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June 28, 2017

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Merkel seeks long-term answer as Europe burns

BERLIN -- As the eurozone turmoil mounts, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is trying to regain the upper hand with calls for long-term political integration but she continues to resist emergency action.

"We need more Europe ... a budget union ... and we need a political union first and foremost," Merkel told German public television Thursday. "We must, step by step, cede responsibilities to Europe."

  Her proposals, however, fall far short of the kind of bold measures to douse the raging fires that were demanded this week by U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Speaking later Thursday with students in Berlin, alongside Cameron and Norway's Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, Merkel reiterated that there was no such thing as a magic solution to the euro crisis.

"Calling for this one big bold stroke and then the euro crisis will be gone. This won't work," she insisted.

"These problems have piled up over many years and now it will take some while to render this system fit for the future. It's obviously in human nature to wish for this bold stroke but I don't think it will work."

A European diplomat in Berlin said that Merkel's latest comments on a political union were aimed at hitting back at the impression she had been sitting on her hands as the debt crisis has deepened, threatening to snag Spain after Greece, Ireland and Portugal all needed to be bailed out.

"She has her sights set as far away as possible because a political union would be for 10 years from now," the diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.

"At the same time, she avoids looking like 'Madame Non,'" as she was branded by European critics early on in the crisis.

The issue is likely to come to a head at the next EU summit at the end of June, when leaders will be under pressure to come up with an answer to the latest turbulence threatening to engulf stricken member states.

The diplomat also criticized a new economic growth initiative unveiled by Merkel's government this week, which blends the German recipe of fiscal discipline with structural reforms to the Labour market to buck the crisis.

He noted the eight pages of proposals ruled out eurobonds, or the pooling of debt among euro countries to drive down borrowing rates for the most vulnerable, for years to come.

France, Spain, Italy and the European Commission have notably called for such a crisis-fighting mechanism.

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