The World From Berlin: Germany’s Power ‘Is Causing Fear’ in Europe
An idea aired by Berlin officials last week to place Greek budget policy under the control of an EU commissioner has been criticized as unworkable and disrespectful. But given its contribution to rescue packages, Germany has a right to insist on fiscal discipline in Europe, say German media commentators.
The EU summit on Monday was overshadowed by a new upsurge in fears of German domination following reports over the weekend that Berlin was proposing dispatching an EU commissioner to Athens to seize control of the Greek budget.
Chancellor Angela Merkel wanted the summit to send out a positive message about a commitment to jobs and growth, but failed to dispel the impression that Germany is throwing its weight about in the euro crisis.
Greek newspaper Ta Nea published a cartoon of Merkel holding Greece like a marionette under the headline “Nein! Nein! Nein!” And Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti warned this month that Germany must do more to help its eurozone partners or risk a backlash from citizens frustrated with austerity measures.
Economic data released on Tuesday underlined that Germany is doing far better than its European partners. German unemployment fell to a record low of 6.7 percent in January while joblessness in the euro zone rose to 10.4 percent in December, the highest rate since June 1998.
German media commentators say Germany has a right to insist on fiscal discipline in Europe but needs to tread more lightly in its rhetoric, and must refrain from proposals that insult its partners. The idea of an austerity commissioner, they say, was insensitive and unworkable.
The conservative Die Welt writes:
“Whatever the euro summit agreed and whatever the next one will agree — we won’t get a European austerity commissioner equipped with authoritative powers.”
“Countries in crisis can’t be transformed into protectorates. An EU fiscal commissioner wouldn’t be able to achieve much unless he had the powers of an occupying statute.”
“The conclusion almost sounds paradoxical: In order to rescue their state and their sovereignty, the Greeks have to leave the euro zone. They owe it to themselves. They have to go their own way with the freedom afforded by exchange rate movements and with a strong stimulus of economic growth.