ANGELA Merkel has finally broken the last taboo of domestic politics in Germany by declaring: “Greece should never have been allowed to join the euro.”
The woman who has made it her mission to salvage the currency spoke out ahead of elections in less than four weeks’ time at which she will seek a third term in office. The backdrop is Athens coming again to Europe’s richer nations seeking billions more in bailouts.
In a speech, Ms Merkel heaped blame for Europe’s debt and recession troubles on her centre-left opponents, the SPD, which gave Greek entry into the single currency club the green light when the party was in power under Gerhard Schroeder.
“The crisis emerged over many years, through founding errors in the euro – for example, Greece should not have been admitted into the euro area,” Ms Merkel said to scattered applause at a campaign event on Tuesday night in the northern town of Rendsburg.
Mr Schroeder’s acquiescence to Greece joining weakened the currency bloc’s stability pact, something she labelled “fundamentally wrong”.
Ms Merkel’s tough speech followed a weekend attack on the Social Democrats at a campaign event, at which she said: “We don’t need to be told by the people who admitted Greece into the euro area that today we have problems with Greece.”
But Ms Merkel ignored the role played by her mentor, Helmut Kohl. Earlier this year he admitted he “acted like a dictator” to push Germany into the euro.
He said in an interview conducted in 2002, but only published in April 2013: “I knew that I could never win a referendum in Germany. We would have lost a referendum on the introduction of the euro. That’s quite clear. I would have lost.
“If a Chancellor is trying to push something through, he must be a man of power. And if he’s smart, he knows when the time is ripe. In one case – the euro – I was like a dictator … The euro is a synonym for Europe. Europe, for the first time, has no more war.”
What he did not address in his interview were the untruths he and his ministers told to get the common currency in place across Europe – a decision now seen to have fatal consequences as the continent thrashes around in the sixth year of a financial crisis without an end in sight.
Hundreds of pages of German government documents from 1994 to 1998 and released last year stated clearly that Italy – now floundering – should not have been allowed to join the euro. Later on, the files bring up another country that was poised for catastrophe: Greece.
German media dubbed the information in the files as “Operation Self-Deception”. The German ruling class seemingly knew they were driving the continent into a fiscal cul-de-sac, but went ahead with it anyway.
But keeping Germany from the ravages of the financial crisis which began in 2008 has ensured that Ms Merkel is still the country’s most popular politician, and she is expected to easily win the general election despite the continued euro woes.
While Greece, Spain and other southern European countries remain mired in recession with huge unemployment, Germany’s export-fuelled economy is projected by the International Monetary Fund to grow 0.3 per cent this year and has a jobless rate of only 6.8 per cent.
SPD challenger Peer Steinbrück has warned he would seek to pin down the chancellor’s position during their only televised debate, this coming Sunday.
He has accused the coalition government of Ms Merkel’s conservatives and their junior partners, the pro-business Free Democrats, of having “distributed sleeping pills and trying to hide the fact that stabilising the eurozone will have a cost”.