Merkel….the power and the glory
When two contacts in Germany said to me recently (without collusion) that I should keep an eye on the speeches of Angela Merkel, I listened. They’re both people I respect, and in the past had helped me with the murky process of getting beyond the disinformation about Merkel’s DDR past. One of the two in particular said something last week, the gist of which was, “Your theory that Germany will leave the eurozone before anyone is supported if you listen carefully to what she’s starting to say”.
Those who remember what is still the all-time most widely-read essay at The Slog on Geli’s psychopathic political track record will know my view: she believes in three things: technocracy, power, and Angela Dorothea Merkel. Nobody since Hitler sniffs the way the wind is blowing with the amorally uncanny accuracy of Frau Doktor Merkel. And few women in history have so consistently shafted close colleagues with quite such icy aplomb.
The German Chancellor is now beginning to distance herself from both CDU and Schäuble rhetoric about the need for a tightly united Europe.
There could be any number of reasons for this: she has an election to win, in which euroscepticism is going to be a significant factor for the first time; she is angry at the way in which Mario Draghi has almost magnetically drawn power towards himself…power she thinks should be hers; she is worried about the power Brussels per se seems to be increasingly amassing; she is alarmed by some of the entirely credible scenarios coming out of the eurosceptics in Bankfurt; she doesn’t trust Wolfgang Schäuble; and she has her beady eyes on a Nordeuropa concept that might include Scandinavia, the UK, and Russia.
But whatever the dominant driver might be, if you look at the directional drift of her recent carefully composed (and leaked) views, it is almost impossible to deny that she is up to something.
Eighteen months ago she upset the europc brigade by saying she felt multi-culturalism doesn’t work. Last week she blocked further talks with Turkey about membership of the EU. And now today, Der Spiegel has cottoned on with a major piece about where Merkel’s multivariate mind might be heading. This seems to follow on from an interview she gave the magazine three weeks ago, on which occasions she warned against spending time “on theoretical discussions of what the European structures will look like in 10 or 15 years.”
Basically, the new Spiegel piece wholeheartedly supports what my German chums were saying. ‘Just one year ago, the German Chancellor was calling for “more Europe, not less.” But now she has completed a radical about-face’ says the influential German magazine. And this despite the CDU’s election manifesto (approved last weekend) declaring, “The commitment to Europe is for us both a matter of reason and a matter of the heart”.
More and more, those who meet her leave with the impression she will do everything she can to prevent further steps toward integration – that is, to prevent Brussels from gaining more power. She believes that it was precisely the unrealistic passion for a united Europe that led to the establishment of a common European currency lacking a solid foundation….all of a sudden.
Angela Merkel is now clearly at odds with her Finance Minister. Like all fanatical federalists, he thinks Europe will only make progress if integration and the transfer of power continue to progress too quickly for the anti-camp to catch up. But at base, the problem for Merkel is the one that has recurred over and over during her career: the lady’s real opposition is to having to dilute, or share in any way, her power.
As a result of the eurocrisis – and Germany’s atypical strength within it – she has seen that power increase considerably. But when Herman van Rompuy was about to present a paper at the recent summit on advancing European integration, Merkel read it, and abruptly told the Belgian to tear it up. And when his fellow-President Manuelo Barroso said publicly that “the policy of austerity has reached its limits”, he was informed in very clear terms that he should button his lip. Not only does she not want to share power with Brussels, she equally doesn’t want to share it with EU citizens: she now openly opposes the direct election of the Commission president — a model also supported by Wolfgang Schäuble.
This tells us two things. First, that Geli Merkel is the same opportunistic Stalinist convert she was when the Berlin Wall came down: she is not and never will be anything but a person determined to have untrammeled, dictatorial powers. And second, she must be monumentally hacked off with the success of Il Draghi in using his position as head of the European Central Bank to garner every ounce of unaccountable power unto himself. Whereas even she has to answer to the German people in the end, Draghi is completely unaccountable.
There is every sign that – as Draghi becomes increasingly willing to wield that power via bailins – Merkel will increasingly resent him; more to the point, she is already under pressure anyway from the anti-euro Bankfurters to restrict Germany’s exposure to the cost of what they see as hopeless attempts to rescue the euro.
And that in turn points, yet again, to a German exit from the eurozone before things get completely out of hand. In this morning’s Smoke Signals, I wrote ‘Keep your eyes on Berlin: I think they know what’s coming. I still believe they will quit the Euro before Greece does’. If that does happen, it could be a tricky road along the way for Angela Merkel….and a split from her traditional position in German politics.