Angela Merkel Has Destroyed German Dominance in Europe
The German chancellor has lost respect throughout the continent
Originally Appeared at KOPP Online.Translated from the German by Susan Neumann
It’s a tragic irony. And it’s one that has hurt Germany. Angela Merkel has always sought a “European solution” for her numerous problems, which is what she’s constantly been reiterating in the wake of the migrant crisis. And yet the Europe that she refers to in her statements — the Europe that she holds above all else — has long since lost its patience with the German chancellor.
Merkel is no longer the European leader. They’ve turned their backs to her. From Scandinavia to the Balkans.
For ten years, Angela Merkel and Berlin have, through the help of the banks, determined which way the wind blows in Europe. This is now coming to an end. All throughout the Greek bailout, the euro bailout, the austerity measures: Merkel and her secretary of the treasury, Wolfgang Schäuble, with his goal of a “Black Zero”, have always set the tone. And Europe followed them.
The Germans had the money and therefore, they called the shots. There were times when the others followed begrudgingly, sometimes despondently, but for the most part, they were obedient. What Merkel wanted, she got.
Even as some European countries grumbled, and even as Schäuble put his foot down and tightened the German purse strings, other countries gave in to Merkel.
But now the money is gone. It’s no longer a question of who’s able to bailout Greece; rather, how big the haircut might have to be. When there’s no more money to be distributed, then Germany is no longer allowed to sit at the head of the table.
For Merkel, the threads are now starting to unravel. German dominance is starting to give way. Berlin is no longer in the center. It’s being pushed to the outer edge.
Scandinavian countries were the first to tighten their borders. Then the Visegrád countries, Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, and Slovakia; worked together to seal off the Balkan route. Austria and Macedonia followed suite and began to curb the flow of refugees, and started to adopt the kind of foreign policy on migration that the German voters themselves would wish from their own leader. They continue to ask Berlin to set a cap on the number of refugees, which Merkel still refuses to do.
In terms of austerity measures in the EU, Merkel has lost the reins on more than one occasion over the past several months. The austerity measures are designed to control the amount of debt in Europe’s shakiest of countries and to restimulate the economy. Instead, the PIIGS were forced to save to the point of stagflation. At the end of 2015, Spanish voters threw the despised, Berlin-style austerity plan out the window. The anti-austerity party Podemos, which was founded just two years prior to the election, rose to 20.7 percent and became the third largest representation in parliament.
Eleven months before the Spanish election, the Greeks had voted for Syriza during the worst economic crisis in Europe since the Great Depression, spawning a month-long marathon in negotiations over the Greek debt within the EU.
France is also moving farther away from its own austerity pact. Portugal’s new socialist government provoked Brussels and Berlin in February, when it announced it would no longer comply with the EU deficit rules.
In a televised broadcast in early February, Portugal’s Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva alluded to the austerity diktats from Berlin when he said, “We can no longer walk blindly down the path of austerity. We have to be demanding and disciplined when it comes to the state budget, but Portugal is not a pupil. There are no professor-states or student-states in the EU.”
Merkel is also becoming more isolated in view of the controversial Russian sanctions, a US project she has helped to spearhead in Europe. German small and medium-sized companies met at a German-Russian economic conference in Berlin at the beginning of February, in order to discuss how to prevent the permanent loss of the Russian market.
Guest of honor was Russia’s Economic Development Minister, Alexei Ulyukayev. As with the Iran sanctions, German companies have been hurt badly by the punitive measures put in place against Russia.
It was a stupid thing to do: the German government cooperated with Washington in its attempt to drop an iron curtain on Russia, especially at a time when China is about to embark on the largest economic development project of the next generation for the Eurasian continent. In Russia, Chinese companies are in the process of stealing the business away from their German competitors.
At the conference Ulyukayev said, „There have already been some concrete results. One has agreed to revive the format of strategic working groups, which was subjected to two years in official format. This is one of many small positive steps that we expressly welcome.”
In 2015, German exports to Russia dove by one quarter. That’s a loss of almost eight billion euros; a drop of 25 percent. The German economy is now struggling to remain Russia’s largest economic partner. Conferences like the one in Berlin prove that Angela Merkel has relinquished her adherence to the economic sanctions, because she is becoming increasingly undermined.