End of the road for the euro? Top German minister says Greece should leave the eurozone

When the German interior minister says Greece should exit the eurozone, you know something serious is brewing

German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich
Robin Shepherd, Owner / Publisher
On 26 February 2012 12:41

Not so long ago, at a conference in central Europe, I had a rather unpleasant bust up with a former senior German representative at the European Union. It all kicked off in the wake of Prime Minister David Cameron’s famous “veto“ at the Brussels euro-crisis summit in December, which according to the eurocracy had let everyone else down and left Britain “isolated“.

My line that if we’re “isolated“ that’s only in the sense that we were the only ones to get off the Titanic before it ploughed forth into the north Atlantic may well have put his back up. But his vitriolic response that the crisis was really Britain’s fault (“a bigger threat than Greece“, he said) for failing to show sufficient solidarity was just too much to take.

I asked incredulously:

“The German and other European political classes couldn’t be bothered to have a serious debate about the flaws of the eurozone, a debate that most people in Britain had 15 years ago, and wait for it, it’s Britain’s fault?“

Staggering, but this is the mentality Europe is dealing with.

That said, remarks by German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich in Der Spiegel Magazine over the weekend suggest there is only so long that Europe’s political classes can ignore the blindingly obvious.

Mr. Friedrich denied he was advocating kicking Greece out, he just said the country should be given “incentives for an exit that they cannot turn down”.

His reasoning?

“Outside European monetary union Greece's chances of regenerating itself and become competitive are definitely bigger than if it remained inside the eurozone.”

Who’d have thunk it? You mean a Greek economy lumbered with a Franco-German currency might possibly have some problems growing its way out of recession? You mean, if they had the Drachma again – probably at an effective rate of about 40 percent below what Greece now has with the euro – they might get the kind of massive boost to tourism and other forms of export that they so desperately need?

It’s mind numbingly obvious stuff, and it applies to the eurozone more broadly. But it’s only obvious if you are prepared to think through the implications of forcing widely divergent economies to accept exactly the same interest rate and exactly the same international currency.

Serious discussion of the issue would have exposed the structural flaws inherent in the euro project before it was allowed to be established, which is why the people who pushed it opted not to have that discussion. (Ultimately, building the neo-imperial project for a superstate was more important than the well-being of ordinary Europeans, as tens of millions are now finding out to their literal cost.)

Unless you have lived in continental Europe (as I have done for much of my adult life), you may not quite get the full extent of the point I am making: except in the technocratic sense, there has been practically no serious debate in the mainstream media about Europe whatsoever.

It is beginning to change though. I’ve noticed cracks appearing for a while now, not least in the kind of angry, irrational hysteria I described above: people who are confident of their arguments do not respond in that manner; people who fear they may be wrong frequently do.

It is surely a sign of the times when one of Germany’s most senior politicians decides to break ranks, the more so since it was not so long ago that his Chancellor Angela Merkel (in full-on alarmist mode) raised the prospect of a return to intra-European warfare should the euro unravel.

Eventually, truth and reason were always bound to prevail over Europe. The only big question for the serious people was, and remains, the same: how much damage will be done before we get there?

Robin Shepherd is the owner/publisher of @CommentatorIntl. Follow him on Twitter @RobinShepherd1

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