Belmont Club

The Well of Holes

Timothy Garton Ash tries out this syllogism. Europe is failing, therefore Germany must save it. Why? Because Europe is self-evidently worthwhile and worth saving. The premise is very convincingly established, even if the conclusion is not.

Like an overladen container lorry labouring up a steep hill, the European project is close to stalling. If it stalls, even the emergency brake may not stop it running back down the hill, out of control, until it jackknifes off the road. Two of the lads are wrestling over the steering wheel; others lie comatose in the sleeping area at the back of the cab. We need a woman to come and sort them out. And her name is Angela.

And it’s not just the comatose passengers. There are more wheels coming off the wagon. Garton Ash continues:

… it’s not just the eurozone. Every major project of the European Union is faltering. France and Italy are suggesting that the achievement of the Schengen area, with no border controls, should be chipped away – just because a few thousand people from convulsed north Africa have taken refuge on the Italian island of Lampedusa. …

The European-led military intervention in Libya was always likely to be a slow, difficult grind, but it has painfully exposed Europe’s chronic failure to concentrate its military capabilities. Already, some of the European powers are running short of munitions. …

Even in the most hopeful cases – Tunisia and Egypt – we may have only a few months in which to prevent the Arab spring becoming an Arab autumn; or, as the Americans would say, an Arab fall. …

Even enlargement, Europe’s most successful project, is close to stalling. … Retired prime ministers and foreign ministers never tire of attributing this faltering of the European project to the lack of “leadership”.

Bankruptcy, failing borders, a full-scale explosion brewing across the Med, the US sailing off into the distance. Those are a lot of wheels to come off at one time in a continent whose demographics are beginning to resemble that of a retirement home. Where are the leaders of yesteryear who inspired the dream?

The real problem, according to Garton Ash, is more prosaic. It’s not the lack of leadership. It’s the lack of money. There’s none left to paper over the cracks. And since only Germany has any of it, then it alone can save the most precious achievement of the continent’s political class since the war, Europe, by infusing it with a big slug of cash. Nobody else can, because they’re broke. Garton Ash continues his syllogism. Since only Germany can save Europe then Germany will save Europe. “This is where Angela Merkel comes in. … But if we are talking about the European economy and currency, Germany is the indispensable power. Only the combination of Germany and the European Central Bank, working in unison, has a chance of calming the mighty markets.”

If this refrain sounds familiar to Americans it should. After decades of free-riding on America, the Eurocrats have decided it’s Germany’s turn to pick up the tab. In other words, having exhausted the pocketbook of the American taxpayer, the pitch-men will now try their luck with the Germans.

The weakest part of Garton-Ash’s argument is why on earth the German taxpayer should care. The two obvious reasons are the pricelessness of the European project, for whose attainment no sacrifice is too great and the threat that if Germany doesn’t come across the continent will blow up in their faces. It is a carrot and stick. The carrot, it must be said, is distinctly unappetizing. What sort of glorious dream is it that is in chronic need of a bailout? Why the European dream of course. So if the Eurocrats were honest, they would erect a statue to their real inspiration, the legendary J. Wellington Wimpy in central Brussels. There emblazoned on his monumental likeness should be the immortal words, “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for hamburger today.” The dream is a limousine bought on a maxed out credit card, a McMansion rented on a bouncing check.

The stick flourished in Berlin’s face is somewhat more deserving of respect. Like Greece in majescule, the European project can hold itself hostage to ransom. It can always threaten to barricade its streets, stop working and torch its public buildings unless someone pays next month’s bill. Because somebody must or it would violate their human rights. Greece could say to Europe, “we’re your problem now” therefore Europe can say to Germany “that goes double for us”. The power of dependency was never so much in evidence as it is today.


The Famous M3 Greece Gone

I solve my problems and I see the light
We gotta plug and think, we gotta feed it right
There ain’t no danger we can go to far
We start believing now that we can be who we are

Greece is the word
They think our love is just a growing pain
Why don’t they understand, It’s just a crying shame
Their lips are lying only real is real
We start to find right now we got to be what we feel.

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