Charlemagne: Summit for one | The Economist.
Summit for one
The self-delusion of European leaders as they wrangle over yet another treaty
Jan 7th 2012 | from the print edition
“DINNER for one”, a 1963 British comedy sketch barely known in its country of origin, is Germans’ favourite television viewing on New Year’s Eve. Year after year they delight at the sight of Miss Sophie celebrating her 90th birthday with only her butler, James, for company. He is commanded to follow “the same procedure as last year”, going around the table impersonating each of the now-dead dinner guests, raising toast after toast and becoming ever more drunk.
As one awful year for the euro zone made way for another, the German television network ARD digitally retouched the original sketch to create a spoof of European Union summits. Angela Merkel was the bossy dowager. Nicolas Sarkozy was the faithful butler, taking on the roles of departed leaders: George Papandreou of Greece, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero of Spain and, although he is still in office, David Cameron of Britain. (Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi is a tiger-skin carpet on the floor.) The joke was clear: summits are empty charades, only Mrs Merkel matters and Mr Sarkozy is her comical servant.
Read the full article here: The Economist
Britain and Europe, divided by more than a channel – The Washington Post.
Britain and Europe, divided by more than a channel
Oh, how I love humanity,
With love so pure and pringlish,
And how I hate the horrid French,
Who never will be English!
— G.K. Chesterton
Under the strain of the debt crisis, Europe is revealing cracks it has long tried to plaster, paint and ignore.
British Prime Minister David Cameron’s recent veto of a tighter European fiscal union brought angry criticism. Some continental legislators called for a European Union without the inconvenience of the United Kingdom. French leaders, with their own country’s credit rating under threat of downgrade, tried to direct the attention of rating agencies to British economic failures — a blame-shifting strategy practiced by guilty children on playgrounds everywhere. “There are few more comic spectacles,” responded the Daily Mail, “than Frenchmen throwing fits of Gallic pique against the victors of Waterloo.” In hours of national need, England still turns to the Duke of Wellington. History persists.
Read the full story here: The Washington Post
European financial crisis: Is Europe a mess because Germans work hard and Greeks are lazy? – Slate Magazine.
Are Greeks Lazy?
Europe is a mess because Germans work hard and Greeks are shiftless. False!
Almost 150 years ago, the great English economic essayist Walter Bagehot pondered the problem of European monetary integration in the The Economist. At the time, Italy had just been unified in the wake of the Austro-Prussian War and it was clear that Germany, still divided into several separate political entities, was heading in that direction. How far would consolidation go, from an economic point of view? It was clear enough to Bagehot that a single European currency would never do, but two currencies might. Rather, he looked forward to a future in which “there would be one Teutonic money and one Latin money” and posited that “looking to the commercial activity of the Teutonic races, and the comparative torpor of the Latin races, no doubt the Teutonic money would be most frequently preferred.”
The language and reference to alleged racial differences between Latins and Teutons are outdated, but the basic economic claim remains.
Read the full story here: Slate Magazine
The Merkelization of Europe – By Paul Hockenos | Foreign Policy.
A European Germany has become a German Europe — and it’s all downhill from here.
BY PAUL HOCKENOS | DECEMBER 9, 2011
Not so long ago, France
was the political driver and Germany the economic motor of the European Union
. “Now,” remarked former European Commission president
Romani Prodi in February, it is Merkel “that decides and Sarkozy
that holds a press conference to explain her decisions.” This searing image could be embellished with the 24 EU members cowering in the press room — and Britain now
watching through the window.
Now that Britain has sidelined itself from the historic “fiscal compact” concluded in Brussels on Dec. 9, which provides the EU with new powers to enforce stricter discipline in national budgets, the community appears even more fiercely segregated within its own ranks. Pathetically, the Brits walked not because of the starkly deficient democratic procedure or the fact these governance changes wouldn’t adequately address the euro quagmire, but rather to protect London’s financial services industry from regulations that were part of the deal.
This isn’t the way European Union was supposed to work, not at all, and Germany’s one-woman show — ostensibly in Europe’s name — could well doom the continent’s beautiful project. Merkel may look like the big winner today, seemingly with Europe at Germany’s feet, but this turn of events could well prove to no country’s detriment more than Germany’s.
Read the full story here: Foreign Policy
Germany has to make a fateful choice – FT.com.
Germany has to make a fateful choice
By Martin Wolf
“Perhaps future historians will consider Maastricht a decisive step towards the emergence of a stable, European-wide power. Yet there is another, darker possibility. The effort to bind states together may lead, instead, to a huge increase in frictions among them. If so, the event would meet the classical definition of tragedy: hubris (arrogance); ate (folly); nemesis (destruction).”
I wrote the above in the Financial Times almost 20 years ago. My fears are coming true. This crisis has done more than demonstrate that the initial design of the eurozone was defective, as most intelligent analysts then knew; it has also revealed – and, in the process, exacerbated – a fundamental lack of trust, let alone sense of shared identity, among the peoples locked together in what has become a marriage of inconvenience.
Read the full story here: Financial Times
Zombie Borders – NYTimes.com.
Before, German meteorologists made do with merely topographical maps of a borderless Europe. This was to keep ideology out of meteorology: showing (or not showing) the border between East and West Germany would have meant acknowledging (or denying) that this too was an international border.
Filed under Germany, history
Wonkbook: Germany’s high-stakes bet – The Washington Post.
Wonkbook: Germany’s high-stakes bet
For Germans, the question isn’t whether to save the euro. It’s when to save the euro. For the rest of us, the question is whether the Germans will wait until it’s already too late.
So to understand the German position, look at it from their perspective: Why in the world would Germany let up the pressure now? When they’re so close to amending the very treaty underlying the euro zone? When France has joined with them on a set of reforms? When the market is doing what the Germans never could?
I worry this makes the Germans sound like puppetmasters. They’re not. Many of their intended reforms are very sensible. The flaws they point to in the euro zone are, indeed, deep, structural flaws in the euro zone. They do envision a future that includes sacrifice on their part: eurobonds that raise Germany’s cost of borrowing and a bailout fund — excuse me, a fiscal stabilization fund — that they contribute heavily to.
So my concern isn’t that the Germans are selfish and calculating. It’s that, without quite realizing it, they have become reckless. They are trying to time the market, betting that they can, in essence, manage the run — that they can do just enough to keep the pressure on without letting matters get totally out of hand. They are like a doctor who, faced with an unhealthy patient presenting signs of a heart attack, demands to see the patient lose weight before they will administer the life-saving treatment.
In almost all of their arguments, the Germans are right. The euro does need to be fixed. But first it needs to be saved. The Germans are betting that this is their opportunity to do both. If they’re right, it will have been a remarkable play. If they’re wrong, it will have been a disastrous one.
Read the full story here: The Washington Post
See also: Germany’s calm in the face of Europe’s debt crisis
The Spirit of Enterprise – NYTimes.com.
The Spirit of Enterprise
Published: December 1, 2011
Why are nations like Germany and the U.S. rich? It’s not primarily because they possess natural resources — many nations have those. It’s primarily because of habits, values and social capital.
It’s because many people in these countries, as Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute has noted, believe in a simple moral formula: effort should lead to reward as often as possible.
Read the full story here: The New York Times
Debt and politics in America and Europe: Turning Japanese | The Economist.
Debt and politics in America and Europe
The absence of leadership in the West is frightening—and also rather familiar
Jul 30th 2011 | from the print edition