BERLIN – Berlin, not Brussels, will decide the future of the ailing eurozone because Germany’s economic power and its status as the European Union’s main paymaster give it an effective veto over key decisions.
So it comes as a surprise to find that in Berlin’s corridors of power, the main worry is not whether Greece sticks to its reform pledges or Spain demands an EU bailout.
As the world’s third largest exporting nation, Germans are far more concerned about whether China loses its appetite for their machine tools and cars, or about what the famed Teutonic manufacturers should make in the year 2030.
Dominating the stage in Germany is the towering political presence of Chancellor Angela Merkel. Just over a year before federal elections, she looks unbeatable.
Opinion polls show her CDU/CSU party winning between 35-39 per cent, well ahead of the next biggest grouping, the opposition Social Democrats on 26-30 per cent. The opposition Greens are in third place on 12-15 percent, with three smaller parties splitting the remainder.
Coalitions are the norm in Germany so it is mathematically possible to imagine a combination of parties which could unseat the Chancellor next year. But few people expect this. “Quite honestly I don’t see any risks for Merkel inside Germany,” one senior opposition politician commented. “She is very strong and highly trusted by the population as a crisis manager.”
Ranked by Forbes as the world’s most powerful woman, Merkel has ruled since 2005 through a canny mixture of political manoeuvering, ruthlessness, determination and a good feel for the concerns of the ordinary German.
Her reluctance to embrace bold, comprehensive solutions to the eurozone crisis from the outset has exasperated some foreign critics. But at home, it chimes well with the national predilection for cautiousness, deliberation, thrift and hard work.
“Southern European countries face a situation like the one I had at school,” said one senior government official. “I went to a good school and unfortunately I found that other students were cleverer than me in certain subjects, so I had to work harder. I could have gone to a different school but I wanted to stay at that school, so I worked harder.” (Reuters)