The Accidental Empire
But we are at an inflection point. The Greek crisis is liable to come to a climax in the fall, even if the election produces a government that is willing to abide by Greece’s current agreement with its creditors. By that time, the German economy will also be weakening, so that Chancellor Angela Merkel will find it even more difficult than today to persuade the German public to accept additional European responsibilities.
Barring an accident like the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy, Germany is likely to do enough to hold the euro together, but the EU will become something very different from the open society that once fired people’s imagination. The division between debtor and creditor countries will become permanent, with Germany dominating and the periphery becoming a depressed hinterland.
This will inevitably arouse suspicion about Germany’s role in Europe – but any comparison with Germany’s past is quite inappropriate. The current situation is due not to a deliberate plan, but to the lack of one. It is a tragedy of policy errors. Germany is a well-functioning democracy with an overwhelming majority for an open society. When the German people become aware of the consequences – one hopes not too late – they will want to correct the defects in the euro’s design.
It is clear what is needed: a European fiscal authority that is able and willing to reduce the debt burden of the periphery, as well as a banking union. Debt relief could take various forms other than Eurobonds, and would be conditional on debtors abiding by the fiscal compact. Withdrawing all or part of the relief in case of nonperformance would be a powerful protection against moral hazard. It is up to Germany to live up to the leadership responsibilities thrust upon it by its own success. (Full reading here.)