The Corner

Germany and Greece: At Last, Some Honesty

Amazing scenes in the Bundestag – Germany’s Angela Merkel has been speaking honestly! The London Times has the details:

Chancellor Angela Markel today delivered one of the most passionate speeches of her career in an attempt to persuade Germany and its parliamentarians that it was essential to prop up Greece. Shrugging off catcalls and angry interruptions from the opposition benches, the German leader told Parliament: “This is about nothing less than the future of Europe – and with it the future of Germany in Europe.”

The Merkel Cabinet approved on Monday a 22.4 billion euro (£19bn) package to Greece, split over three years. Some 8.4 billion euros is earmarked for this year and will be paid out by the state-run bank Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau.

The enabling Bill was submitted to parliament today and will be voted on on Friday. The signs are that the Chancellor will get her Bill but that she could face an embarrassing backbench rebellion. And her Christian Democratic party may have to pay the political price for the unpopular Greek rescue package in regional elections on Sunday in North Rhine Westphalia. The Christian Democrats rule there but my lose their grip. That would sap the Chancellor’s power at national level.

The awkward fact is that Germany ought to approve the bail-out (it should also exit the euro, but that’s another discussion). Not to help Greece out risks disaster for the Bundesrepublik’s dangerously battered banking system. Even more awkward, however, is the fact that Germany has found itself in this position in the first place. That it has is the work of the country’s political class (left and right both), of whom the unpleasantly authoritarian Merkel, an all-too-obvious product of the old East Germany, is neither the most interesting, nor the most culpable example. The leaders of this class have never leveled with their country’s electorate. It’s time that they started to do so.

The Times continues:

The Chancellor’s task in Parliament today then was to convince the nation that she was not presenting Greece with a blank cheque. Rather, she was attempting to save the euro from melting down on the southern rim of the euro-zone, and thus saving Germany itself. “We are at a crossroads, ” she said. “There is no alternative to the planned aid for Greece we want to secure the financial stability of the euro area. It must come, in order to fend off a chain reaction in the European and international financial system and the risk of contagion of other euro-member states.”

“Europe today is looking to Germany,” she said, to shouts from the opposition benches of “so why didn’t you act earlier?”.

The Social Democrat opposition has not yet declared whether it will vote against the aid package. Its leader, Frank-Walter Steinmeier branded Ms Merkel as an incompetent crisis manager.

Those shouters from the opposition benches had a point. Merkel should have acted earlier. Her painfully theatrical dithering over this rescue has pushed matters to the edge of disaster, but incompetence was nothing to do with it. Merkel simply not could face telling German voters the truth. As usual.

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