Judging by the commentary, there has been a colossal misunderstanding around the world of what has just has happened in Germany. The significance of yesterday’s vote by the Bundestag to make the EU’s €440bn rescue fund (EFSF) more flexible is not that the outcome was a “Yes”.
This assent was a foregone conclusion, given the backing of the opposition Social Democrats and Greens. In any case, the vote merely ratifies the EU deal reached more than two months ago – itself too little, too late, rendered largely worthless by very fast-moving events.
The significance is entirely the opposite. The furious debate over the erosion of German fiscal sovereignty and democracy – as well as the escalating costs of the EU rescue machinery – has made it absolutely clear that the Bundestag will not prop up the ruins of monetary union for much longer.
Clearly, Evans-Pritchard had in mind commentary like this (Paul Marks yesterday):
It is the end – not just the end of any prospect that people will really face up to their problems (rather than scream for endless bailouts), but also the end for any pretence that modern government is in any real sense “democratic”. It is not a sudden emotional whim of the people that has been ignored – it is the settled opinion (conviction) of the people, which has been held (in spite of intense propaganda against it) for a long period of time, that has been spat upon.
Evans-Pritchard, however, says this:
Something profound has changed. Germans have begun to sense that the preservation of their own democracy and rule of law is in conflict with demands from Europe. They must choose one or the other.
Yet Europe and the world are so used to German self-abnegation for the EU Project – so used to the teleological destiny of ever-closer Union – that they cannot seem to grasp the fact. It reminds me of 1989 and the establishment failure to understand the Soviet game was up.
So, have things changed, or have they not?
I agree about the USSR parallels in all this. But Evans-Pritchard’s reportage also reminds me rather of that vote of confidence that they had in the House of Commons, which Neville Chamberlain “won” in 1940, but actually lost.
I remember once speculating, here, there or somewhere, that one of the many things that could reasonably be said to have caused Word War 2 was the failure of any sort of German Parliament to meet – circa 1939, and say, in the manner of a British Parliament: No! No more of this! That time, the idea was for Germany to conquer Europe (and much else besides) with armies. Now the plan is and has long been for Germany to buy Europe, and give it to … EUrope. But the price is again proving ruinous and the object being purchased is a crock.
This time, the means are surely still in place, as they were not in 1939, for Germany to say: No! But, did they? And if not, will they? Over to you, Paul Marks.
LATER: Detlev Schlichter agrees with Paul, using the word Götterdämmerung. Germany, he says, is finished.
He also says this:
And one final word to my English friends. No gloating please about the clever decision to stay out of the euro-mess. You have the same thing coming your way without the euro. The coalition’s consolidation course is apparently so ruthless that every month the state has to borrow MORE, not less. Even official inflation is already 5% but pressure is growing on the Bank of England to print more money. See the comical Vince Cable yesterday, or Martin Wolf, the man with the bazooka, in the FT today. Since 1971 the paper money system has been global. Its endgame will be global, too.