Dear Napoleon, Kaiser, Hitler and Stalin, this is how to properly conquer Europe.
Since the German unification in 1870 under Bismarck, Germany had always harbored the ambition of dominating Europe. The quest for a German Europe began in 1914, failed twice, but has finally ended with a German victory almost a century later in 2012. The Europe that Kaiser Wilhelm lost in 1918, and that Adolf Hitler destroyed in 1945, has at last been won by Angela Merkel today without firing a single shot.
BERLIN For nearly 70 years since the end of World War 2, Germanys grand national ambition has basically been not to have one. After losing two wars, the country dropped its ambition to dominate Europe and concentrate on rebuilding its shattered economy while dutifully leaving the European leadership to the likes of Britain and France.
The plan has been a roaring success so much so that, in one of historys great ironies, Germany today finds itself right back where it wasnt supposed to be: dominating Europe.
With Europe bogged down by the financial crisis and its national governments failing or being voted out of office across the continent, Germany now looked like an island of prosperity and stability surrounded by chaos.
As the regions richest, most populous nation, with strict control over its purse strings rather than spending like panzers as seen in Italy, Spain or Greece, Germany today is the unquestioned boss amid Europes debt crisis and deepening economic malaise.
Just 70 years ago, the entire Europe worked together against Germany, but today Germany is the only European country who can save Europe from economic collapse, and other European nations are literally begging her to rescue them from further catastrophe.
The fate of the European economy now lies in Germany as it heads the effort to keep heavily indebted European countries from going bankrupt and pulling down other Eurozone members.
On Monday, Chancellor Angela Merkel successfully steered approval for a US$175 billion Greek bailout through the German Parliament, saving Greece from bankruptcy.
The measure is highly unpopular for German taxpayers who will foot more than half the bill. However Merkel said there was little choice but to give Greece the assistance, claiming that the alternative would be far worse.
As chancellor of Germany, I should and sometimes must take risks, but I cannot embark on adventures, she said. Europe fails if the euro fails. Europe wins if the euro wins.
Remember the last time Germany put its claws across Europe, and the US sent in troops to destroy it? Now US President Barack Obama and other world leaders are urging Germany to engage in and contribute even more to a permanent European bailout fund that might stanch the debt crisis - something Germany has so far resisted.
Simple math suggests that Germany can push and extent herself further to support the rest of Europes financially troubled nations if she wants to. But the country favors policies that limit German money contribution, and rather put the responsibilities on the Eurozone as a whole.
But how about Britain and France, whom for decades competed to be the leader of Europe? Well, while Germany recently announced its unemployment has fallen to the lowest in 20 years, France now suffered from the highest unemployment in 12 years, increasing social malaise produced by economic stagnation, growing public debt and budget problems. The country just lost its AAA credit rating last month.
How about the United Kingdom? The unemployment in UK just reached 17-year high, with the government struggling to cut budgets which led to the violent London riots last year. There is now risks that its AAA rating would be lost as the British economy continues to weaken.
High employment is important because it allows government to collect more revenues in form taxes from citizens. With the continent hit by debt crisis, Germany actually proceed to reduce its debts, in 2010 the German debt-to-GDP ratio was 85%, this was successfully cut to 82% in 2011 and 78% now. German business confidence rose to the highest in seven months in February while investor sentiment surged to a 10-month high, with its consumer confidence increase to a 12-month high.
For France, its debt-to-GDP ratio was 82% in 2010, 85% in 2011, shooting to nearly 90% now. The UK’s debt-to-GDP ratio was 75% in 2010, 85% in 2011, and like France, it is now rising to the 90% range. With these, can anyone seriously expect the UK and France coming to save Europe?
Josef Joffe, editor of the German newspaper Die Zeit said gone are the days when Germany was considered an economic giant but a political dwarf. Joffe added: “In an age where economic power suddenly moves to the fore, as it has in the last 18 months, the economic giant (Germany) also becomes a political giant.”
Yes, Germany is now the new king of Europe, taking the leadership from Britain and France, but this turnaround has inspired discomfort among its neighbors and complaints of an ever-increasing German hegemony in Europe.
In November, observers both inside and outside Germany were aghast when one of Merkel’s closest political allies crowed that “Europe is speaking German now”, a comment she quickly disavowed to calm neighbors fear.
That same month, lawmakers in Ireland, one of three Eurozone countries to sign up for the bailouts, were outraged to discover that members of a German parliamentary committee inspected the draft proposals for the Irish budget before they did, hardening perceptions among other Europeans that their economic futures were no longer in their own hands but Germany’s.
And not just their economic futures. Both Italy and Greece now have unelected technocratic prime ministers who meet with Germany’s approval as yes-men willing to follow German recipe of austerity cuts and structural reform. Likewise the new chief of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, whose German-style financial outlook earned him the admiring nickname the “Prussian Italian” and a photo in the bestselling tabloid Bild depicting him in a spiked Prussian helmet.
Merkel recently surprised many with the startling announcement that she would cross the Rhine and actively campaign on behalf of French President Nicolas Sarkozy for reelection in April, interfering in French politics more proof, critics say, of Germany’s pan-European aspirations.
Not only that, European Union (EU) leaders had signed a treaty that committed them all to a German-dictated collection of iron rules on deficit controls.
Still remember after World War 1, Europe forced Germany to sign the Treaty of Versailles that put all the wrongs and guilt on it. A century later now, Germany forced the Europeans some more reluctantly than others to obey common rules on deficits and public debts, and if they don’t and the crisis occurred, they would bear this original sin of Europes monetary union.
The country getting most of the “German whip” is none other than Greece. Germany is now Greece’s biggest international creditor, and imposed on it a list of German-written austerity measures which caused a series of German flag-burning in Athens.
The Greek magazine Epikaira conducted a weekly survey and found that three-quarter of Greeks said they now regard Germany as enemy territory. Some 81% of the people surveyed said Germany is trying to dominate Europe economically, while 77% think its policies aim to create a strong and authoritarian Fourth Reich on Europe.
Newsweek wrote in an article that it is in Germany’s best interest to dominate Europe. It says It’s clear what Germany is up to. Let the rest of Europe wallow in their own red ink. Let riots in the streets cause regime change. Dangle as bailout bait a “fiscal union” with countries giving up sovereign control of their budgets in exchange for Germany guaranteeing debts. The ECB will do the dirty work but it’s Germany alone that will save the day and end up owning Europe.
The Eurozone today is a wasteland of “entitlementarians”, whose industries have all but lost to the United States or Asia. Germany however remains a mighty industrial power in the continent. The Germans though, are aware it could no longer single-handedly compete with the likes of the US or China - Japan’s fading fortune served as a very good example.
The only way Europe can stay relevant in the world economy is to come together in one custom union and act as a single unit of economy. All these while France and Britain have been fighting for influence and leadership of EU - but both failed and failing miserably as shown in the current European crisis. Perhaps Germany can be a more effective king that will lead Europe to better prosperity?