Kohl acts to quash revolt over the euro

Chancellor Helmut Kohl sought to quell a Euro-sceptic rebellion in the government ranks yesterday by mortgaging his political future to hard-liners who insist on the strictest interpretation of the Maastricht criteria.

Although Germany has no chance of keeping its budget deficit below 3 per cent this year, Mr Kohl insisted the goal remained within his reach. "We are sticking to three-point-zero. That is no problem. And within the schedule," he said in Munich.

Addressing a conference of business leaders, his words were aimed primarily at Bavaria's Prime Minister, Edmund Stoiber, who has emerged as the most powerful adversary of economic and monetary union (Emu), even urging postponement if the criteria were not met.

Mr Kohl had gone to Munich carrying a speech denouncing the "unhelpfulness" of government politicians who question the government's ability to deliver the magic numbers. But at a crucial point in the speech, he departed from the prepared text, serving up soothing words rather than admonition to his foe.

Mr Stoiber was generous in victory, welcoming Mr Kohl to the inner sanctum of the "three-point-nought" club with open arms. "I am happy that it will be three point zero," he said with not a hint of irony.

Most economists, European governments and even the Bundesbank maintain that a few tenths of 1 per cent do not matter, and are perplexed by the Bavarians' "decimal-fetishism".

"A euro that is permanently stable is in Germany's interests," the Bavarian leader declared last week. "To pursue a course of relaxing the standards would lead to a union of inflation and debt, and harm our nation, and ultimately European integration."

Mr Stoiber went on to promise "fierce resistance" to German attempts to fudge the criteria - a thinly veiled threat to mobilise his MPs against monetary union. His remarks unleashed fury in the government. Mr Kohl let it be known discretely that he was hopping mad. Wolfgang Gerhardt, leader of the Free Democrats, the third party making up the coalition, charged Mr Stoiber with "anti-euro populism".

The row could not have come at a worse time for Mr Kohl. The recent confrontation with the Bundesbank has highlighted his government's inability to meet the Maastricht targets by honest means, and, by extension, its commitment to a hard euro.

His conversion to 3.0 is likely to defuse the row for the moment, but stores up greater calamities for the future. Mr Stoiber will not get off his hobby-horse, because the issue is part of a bigger game. In reality, decimals have nothing to do with the euro-debate, but a great deal with realpolitik. Mr Stoiber governs the most Euro-sceptic and most conservative Land in Germany. Emu is unpopular, especially among right-wing voters.

The ruling Christian Social Union is in danger of losing its absolute majority in next year's elections to the Bavarian assembly. The biggest threat to Mr Stoiber's survival comes not from the left, but from mushrooming anti-party alliances which are bitterly opposed to all things federal and European.

That is one reason why the CSU, whose MPs prop up Mr Kohl's government in Bonn, cannot afford to go soft on the euro. Reason number two is more Byzantine. The person widely blamed for Germany's failure to meet the criteria is the finance minister, Theo Waigel, also a Bavarian.

There is little love lost between the two CSU heavy-weights, and Mr Stoiber seems to take pleasure in advertising his rival's shortcomings. The failure to deliver 3.0 this year will be the most obvious Waigel legacy, which is why Mr Stoiber will never let the magic number slip out of public sight.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the iWatch for you? Well, it depends if you want for the fitness tech, or the style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own