The newspaper headline said: “German Economy to Become a Midget.” Sure, and Elvis is alive and well in Berchtesgaden, learning to yodel and secretly preparing an album of Bavarian lullabies.
But the accompanying article in Die Welt was not without substance. It reported on a survey by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development which projects German growth falling to an average of 1.1 percent over the period from 2011 to 2060 [pdf]. That’s at the bottom of a sample pile of the world’s critical industrial and emerging economies, about half the rate of the United States’ or Britain’s expansion, behind France, Italy and even Greece, and left in the dust by India, China, Indonesia and Mexico.… Seguir leyendo »
As recession bit hard early in 2009, Angela Merkel proclaimed Germany’s “social market economy” as provider of a new set of benchmarks for capitalism. Sounding very sure of herself and her country’s healing wisdom, the chancellor exclaimed, “These guiding principles must be followed worldwide.”
Germany’s economy bounced upward after a deep descent, and the rest of Europe, without a rival game-plan and in thrall to the power of German finances, accepted Berlin’s liturgy of austerity cum low-growth. Now, those two components are colliding.
Austerity is strangling a European recovery that never really took place. Achieving the E.U.’s debt and deficit reduction targets can look like a torturous long-shot.… Seguir leyendo »
Europe’s Olympian vision of its future — great power plus universal indispensability as a beacon of reason — has dimmed to a flicker. Without willingness to accept a dare or two, the situation is unlikely to brighten soon.
The European Union’s debt and deficit grief, compounded by a crisis of political will, is much more than a bad moment that puts progress temporarily on hold.
The community’s faster-higher- stronger thread of grand ambitions has frayed. And the vision meant to give it direction, an independent political role — and to project Europe to the world as something wiser and more responsible than other great powers — has faded.… Seguir leyendo »
In the run-up to the French presidential election, the Iranian newspaper Tehran Emrooz wrote that “emphasis must be given to the advantages of a victory by François Hollande.”
Widely reported in the French press and blog world, the comment came from a publication described as run by the mayor of Tehran, who is reportedly close to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Some French bloggers treated it as Loony Tunes stuff from Mullahland. But the editorial had a matter-of-fact, non-hysterical tone.
“A victory will lead to a softening of Paris’ policies toward Iran,” it said. “France under Sarkozy was the strong voice in the European Union against Iran.… Seguir leyendo »
The election in France on Sunday won’t decide its next president but will more likely offer a miserable precedent: a success for a “Rejection Front” that combines the bleak compatibility of the extreme left and right.
Notionally at least, with the Left Front and National Fronts scores added together, the beyond-the-mainstream candidates’ total share of the vote could beat the individual first-round scores of either President Nicolas Sarkozy or the Socialist, François Hollande.
That doesn’t change the near certainty that Marine Le Pen at the far right and Jean-Luc Mélenchon on the left’s distant shore get eliminated on April 22 while Hollande and Sarkozy advance to the final round two weeks later.… Seguir leyendo »
Bad news: the Obama administration and the West hold a lousy hand as they go into talks with Iran.
In a world of dreams and miracles, the conversations, starting Saturday, would end with the mullahs renouncing their drive toward nuclear weapons, and the disappearance of a thunderhead of foreboding and grief.
Reality says otherwise, three ways.
It demonstrates that the Iranians are emboldened by the West’s backing off in Syria. It acknowledges that some of the allies have serious concerns about Barack Obama’s willingness to make concessions and stretch out the talks, playing for time, Iranian-style, until after the U.S. presidential election.… Seguir leyendo »
Could you become president of the Federal Republic of Germany if you told the Germans that they have a “repulsive” inclination to hysteria and overblown fears?
Or that they have a shallower, less instinctive relationship to freedom than Poles or Americans? Or that they live in a culture of dissatisfaction, with many of them behaving as if there were a secret German constitution whose first article enunciates the unassailable protection of their living standards?
Joachim Gauck has said just that over the last few years, and didn’t really let up Friday at his swearing-in as Germany’s effective moral arbiter: He described the strongest country in Europe as a place where “fear sometimes so diminishes our courage and self-confidence that we could completely lose both — even to the point that we take cowardice for a virtue and regard running away as a legitimate political position.”
On the scale of genuine political novelty, Mr.… Seguir leyendo »
The most resounding possible result from France’s presidential election is clear: a Socialist victory that bars the way to an austerity-only economic regimen for Europe by making growth a priority equal to its planned hold-down on excess debt and deficits.
With the euro zone economy forecast to enter into recession soon, Europe’s existential question is how it can focus alone on ratifying a treaty this year (meant to re-establish its probity for the markets and its nervous partners) that is basically limited to more consolidation of its finances.
François Hollande, with a double-digit lead over President Nicolas Sarkozy in polling for the May 6 vote, has taken the issue of where’s-the-growth and run with it.… Seguir leyendo »
Basic question awaiting a clear answer: As Germany tries out its would-be status as Europe’s international heavyweight, what does Angela Merkel have to say about Vladimir Putin’s certain victory in what is called a presidential election on March 4?
A response from Germany, Russia’s eager “strategic partner” and biggest Western economic provider, is required because it’s blindingly clear, after Russia’s veto (with China in tow) of a U.N. Security Council aimed at stopping the massacres in Syria, that Mr. Putin is running his campaign on a platform of Cold War-style defiance of the West.
Its broad consequences are worrisome. Yet Mr.… Seguir leyendo »
What kind of country would France be if it abandoned its 35-hour work week (it actually kills jobs), set up an affirmative action program for its Muslim immigrants (featuring a zero-tolerance framework for their assimilation), and scaled back its ambitions for Europe as a global political force to more attainable goals?
Answer: An imaginary one. There are no signs of it happening.
Roughly 100 days before voting in an elimination round April 22, and then in a final ballot on May 6, the French presidential election campaign so far involves back and forth on possible variations in French comfort — tinkering with, adjusting and applying new coats of paint to familiar and nonthreatening aspects of national life.… Seguir leyendo »