Ben Chu: How long can Germany sustain this contradiction?

 

Share
Related Topics

It is a German paradox. Opinion polls show that the population is mostly hostile to more bailouts for Greece and the use of German national credit to underpin a rescue for the rest of the eurozone. And yet the most popular political parties in Germany at the moment – the Social Democrats and the Greens – are those that back precisely those policies. Indeed, the party that has tried an ostensibly populist anti-European pitch – the Free Democratic Party (FDP) – was almost wiped out in this month's Berlin state elections.

In yesterday's vote in the Bundestag, 86 per cent of parliamentarians voted to beef up the powers of the European bailout fund. And some of the dissenters complained that the rescue package was not accommodative enough to Greece and other stricken economies on the European fringe. The SPD and the Greens have hardly hidden their support for eurobonds and other radical measures. The SPD has even proposed a new Marshall Plan for southern Europe.

So what is going on? Why do Germans say one thing and vote for another? My impression is that although many Germans are wary of the cost of rescue schemes, they are fundamentally pro-European and pro-euro in a way that most Britons find difficult to grasp. In other words, concerns about the price of the rescue tend to be trumped by support for the European project. What Germans seem to find most frustrating about the present crisis is Chancellor Merkel's lack of strong leadership.

Her problem is that some of the few true hardline eurosceptics in Germany are in her coalition. And she has to tread carefully to keep them on board. If she moves too fast, her government will collapse. Holger Schmieding, an economist at Germany's Berenberg Bank, thinks it is the Chancellor's political future, rather than the fate of the eurozone, that is on the line in these bailout votes. "Even if Merkel falls, Germany will still end up with a pro-euro government," he says.

It's a comforting narrative. But even if it's true, the protracted uncertainty over the crisis is draining confidence from financial markets and pushing Europe closer to another recession. Another slump would make it much more expensive for Germany and other key players to resolve this crisis. Political paradoxes are expensive luxuries during a financial emergency.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: Outgunned by a lack of military knowledge

Guy Keleny
Ukip leader Nigel Farage in Tiny Tim’s tea shop while canvassing in Rochester this week  

General Election 2015: What on earth happened to Ukip?

Matthew Norman
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions