Joschka Fischer, former Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor of Germany, knows how to attract attention. Deploying pithy headlines such as Europe’s Winners and Losers for his latest article on the European crisis for Project Syndicate does just that (here). With our curiosity sufficiently stimulated let’s have a quick look at the article.
The first sentence sets the tone for much of his argument:
Rarely is a high-flying country brought back down to earth in a single night, but that is precisely what happened to Germany recently.
He refers of course to the night of June 28, 2012 in which 1) the uninspired German soccer team lost its European championship semi-final to a superior Italian side, and 2) the German chancellor Angela Merkel finally conceded some ground in negotiations during the EU summit in Brussels to Mario Monti (Italy), François Hollande (France) and Mariano Rajoy (Spain). Though the outcome of both events were unexpected, only the soccer match produced a winner, because that’s the point of having a competition.
But politics is no competition. There is no room for flamboyant language so common in sports. Divisive media commentary produces headlines such as the one above, but they make it all the more harder to reach workable agreements since no politician acting on behalf of his or her ‘nation’ wants to be seen as losing out on big international occasions. The result is deadlock and eventually disaster.
I do not agree with how Mrs Merkel approached the current crises. Her austerity agenda, forced upon the weakest members of the European Community, does not work. The evidences are all around us. It rather benefits those institutions that are largely responsible for setting off the crisis in the first place, the banks. But I have to admit that she showed a good deal of flexibility during that night in Brussels. Does this mean she lost? Did Germany lose? All technicalities beside (like what funds pay when to whom in what circumstances) there is finally movement on the issue. That makes us all ‘winners’.