Beyond the borders

Which Europe will German citizens choose in September?

It is expected that Angela Merkel, unjustly criticized, after the elections in Germany (September 22) will change her European policy to give "priority to growth policies", as some have proposed, to the detriment of the "austerity" measures prioritized until today, or that a new government led by a Social-Democrat Chancellor will bring about such change. Just like a year ago, those who hoped that Francois Hollande would be able to bring about France’s financial recovery agreed at European level in order to increase budgetary allocations to industrial and social policies promised during his electoral campaign, had to admit that theirs were mere illusions. Such expectations – or hopes – are based on the false assumption that sound and sustainable growth can be purchased with money, which however is not available and that can only be obtained with a loan that will have to be paid back. Hopefully, European financial policies will change, especially in South European countries, subjected to austerity measures and structural reforms, owing to their serious state of indebtedness whose consequences weigh heavily at national level. It was absurd to believe that the debt could be defeated by further indebtedness. Debts and high interests rates, the price of credibility and confidence, brought the interested countries to their knees. Debts prevent growth, and they are also questionable from an ethical angle, since the next generations will have to pay the dues of the solutions to today’s problems. Therefore, there is only one reasonable way leading to healthy and sustainable growth, i.e. the path of sobriety and rational and sustainable "governance", namely, the reform of those very policies and structures that have proved to be inefficient, costly and counterproductive. Austerity and growth are not mutually exclusive: they are mutually dependent. It is equally important to strike a balance between reform efforts and austerity measures, in order to prevent exaggerations that risk delivering opposite results, while at the same time preventing the adoption of insufficient measures for fear of negative reactions on the part of affected populations, thereby losing the fight against the debt and failing to recover from economic and social decline. Each Member State has the responsibility of solving it own problems, to the extent that it is itself the cause. This is the condition envisaged with the creation of the European Monetary Union. Compliance with this rule is also the prerequisite for solidarity with partners who are in difficult situations. The rule of accountability and the rules governing contractual provisions of financial and budgetary policies should prevent the indebtedness of individual Member States at the expense of other Member States, with consequences for the entire community. Unfortunately, not all Member States have respected this rule. This confusion has led to the crisis that we have been dealing with for years.Within the monetary union critical developments are caused by improper behaviour by one of its members to the detriment of other members, with the result that the community is justified in rapping over the knuckles of the member who caused the problem with its misconduct, establishing the conditions for recovery. It is absurd that the governments of the countries that have acted properly be accused of responsibility for the plight of their partners in distress, and of bestowing their aid selfishly and only under strict conditions, namely by requiring that the debt is reduced and reforms are undertaken. The motto can only be: help for a self-help! Even a government formed by the German Social Democrats, in spite of those who expect a more or less radical departure from the path followed so far, will not ignore this state of affairs. In fact, over the last few years, German Social Democrats have always been in agreement and have consistently supported that path in the internal political debates in the face of Eurosceptic positions advocated by right and left wing parties alike. Therefore, it is to be expected that European politics in the confrontation between Angela Merkel and her political opponent, Social Democrat Peer Steinbrueck, will not play a particularly important role. Moreover, a joint response might be needed to address the attacks of populist parties to the left (the post-communist left) and right (the AfD, the new "Alliance for Germany", the anti-euro movement). The left speaks of a "communitarization" of Europe’s debt, while the AfD calls for the dissolution of the euro zone, to avoid Germany the costs linked to rescuing the euro. The unchanged broad consensus to European politics advocated by large political parties shows that regardless of who will win the next elections, the question of which Europe Germans will choose in September will have the following answer: we want a strong, solidarity-based Europe, which through the success of monetary union and the further development of the institutions and consolidated integration processes under way will become an ever more democratic and federal political union, in which each member, with fairness, lives up to its responsibilities, towards itself and towards the Community as a whole.

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