By foisting fiscal austerity on its Eurozone partners while stubbornly refusing an enhanced role for the ECB, and greater mutual support on national debt, Germany is a greater hindrance than a help to the single currency, argues Anatole Kaletsky.
The world has been watching with horror and fascination as investigators seek the cause of an eminently avoidable shipwreck in Italy. Meanwhile, the cause of a much greater shipwreck is coming into view.
As Greece moves towards default, as France, Italy and Spain suffer credit downgrades, and as negotiations over last month’s fiscal treaty reach deadlock, the euro is heading for the rocks and the driving force is becoming clear. The real cause of the euro disaster is not France, Italy or Greece. It is Germany.
The fundamental problem lies not in the efficiency of the German economy, although that has contributed to the divergence in economic fortunes, but in the behaviour of German politicians and central bankers.
Not only has the German Government consistently vetoed the only policies that could have brought the euro crisis under control – collective European guarantees for national debts and large-scale intervention by the European Central Bank. To make matters worse, Germany has been responsible for almost all the misguided policies implemented by the eurozone, ranging from last year’s crazy interest rate rises by the ECB to the excessive demands for austerity and bank losses that now threaten Greece with a chaotic default.
Mario Monti, the German-appointed Prime Minister of Italy, was explicit, warning that Germany would suffer a “powerful backlash” if it persisted in opposing measures that could relieve financial pressures on other euro members, such as the issue of jointly guaranteed bonds. Meanwhile, many of the country’s leading economists, former central bankers and business leaders have started writing articles advocating withdrawal from the euro on the ground that Germany’s policies are incompatible with other members’. Read full article behind The Times paywall or in Presseurop's nine other languages...