Germany must financial support Mr. Macron so he can reform France and save the EU.
Are you nuts? Emmanuel Macron just fended off possibly the greatest threat to peaceful co-existence of the peoples of Europe since the Fall of the Wall. Some 24 hours later Berlin is all upset because this very same Mr. Macron has a few ideas that might cost German taxpayers money.
Of course we have to pay for the French – because it’s in our own interest. Mr. Macron won the election, but more than ten million French voted for Marine Le Pen. If he cannot deliver success fast, she will be reaching out to grab the presidency again in five years. And when France leaves the EU and the European postwar order is a shambles, who would we be able to turn to? The Turks? The Russians? Donald Trump?
If Mr. Macron fails, that would cost Germany way more than any Eurobond. Even so, the new president hasn’t once called for such a comprehensive sharing of debts in Europe, even if that’s what you’d think if you follow the debate here in Germany.
What he’s actually calling for is neither revolutionary nor particularly original: a shared budget for the euro zone, the zone’s own finance minister, and a shared deposit insurance. These are the consequences of the fact that a monetary union’s member states no longer have their own currency. That means, for example, that in a crisis situation – and there will always be crises – money cannot just be printed to buoy up the economy. That’s why it isn’t enough when every euro state simply does its own "homework," as Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble likes to put it. Instead, what’s needed is the financing to be balanced out between weaker and stronger countries.
Mr. Schäuble would probably accept that and would most likely add that he would be willing to pay more money, but only when everybody sticks to the rules. A common budget without sharing control of how that’s spent spells disaster, and the French aren’t models of compliance.
Yet – and here’s the historical significance of this election – that could change with Emmanuel Macron. For Mr. Macron is ready to relinquish monitoring rights to the European level and to restructure his own economy. He might even succeed. Despite its huge problems, France is a country with competitive companies, highly skilled workers, and a functioning administration. And with Mr. Macron, it now has a president leading the republic who has won a mandate for the change.
If this president believes fiscal concessions from Germany would help him sell the necessary reforms to his own voters, then, from a German perspective, it would be politically prudent to go along with that. That’s all the more true because – if we’re honest – it was primarily the other euro countries which paid for the crisis, forced as they were to accept stringent budget cuts and rising unemployment. In Germany, on the other hand, wages and pensions largely went up and the state took in more money than it could spend.
So now it’s our turn – and naturally that will be hard to sell politically in Germany. But we have to try at least.
By Mark Schieritz