Germany Will Revert to Form

Foreign Affairs & Security
Wednesday, October 26, 2011

In September 2011 I published a paper with the Bow Group entitled The Eurozone and Germany - Crisis and Opportunity - Understanding Europe’s greatest power. Since its publication the eurozone has descended to a new level of crisis, and the Conservative Party has experienced a new wave of euroscepticism. The eurozone is now deeply engaged in crisis talks with an uncertain outcome, and the Conservative Party and British government is reeling from an unprecedented parliamentary rebellion. In the paper it is argued that the German government’s confidence is violently shaken by the uncertain eurozone environment, but that ultimately it will revert to form and strive to save its most cherished project, the eurozone, at any and all costs. It will. It certainly matters that Germany is currently in a transitional period where its decades-old political certainties and pillars of foreign policy are being shaken. Germany will not exactly behave in accordance with a single preconceived pattern; it will hesitate, make U-turns and be inconsistent in the short term, but it will do so to protect its long term goals. The German public is becoming increasingly sceptical about the national value of the eurozone, and indeed the virtues of the wider European project. To assuage them Angela Merkel has promised that there will be a limit to German exposure to the eurozone crisis and no transfer union. In the hearth of the current crisis, these promises are worthless and Merkel will do whatever she needs to save what many have concluded is a terminal project. She will do so, because the German government is so hard wired in its foreign policy thinking, it can find no other course and Germany does not have the confidence to stand alone outside the EU. The biggest question now for the eurozone is not will Germany bail out the troubled eurozone, but can Germany, or the German government, withstand this pressure and emerge from the other side. There is a reward to counter the risk as German finance minister Wolfgang Schauble commented in June 2011 “a state that is experiencing problems and receives help, must in return be willing to give up some of its sovereign rights to the EU”. This is the opportunity for Germany if the eurozone withstands: to have a huge amount of control over the EU that emerges - but only if it emerges. With every day that passes the risk is becoming greater, the reward smaller. There is now great opportunity for the UK to have a significant voice in Europe, presenting an alternative, pragmatic solution. The Conservative Party and British government now needs to speak with one voice, because in comparison to our continental neighbours we are neither invested in the eurozone project, or requiring a bailout, which sets us apart from almost every continental power. In understanding the German mind we can appreciate that there is more eurosceptic disagreement between the German populace and its government than there is in the UK (70% of the Germans are against any further eurozone bailouts). Therefore taking our parties euroscepticism from home, and applying it pragmatically abroad could solve both the problems of the eurozone, and the Conservative Party. By Ben Harris-QuinneyDownload a full version of the paper here.