OPINION

German assertiveness

Germany is severing its political ties with Europe. Critics protest that German Chancellor Angela Merkel has put the economic interests of her country above European Union solidarity, endangering the stability of the euro currency. Others say Merkel is driven by political expediency ahead of local elections in May. They seem to forget that the EU is not a fully fledged political union and, as a result, national interests often come before that of the union. Moreover, decision-making in the bloc is slow and subsequent implementation even slower. The safety net requested by Greece, in a bid to contain attacks by speculators, was quickly worked out considering EU standards and Greek urgency was able to speed up EU procedures. However, Merkel would not be the first to distance herself from what is perceived as standard German policy of the past decades.Germany took its first steps toward political independence after World War II, when in January 1979, at the initiative of then French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing, German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt took part in the Guadeloupe Conference alongside US President Jimmy Carter and British Premier James Callaghan. Three years later, Germany and Washington disagreed over the deployment of medium-range nuclear missiles. NATO was split and the crisis was overcome in 1984, when Schmidt was no longer chancellor. A year after the fall of the Berlin Wall, then Chancellor Helmut Kohl unveiled a 10-point reunification plan without consulting his coalition partner, the FDP, or Western allies. He allowed a 1:1 exchange rate between the West and East German marks, causing serious pressure on the German and European economies. More recently, energy cooperation between former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and then Russian President Vladimir Putin put strain on Berlin’s ties with Washington. Merkel’s posturing is not the exception. Germany is the strongest pillar in Europe, with some nationalist outbursts and now, these are working against Greece’s interests.