Merkel’s unintended creation, could Tsipras’ Win upset balance of power in Europe?

Published on Spiegel Online International, by Nikolaus Blome, Manfred Ertel, Julia Amalia Heyer, Horand Knaup, Walter Mayr, Peter Müller, René Pfister, Christian Reiermann, Mathieu von Rohr and Helene Zuber, Jan 30, 2015 (Photo Gallery).

Greek election victor Alexis Tsipras wants an entirely different Europe from the one envisioned by Angela Merkel. His success is likely to stoke anger over Germany’s EU dominance. Leaders in France and Italy are also hoping for an end to austerity.  

Alexis Tsipras couldn’t have picked a more symbolic place to show his voters that he is a prime minister like no other Greece has seen before – and that he is truly serious about standing up to the Germans … //

… A Career Spawned By the Euro Crisis: … //
… Opposite Poles: … //
… We Are Not Planning a Clash: … //

… A Manifestation of Resistance to Merkel:

  • In short, Tsipras is the most extreme manifestation of the growing resistance in large parts of Europe to the German chancellor’s austerity drive. He belongs to a movement that now extends from Southern Europe all the way to American universities. These opponents are united in the belief that Europe is on the wrong course. Belt-tightening during a recession does not lead to growth, they argue, but rather to endless stagnation. The longer Europe’s economic slump continues, the more people join the burgeoning ranks of those who oppose the current approach. Indeed, it could be that Tsipras is more than just an unfortunate isolated episode, but rather a politician at the vanguard of a new generation of European populists who oppose mainstream politics — and could use this approach to win further elections.
  • The Greek prime minister’s success is also the story of the Europe’s largely inept response to the populist forces in Greece. By the spring of 2012, it was clear that Tsipras would play a key role in his country’s political future, as confirmed by all of the opinion polls. But when representatives of the troika — comprising the EU, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Central Bank — were asked during behind-the-scenes discussions whether they would also meet with Tsipras and include him in the process, they dismissed the idea out of hand.
  • IMF head Christine Lagarde even entered the fray as an election campaigner of sorts and openly expressed her confidence in the two big parties. Lagarde said that only the center-right ND or its socialist counterpart Pasok could guarantee that the country remained in the euro zone. But the more the Europeans attempted to brand Tsipras as an outcast, the greater his popularity grew in Greece.

Refusing to Look Reality in the Face: … //

… A Troubling Coalition Partner: … //
… Time Is Short: … //
… United Front: … //
… Exit By Accident?: … //
… A Game of Chicken: … //
… A Conflict Between Two Mentalities: … //
… The Hour of the Anti-Establishment: … //

… Fundamental Conflicts Unresolved:

  • In that vein, Tsipras’ victory sheds light on some of the euro zone’s fundamental problems. Since the outbreak of the crisis, EU leaders have agreed at countless summits to one new construct or bailout package after another. These policies were agreed to in painfully small steps, but they still held the euro together despite all claims of its imminent death.
  • But the conflict between Northern Europeans and Southern Europeans hasn’t been resolved. The problem is that the euro is still based on two myths: The Germans were promised they were getting an even mightier version of the stalwart deutsche mark; many Southern Europeans believed they were getting a one-way ticket to prosperity.
  • For the euro to succeed, both sides need to take a step back. Germany must accept that membership in the currency union also comes with the responsibility for the economic situation in the entire euro zone. And France, Italy and Greece must recognize that sustainable growth is only achievable through reforms and not with constant new borrowing.

There aren’t many possibilities when it comes to the euro’s future:

  • The first possibility is that the Germans succeed against all resistance in preserving a euro that is a faithful copy of the deutsche mark. The truth is that it’s already too late for that. Since 2010, the ECB has had little resemblance more to the Bundesbank and, after this month’s decision to purchase trillions in government bonds, it no longer bears any.
  • The second possibility would be a nightmare for the Germans. The euro would become a weak currency that continues to devalue and whose member states shirk their responsibility to reform and instead finance their economic growth with debts for which, as a last resort, Germany would serve as a guarantor. No German government would go along with that — nor would the Federal Constitutional Court, and especially not voters. It would likely spell the end of the euro.
  • The third possibility is that of a compromise. The result could be a euro zone in which, in normal times, countries aren’t free to borrow as they please, but in which debt rules wouldn’t be applied as strictly as Germany would like to see during times of recession. But it would be one in which all the member states pressed ahead with reforms in order to be competitive. Then the euro would be neither German, French nor even Greek. It would be something new — a compromise that all could identify with.

The question now is whether Tsipras even wants to belong to it or whether, with his shrill demands, he has already pushed Greece out of the club.

Last Thursday, he met in Athens with Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament. Behind closed doors, Schulz gained the impression that Tsipras is slowly starting to comprehend how perilously close Greece has come to a euro-zone exit. The new Greek leader made no mention of debt reduction. But Shulz also found himself confronted by a European leader who views himself as being at the helm of a broader movement against Merkel’s austerity policies. “It will spread across the entire Continent,” Tsipras said.
(full long text).


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