OPINION

The Germans are right

The recent European Union summit showed that the financial crisis is giving the bloc a very hard time. The integration project of the fledgling EU started out and grew during a relatively stable period. Sure, it was occasionally hit by internal contradictions and economic troubles but none of these were insurmountable. This time the challenge does not come from national egos. After all, these have always existed and they are part and parcel of European integration. The EU is a union of nation states. It won’t evolve into some kind of United States of Europe at least not in the foreseeable future. National interests will never fade. What the EU needs is a constructive compromise by these interests. Contradictions must be resolved in a way that advances the project or at least keeps it going. Faced with the specter of bankruptcy, the weaker members are asking for a show of EU solidarity. However, stronger countries are afraid of giving away too much. Some first signs of protectionism are already on the horizon. A display of EU solidarity is crucial for the survival of the weaker economies and the best way to consolidate an EU conscience, especially among new members. It should be noted, however, that many of the Eastern European states have irritated older members by being too rigid or too demanding in negotiations, while behaving like US satellites. In other words, they are guilty of what they accuse France and Germany of. Solidarity does not mean letting countries that do not meet the criteria into the eurozone. It means that the weaker economies are not left to their fate. They must be given aid, but any aid must be tied to conditions. The eurozone’s weaker members must be protected, but under certain conditions. The Germans are right. There is no such thing as unconditional assistance. If you don’t want conditions, you shouldn’t ask for help.