Those who in these days in Italy, Spain or France are looking for the future of the “common Europe”, should above all get negative answers. This is due to the corona crisis; and this is not so much about the disease itself, but above all about the refusal of the German government to help the countries, which are particularly affected by the crisis measures, to get back on their feet through a common fund. When it comes to ideologies, Angela Merkel seems to be little different from her much-maligned American colleague Donald Trump. Germany First! And so, under the roaring silence of the pro-Europeans, the” common Europe " is slowly being buried bit by bit.
“Eurobonds will not exist as long as I live”. With this phrase, Angela Merkel ironically described German Dogma at the height of the European banking crisis eight years ago. And so far she should be right about this statement. Eight years ago, it was the greed of the banks and speculative attacks by mostly American and British hedge funds that brought countries such as Greece, Spain and Italy to the limits of their performance. For the first time, the Eurozone was forced to show solidarity with the members who were victims of the crisis. However, the following “rescue operation” was not really solidary. Instead of supporting the beleaguered states, the ESM provided them with a “bailout”, the use of which obliged them to submit to neoliberal austerity policies. One consequence of these requirements was savings in the health system. Seen in this way, the new crisis in Italy and Spain is also a consequence of the previous “bailout”: although this does not play a major role in the debate in this country, this aspect is hotly debated in Italy and Spain.
Those who have this in mind can approximately imagine how the “generous” offer, which the two SPD Ministers Heiko Maas and Olaf Scholz made to the French, Greeks, Italians, Portuguese and Spaniards this weekend through local newspapers, was received. Maas and Scholz remain categorically opposed to a joint aid fund, which is currently demanded by 13 of the 19 Euro states under the name “Corona Bonds”, and instead envisage aid through the ESM programme; this is precisely the programme that has put these countries in a precarious position with its “conditions”. What is also astonishing about this incident is that two SPD ministers of all people become the executors of an austerity policy that is actually rather one of the political dogmas of the union parties-eight years ago the SPD was in any case still open to the subject of “Eurobonds”.
Even if the coming ESM aid, which Italy and Spain in particular will need, should be disbursed without neoliberal conditions, the ESM as a mechanism for coping with the real economic and certainly still coming financial crisis in the wake of the “Corona measures” is the wrong means. On the one hand, the ESM Shield is much too small. As a first step, Germany has already offered its citizens and companies guarantees amounting to 32% of Germany’s economic power. Italy and Spain had to settle for 10% due to fears of rising interest rates on outstanding government bonds and related attacks by hedge funds. However, this will not be enough and the 410 billion euro volume of the ESM is likely to be too small for Italy alone – and in addition to Italy, Spain, France, Portugal and Greece will certainly also register requirements.
In addition, the use of the ESM is interpreted by speculators in the markets as an invitation to bet against the countries concerned. So far, the ECB has served as the last defensive wall. However, their mandate is controversial and in the likely future case of rising interest rates on government bonds of these countries, the old dispute over the ECB’s “direct government financing” threatens to break up again. However, the winners of such a new edition of the ideological trench war between the “Germans”, who in the monetarist sense also include the Netherlands, Austria and Finland, and the rest of the Eurozone – no matter what – are ultimately only the speculators. Even though Merkel, Scholz and co. like to sell their refusal under the Banner of “sound fiscal policy”, their stubbornness is ultimately rather a wonderful opportunity for hedge funds from New York and London to make big returns at the expense of the stricken countries of the Eurozone.
Another myth that the federal government likes to dispel is that Germany benefits from this rigid fiscal policy. Especially in times of crisis, however, the exact opposite is the case. The advantages of Germany can even be counted on a single Finger. In fact, the interest rates on German government bonds are likely to increase by a few basis points as a result of joint liability; but not even that is clear, since there is a huge demand for safe bonds and there should be no reason, according to market logic, to value community bonds, behind which the solid euro flag ship Germany stands, significantly worse now. And if this really happens, it would ultimately only be the correction of a situation that is unusual even in a historical context, in which states receive interest for borrowing money.
More important, however, are the advantages that such corona or Euro Bonds would have in the form of a common emergency fund for Germany. Only a sufficient refinancing of the particularly affected states gives them the opportunity to cushion the real economic consequences of the “measures” by sufficient investments. Germany in particular is more dependent than hardly any other country in the world as an export-oriented economy on finding foreign customers for its goods and services. Countries such as France and Italy are our most important trading partners today. In addition, the corona crisis and the ordered “measures” are plunging economies worldwide into a deep crisis. Whether and when demand from China, the USA or the UK will pick up again is not within the sphere of influence of German politics. Whether and when demand from France, Italy and Spain will pick up again, however, is very much within the German sphere of influence.
If cross dogmas and the ideology of monetarism prevail and Germany refuses to jump-start the economic engine of the Eurozone, there will be many losers in the end. And the biggest” ideal " loser will be the idea of a common Europe. If " Europe “is no more than a catchphrase of Sunday speeches and European solidarity is suspended whenever it is really urgently needed,” Europe " is just an empty shell with no life and no future. The Salvinis, Le Pens, Wilders, Straches and Gauweilers will hear this message with joy.
But where are the " Pro-Europeans “at the moment, who wave the blue Banner with the Golden Stars on every other topic and accuse critics of the real neoliberal EU of being” Anti-Europeans”? Now is really the time to fight for Europe … against Merkel, against Scholz, and for the solidarity. But perhaps these “Pro-Europeans” were never about solidarity and rather about the maintenance of power of Merkel and Scholz and the continuation of the real existing neoliberal EU? Then, of course, the contact barrier comes as called, so you have at least a good excuse why you do not go on the road for Europe now.