest rate crisis and rules for a strict supervision of the banks must be established. At the same time the process of creating a democratic financial-economic- and social union in Europe will be initiated.

We not only need Eurobonds but a common fiscal policy, tax harmonisation, a closing of tax havens, a European property tax to repay the national debt and an EU budget that is large enough to strengthen cohesion within the Union. The Union must be put in a position where it can react quickly and vigorously in crisis situations.

Democratic Control Instead of Eurocrats

For this, however, we need about five times the current amount of 1% of gross domestic product. Without doubt this requires the commitment to a new stage of European integration. However, there will only be such a commitment if there is a basis of a genuine parliamentary democracy.

The powers of Europe must no longer be in the hands of Eurocrats or uncontrollable national government assemblies. Instead we have to provide the European institutions with greater rights to intervene and the citizens with democratic sovereignty once more. That means limiting national budgetary sovereignty – but without losing parliamentary democracy.

Therefore the EU Commission must not simply gain more power but it must at the same time acquire more democratic legitimisation. The EU Commission, at least its President, must be appointed by the citizens by means of European parliamentary elections. Moreover the European Parliament must have a say in all aspects of economic, monetary and fiscal policy as equal co-legislator. An additional chamber of national MPs for the Euro, as Joschka Fischer calls for, would on the other hand be a danger for integration and democracy in Europe.

The Advantages of an EU Convention

The European Council of Heads of State and Government should initiate the necessary steps for these structural reforms before the summer break. Parts of this package can be implemented without problems within the current contractual framework while others require contractual amendments. To this end a European convention finally needs to be convened that will create the basic framework for a new Europe with the involvement of all parliaments and governments as well as a broad section of civil society.

The European Parliament could have already set this in motion a long time ago. Although we Greens in fact initiated discussions concerning this we have so far failed to show enough determination in advancing the process. It is now time for the European Parliament to meet its responsibilities for the creation of a democratic Europe. It would have to take matters into its own hands in forming a convention.

The debates about the short-term emergency measures are distracting attention away from these deep-rooted structural issues of Europe. What we need now is the realisation that the history of democracy and statehood in Europe is at a turning point.

This article was originally published on Debatte Eurokrise.

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