1 Dec 2011

The world waits on Germany to answer their call

Henry Kissinger, the gravel voiced veteran Secretary of State once famously said that he would call Europe in a crisis if only he had a phone number and a name. Both now exist. Angela Merkel on 001 49 180 222222. The trouble is that all you can hear is Beethoven on a loop. The number is busy.

The Italians, the Latvians, the Poles, the Greeks, the British and the Spaniards are all holding already because the guy from Luxembourg is refusing to get off the line. And even when they do get through they may find that the answer they were hoping for –to pump some much needed cash into the Eurozone- is hardly forthcoming.

The Americans have now joined the European chorus for German action. The New York Times blasted Berlin in an editorial earlier this week for choosing fiscal purity over saving the Euro. Berlin continues to insist that only the governments in Italy, Spain or France can save themselves by getting their own house in order. In the long term that is surely right. They might also add that Washington should refrain from being beastly to the Krauts when it can’t even get its own rudimentary jobs bill through Congress. But when senior European officials are telling the world that there are only ten days left to solve the crisis, then we are all talking about the short term.

The arguments are well rehearsed. Angela Merkel may well end up yielding to pressure from outside. I suspect that for a variety of reasons, which a German might call “emotional-historical complex,” Berlin is more likely to listen to the pleading from Poland’s Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski. He told an audience in Berlin recently that what he fears much more now are not German tanks but German inaction. For a Pole to say this to a German audience is surely a first!

The Polish economy has been outperforming virtually every other in Europe with growth-rates more typical of Asia. No wonder that Warsaw fears the demise of the Euro. But Sikorski also said ominously that the current crisis reminded him of the break up of Yugoslavia and we all know how that story ended.

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