The day we’ll find out what Germany wants

The meeting of the European Central Bank of August 2 has been declared crucial for Spain and Italy, who are waiting for help. This will be the moment we find out who in Germany — be it the Chancellor or the President of the Bundesbank — is to decide on its position on the crisis.

What will happen now, in this stage of existential doubt over the euro? For a few days it seemed that Angela Merkel, Chancellor, and her finance minister, Wolfgang Schauble, accepted the proposition of the southern countries like Spain and Italy, supported by France, traditional partner of Berlin but afraid of being backed into a corner by Germany: that the European Central Bank (ECB), together with the European bail-out funds, would come to the rescue of their doomed sovereign debt.

Opinion these days has tended to emphasise that Germany has shifted its position, even though its two most visible leaders in this matter have not made a single statement backing that purchase of debt or any other additional measure. However, from Germany there has clearly emerged the outright rejection by the economic establishment, led by the Bundesbank, Germany’s central bank. Influential German economists, politicians and industrialists have rallied round this flagship institution. The arguments of the debate are known, and they are not worth repeating here.

A historic day

It is obvious that Merkel cannot go back to the Bundestag to request more resources for another bailout, which was just around the corner for Spain and Italy, as the markets were anticipating too – right up until Mario Draghi, the head of the ECB, delivered his spell-binding utterance last week.

Without the political space to orchestrate a Greek-style bailout and under unyielding pressure from the markets, the most comfortable solution for Merkel was to dump the dossier into the hands of the ECB, which in national terms means the Bundesbank. The latter, observing the manoeuvre – that is, it would be the bank that would run the risk of absorbing the losses if the operation turns out badly – has stonewalled.

This would be the logic of a clash between Merkel and the bank, and not the logic of a division of roles. If this scenario is true, the ECB council meeting on Thursday will see the emergence of an alliance between central bankers from southern Europe and the majority of the eurozone governments, including Germany, against the Bundesbank and some allied central banks. A historic day.

Full article: The day we’ll find out what Germany wants (Presseurop)

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