OPINION

The political odd couple and European momentum

Papandreou and Merkel: One of the most incongruous political couples in the history of the European Union. Whilst she governs an economically strong country and is known as the ?iron lady,? he governs a highly indebted country, trying to rescue it from national bankruptcy. Merkel and Papandreou are two unequal teammates in the field of European competition: While one is struggling for economical survival, the other is trying to avoid burdening her own country with rescue of the first.

This impasse needs to be solved through closer cooperation between the two countries. Europe is in need of political leaders with a vision for its future, willing to negotiate and compromise with their partners. Thus, this odd couple, Papandreou and Merkel, has a real chance to lead Europe?s political struggle and implement its big vision.

The visit of the Greek prime minister to Berlin last week was aimed at winning Merkel?s support. But considering the local elections in Baden-Wuerttemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate on March 27, it is doubtful that Germany will give the green light to Greek expectations for a loan repayment extension and a bond buyback scheme.

Six months ago, during negotiations at the European table, Germany?s attitude was marked by an intransigent stance, leading to discomfort among the European member states. Now, Germany is contemplating the idea of coordinating economic policy in the eurozone and even wants to contribute more actively to European developments in general. This can finally make the country a lever, bringing Europe closer than ever to consensus, on the basis of its virtues, economic viability and competitiveness.

To ensure the stability of the euro remains the top priority for Germany. There is, however, a visible change in the way the country seeks to achieve its goals. This was especially noticeable during the last months, when the German chancellor made a great pro-European turn in her policy. The ?pact for competitiveness? is one outcome of this turn.

Only better cooperation between the two opposite poles of Europe, Greece and Germany, can contribute to avoiding a ?two-speed Europe.? Greece should accept a ?debt brake? as part of its budget planning, while Germany must recognize that the strongest economies must bear the brunt of the formal ?emergency parachute? mechanism.

The Greek government should reconsider the proposal of Germany and contribute actively to the agreement of the ?competitiveness pact,? which also includes the development of national economies, especially those at the European periphery. Moreover, it is necessary to establish this agreement in line with European democratic principles in order to ensure a ?European Germany? and even a ?European Europe,? as correctly mentioned by the Nobel Prize winner Thomas Mann.

*Jorgo Chatzimarkakis is an MEP for Germany?s Liberal Democrats (FDP) and President of the German-Greek Business Association (DHW).