COMMENT

For the Germans, a Pyrrhic victory

By Nikos Xydakis

Cyprus’s ongoing crisis has confirmed an old principle: Alliances are dynamic in nature. They are constantly defined and redefined depending on the interests of the various players involved.

The Eastern Mediterranean island nation’s recently elected President Nicos Anastasiades and his predecessor, Dimitris Christofias, made the opposite mistakes. The latter overestimated the Russian factor, while the former underestimated the price of unconditional compliance.

Both of these politicians for that matter underestimated their historic responsibility toward the people who voted them into power. At the same time, most people on the continent somehow failed to notice the increasing Germanization of the European Union – and particularly of the eurozone, where Berlin has basically felt free to impose its own policy mix (or, in some cases, its survival rulebook) on the other weaker members of the common currency area.

The above was recently described by Malta’s finance minister, who was sitting between his German and Cypriot counterparts during the crucial Friday meeting. Similar comments were made by the ministers of Spain and Luxembourg.

So long as once-dominant France keeps silent and Italy remains without a government, Germany will be able to impose its will and national interest as an ad hoc European rule. The fundamental European principles of peace and solidarity, of equality before the law and the value of convergence are now being interpreted from within the prism of economic power.

Three years into the eurozone crisis, the crucial power shift on the continent is clear: The Commission and the European Parliament have been substituted by the Eurogroup, the European Central Bank and Berlin – and even the International Monetary Fund. Big decisions are no longer made by elected or accountable bilateral bodies and institutions.

Euro Commissioner Olli Rehn, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman van Rompuy are no more than straw men. They represent the self-reproduction of the Eurocrats in Brussels, but remain a far cry from the historic principles of European integration and democracy – and feel intimidated by the German hegemon.

Keep in mind however that the crushing of this tiny island is not a victory for Germany in the long term. It’s a rupture in the euro area and more cause for euroskepticism and suspicion of Germany.

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