The German pessimism about Spain and Angela Merkel’s tips

Angela Merkel

German hegemony in Europe means the way ideas and dominant values of a time reflect those of the dominant country and impose or shape certain political discourse. If optimism is a philosophy of life so is economic growth, while pessimism is an exaggerated interpretation of austerity as reflected in the consumption habits of German citizens.

Among German economists, some of them have recently questioned the success of the Spanish economy to balance its deficit. They also deny the role of exports as the cause of this success. The foreign trade balance is due, he says, to the contraction of imports. And they insist: exports still have not exceeded 2007-2008 levels while imports have plummeted.

These are inaccurate statements. Spanish imports fell from a level 100 in 2007-2008 to a level 89 today, a decrease of 11%. Exports, however, have increased by 20% between those same dates, a higher growth rate than the average of countries in the euro zone–including Germany‘s–and a breakthrough that is not merely the reflection of the competitiveness of Spanish companies in foreign markets.

What really matters about this experts’ statements is that they are beyond statistical accuracy. There is this pessimistic attitude behind.

In Brussels, the European Council met in June with the aim of making progress in the fiscal and economic integration of the EU: key decisions were postponed. In an interview with European press members, Angela Merkel said: “A lasting solution to the financial crisis requires, above all, a central system of reliable banking supervision… The creation of a supervisory institution, which would enter into force next year and which requires the ECB’s hiring of hundreds of highly qualified professionals. Finance Ministers just agreed on a European policy for the resolution of banks in crisis… some of all these forms of intervention may require a modification of the treaties”. And her final statement: “No one can ignore the need to be competitive… patience.”

The same proposals and cautions seen at the following European Council. No step forward, however, to unbind the solvency of banks from their sovereign states. The European Fund of 500,000 million euro won’t still be able to directly bail out troubled lending institutions, at least until the end of next year. Then, we will see. The debt mechanism to anchor the weaker countries to the euro is still to be figured out. Crisis in Portugal and the country is back to the volatility of interest rates; crisis in Egypt has started the alarm over oil prices and the strength of the peripheral EU countries dependent on oil imports.

Angela Merkel preaches patience and is holding on to the technical complexity to avoid political responsibility in the construction of a fiscal and economic union. The complacency of the Spanish president, and his European partners, confirms that they are more interested in protecting their interests than in defending the citizens in the process of European integration.

About the Author

Luis Alcaide
Luis Alcaide works as an economist for the Spanish government since 1961. He has been state adviser in the European Union and Bank of Spain director of communications. Alcaide published editorial articles in Spain's leading newspaper El País between 1977 and 1983, and in Diario 16 between 1985 and 1988. He regularly contributes to Economía Exterior and Política Exterior. He's founder member of Grupo Consejeros.

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