Angela Merkel’s legacy is Brexit and a broken EU - Politics Forum.org | PoFo

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#15151183
The Telegraph wrote:Angela Merkel is more responsible for Brexit than any other political figure in Europe, on either side of the Channel. She bears the greatest responsibility for the ‘Japanisation’ and austerity bias of monetary union. She exalts the German mercantilist trade surpluses that render the whole euro project ultimately unworkable.

We all feel fond of Mutti as she winds down her 16-year reign and ushers in her chosen successor: Armin Laschet, the "continuity candidate" and folksy operator who narrowly won the Christian Democratic leadership contest over the weekend.

The Chancellor is immensely popular. The low-key style of the vicar’s daughter has caught the German mood. She is one of the few European leaders still trusted over the handling of the pandemic. It is hard to think of any figure in Berlin better able to mask German hegemony and throw a reassuring comfort blanket over Europe.

But given the blizzard of superlatives over recent days - bordering on hagiography - some dissent is in order. Personality must be separated from policies.

Her Christian Democrat alliance (CDU-CSU) suffered its biggest defeat since the Second World War in the elections of 2017. The German political landscape fractured. Votes splintered in all directions. The hard-right Alternative fur Deutschland became the official opposition in the Bundestag.

Merkel held onto power because the two great Volksparteien - Christian Democrats and Social Democrats - clung to each other on the shrinking raft.

Her own personal standing is not transferable to Mr Laschet, the coal miner’s son still living in the coal age. He opened a new coal-fired plant (Datteln-4) last year, asserting with a straight face and Trumpian surrealism that it would be good for climate change. There goes Europe’s net-zero authority.

While Merkel has presided over an era of economic outperformance within Europe, it is not a Wirtschaftwunder by global standards. Germany has had one of the slowest growing economies in the OECD over the last quarter-century, slower even than Japan. Productivity growth has averaged 1.2pc annually since 1995, compared to 1.7pc in the US, or 3.9pc in Korea (OECD data).

Angeline Germany has echoes of the Brezhnev era. The immobilism is remarkable, a point made by both Marcel Fratzscher in Die Deutschland Illusion; and by Die Welt’s Olaf Gersemann in his book The Germany Bubble: the Last Hurrah of a Great Economic Nation.

The country was for a while able to ride the "China wave" as a supplier of capital goods for Asia. But China’s catch-up phase has since turned into import substitution at home, and mid-technology conquest abroad, more or less destroying the German solar industry in the process.

Germany has not made the digital switch in time – unlike Korea – and this is becoming existential as cars metamorphose into computers on wheels. Tesla is worth three times as much as VW, Daimler, and BMW combined. Apple dwarfs the entire market capitalisation of the DAX index.

Deutschland Inc is not worth much any more, a fate it shares with UK Limited. Merkel has presided over this structural decay. It is not her fault but nor has she done anything about it.

The German economy looks good only within the regional beauty contest of Europe. Others are in worse shape. The deformed structure of monetary union has had the effect of leveraging relative supremacy. Germany gained eurozone competitiveness in the early 2000s through an "internal devaluation". It compressed real wages through the Hartz IV reforms.

Once southern Europe had slipped behind within the closed deflationary structure of the euro, the only way to claw back ground was to carry out their own internal devaluations, a near impossible task against the German anchor. The effect of hairshirt policies in so many countries at once was to tip the whole system into a contractionary vortex.

Merkel did not create this structure but she has never questioned it either, or explained to the German people why it has to change. Her government imposed austerity overkill on Club Med through its control over the key bodies in the EU apparatus. The burden of adjustment fell on the debtor states, not the creditors. This cannot work.

She let the eurozone debt crisis (actually a capital flow crisis) fester for three years before contagion to the Italian and Spanish debt markets forced her hand in June 2012. Only then did she agree to let the European Central Bank assume its role as lender of last resort. It took direct intervention by Barack Obama to extract this concession.

Merkel then reneged on a summit deal for full banking union. The sovereign-bank "doom loop" remains in place and is even larger today.

She resisted the necessary move to fiscal union at every stage. When the pandemic hit she agreed to a one-off Recovery Fund that reverts to the status quo ante over time, heading off permanent debt mutualisation. In short, she has spent 16 years refusing to rebuild the euro on workable foundations. Her idea of fiscal union is fiscal surveillance: the Stability Pact, Two Pack, Six Pack, and the Fiscal Compact. She bequeaths a broken system to her successor.

This mismanagement of monetary union altered British perceptions of the EU before the Brexit Referendum. It also led to the migration of several hundred thousand economic refugees from Southern Europe, and displaced flows from Eastern Europe into the UK. This combined into a perfect storm with Merkel’s precipitous decision to go it alone in 2015 and open the floodgates from the Middle East, ignoring David Cameron’s counsel that the Syrian refugee crisis was best handled in the Levant.

By then, of course, the Chancellor had already sown the seeds of British exasperation. It began in earnest when she resuscitated the European Constitution – rebranded the Lisbon Treaty – after it had already been rejected by the French and Dutch people in referenda. Her motive was obvious. It increased the German voting weight in the EU institutions.

This was a legitimate step to reflect Germany’s increased population after East-West reunification. But it also changed the EU’s character. Germany was no longer primus inter pares in an intergovernmental confederacy. It became primus sine pares in a proto-federation. Chalk and cheese.

France strangely allowed this loss of sacred parity to slip through. Nicholas Sarkozy was fobbed off with a few baubles. Tony Blair pretended it was just a cleaning-up exercise. The treaty was rammed through the EU Council by executive fiat. Nobody wanted to face voters again. Only the Irish were given a referendum. When they voted no, they had their feet held to the fire, and were made to vote again.

Merkel’s Lisbon Treaty was a watershed moment. It is one thing to advance the project by the Monnet method of stealth, it is another to do so once major proposals have been explicitly rejected by electorates. It further undermined the EU’s legitimacy among a coterie of British politicians, commentators, and financiers, and these people would later matter.

The treaty gave the European Court of Justice jurisdiction over all areas of EU law for the first time, upgrading it from an economic tribunal into a supreme court. The Charter of Fundamental Rights became legally binding. The ECJ suddenly acquired the means to rule on anything. It has since used that power expansively, as the German constitutional court, ironically, protests with irritation.

The Common Law protocol in the treaty exempting British courts from such encroachment was ignored before the ink was dry. The European Court began to strike down British laws on criminal procedure or data sharing with the US intelligence agencies. Another slice of influential British opinion peeled away.

Chancellor Merkel persisted. She circumvented a British veto of the Fiscal Compact, ramming through the treaty by other means, and visibly isolating the Prime Minister. All Britain had asked for was a safeguard clause for the City.

She installed ultra-integrationist Jean-Claude Juncker as Commission chief against British objections. This violated the Brussels convention that no major state is ever overruled on this key post. She refused a compromise despite warnings from David Cameron that a taste of Junckerism would further erode British consent for the EU, as proved to be the case.

If it is in Germany’s national interest to keep the UK tied deeply into the European system – and few Germans dispute that – one can hardly argue that she made a good fist of it. She meddled enough with the constitutional machinery of Europe to irritate the British, but not enough to sort out the EU’s real problems or to make monetary union fit for purpose.

"Mutti" is an admirable person and a canny, tactical politician but she will leave a set of unstable equilibria, a polite way of saying a trail of wreckage. If Laschet is the continuity candidate, Europe needs help.


Detractors and apologists of all sides be forewarned, this topic will be moderated, if this turns out to be a success we will start applying similar methods to other topics as well.

Address the arguments and not the identity of those making them. Thank you.
#15151303
Whilst we're criticising Merkel I'd like to draw attention to her environmental record.

The Smog Chancellor

Posted on 21st September 2017

Who is the world’s leading environmental vandal? The answer may surprise you.

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 20th September 2017

Which living person has done most to destroy the natural world and the future wellbeing of humanity? Donald Trump will soon be the correct answer, when the full force of his havoc has been felt. But for now I would place another name in the frame. Angela Merkel.

What? Have I lost my mind? Angela Merkel, the “climate chancellor”? The person who, as German environment minister, brokered the first UN climate agreement, through sheer force of will? The Chancellor who persuaded the G7 leaders to promise to phase out fossil fuels by the end of this century? The architect of Germany’s Energiewende – its famous energy transition? Yes, the very same.

Unlike Donald Trump, she has no malicious intent. She did not set out to destroy the agreements she helped to create. But the Earth’s systems do not respond to mission statements or speeches or targets. They respond to hard fact. What counts, and should be judged, as she seeks a fourth term as German Chancellor in the elections on Sunday, is what is done, not what is said. On this metric her performance has been a planetary disaster.

Merkel has a fatal weakness: a weakness for the lobbying power of German industry. Whenever a crucial issue needs to be resolved, she weighs her ethics against political advantage, and chooses the advantage. This is why, in large part, Europe now chokes in a fug of diesel fumes.

The EU decision to replace petrol engines with diesel, though driven by German car manufacturers, pre-dates her premiership. It was a classic European fudge, a means of averting systemic change while creating an impression of action, based on the claim (which now turns out to be false) that diesel engines produce less carbon dioxide than petrol. But once she became Chancellor, Merkel used every conceivable tactic, fair and foul, to preserve this deadly cop-out.

The worst instance was in 2013, when, after five years of negotiations, other European governments had finally agreed a new fuel economy standard for cars: they would produce an average of no more than 95 grammes of CO2 per kilometre by 2020. Merkel moved in to close the whole thing down.

She is alleged to have threatened the then president of the European Council, the Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny, with the cancellation of Ireland’s bailout funds. She told the Netherlands and Hungary that the German car plants in their countries would be closed. She struck a filthy deal with David Cameron, offering to frustrate European banking regulations if he helped her to block the fuel regulations. Through these brutal strategies, she managed to derail the agreement. The €700,000 donation her party then received from the major shareholders in BMW was doubtless a complete surprise.

In 2014, the European Commission wrote to the German government, warning that the air pollution caused by diesel engines was far higher than its manufacturers were claiming. The government ignored the warning. Even now, two years after the Dieselgate scandal broke, Merkel has continued to defend diesel engines, announcing that “we will use all our power to prevent” German cities from banning them and stifling the transition to electric cars. The “mistake” made by the diesel manufacturers, she insists, “doesn’t give us the right to deprive the entire industry of its future.” Instead, her policy deprives thousands of people of their lives.

But this could be the least of the environmental disasters she has engineered. For this lethal concession to German car companies was pre-dated by an even worse one, in 2007. In that case, her blunt refusal – supported by the usual diplomatic bullying – to accept proposed improvements in engine standards forced the European commission to find another means of reducing greenhouse gases. It chose, disastrously, to replace fossil fuel with biofuels, a switch Merkel has vociferously defended.

Merkel and the European Commission ignored repeated warnings that the likely consequences would include malnutrition and massive environmental destruction, as land was converted from forests or food crops to fuel production. The European biofuel rule is now a major driver of one of the world’s greatest environmental disasters: the razing of the Indonesian rainforests and their replacement with oil palm.

Not only has this wiped out vast and magnificent ecosystems, and the orangutans, tigers, rhinos, gibbons and thousands of other species they supported; but it has also, by burning trees and oxidising peat, caused emissions far higher than those produced by fossil fuels. What makes this history especially bitter is that the target she derailed in 2007 was the one that had first been proposed, in 1994, by a German environment minister called – let me think – ah yes, Angela Merkel.

Is this the worst? It is hard to rank such crimes against the biosphere, but perhaps the most embarrassing is Germany’s shocking failure, despite investing hundreds of billions of euros, to decarbonise its electricity system. While greenhouse gas emissions in other European nations have fallen sharply, in Germany they have plateaued.

The reason is, once more, Merkel’s surrender to industrial lobbyists. Her office has repeatedly blocked the environment ministry’s efforts to set a deadline for an end to coal power. Coal, especially lignite, which vies with Canadian tar sands for the title of the world’s dirtiest fuel, still supplies 40% of Germany’s electricity. Because Merkel refuses to restrict its use, the peculiar impact of Germany’s Energiewende programme has been to cut the price of electricity, stimulating a switch from natural gas to lignite, which is cheaper. (In Germany they call this the Energiewende paradox). But Merkel doesn’t seem to care. She has announced that “coal will remain a pillar of German energy supply for a prolonged time span”.

Shouldn’t the European emissions trading system have sorted this out, pricing coal power out of the market? Yes, it should have. But it was sabotaged in 2006 by a German politician, who insisted that so many permits be issued to industry that the price fell through the floor. I think you can probably guess who.

All these are real impacts, while the paper agreements she helped to broker have foundered and dissipated, as a result of special favours and dirty deals of the kind I have listed in this article. Yet still she attracts an aura of sanctity. This is quite an achievement, for the world’s leading environmental vandal.
https://www.monbiot.com/2017/09/21/the-smog-chancellor/
#15151325
noemon wrote:Detractors and apologists of all sides be forewarned, this topic will be moderated, if this turns out to be a success we will start applying similar methods to other topics as well.

Address the arguments and not the identity of those making them. Thank you.
#15153333
@ingliz @noemon

You both have hardened positions on the EU usually but in this instance Ingliz is correct that blaming the Germans is weird. You might not like Merkels policies but claiming that she forced things on others or didn't do something is unrealistic. Countries took immigrants because they wanted to take immigrants even if some part of societies didn't like it. Fiscal union was unlikely or almost unrealistic as it was back in the day, even probably now because all the 27th countries have veto powers. Ingliz also has a point that the Tories have an inherent need and will to blame Brexit on the Germans that is after they decide if Brexit is good or bad in the first place as it stands right now.
#15153335
JohnRawls wrote: You might not like Merkels policies but claiming that she forced things on others or didn't do something is unrealistic. Countries took immigrants because they wanted to take immigrants even if some part of societies didn't like it. Fiscal union was unlikely or almost unrealistic as it was back in the day, even probably now because all the 27th countries have veto powers. Ingliz also has a point that the Tories have an inherent need and will to blame Brexit on the Germans that is after they decide if Brexit is good or bad in the first place as it stands right now.


It is not weird to criticise policies effected by political leaders while listing those policies, what is weird is trying to evade doing that by insults, ad-homs and arrogant posturing.

EU countries were against Merkel doing her migration PR. EU law was against it too. She proclaimed "anyone who can make it to Germany, we 'll take you, borders and laws be damned". She created those caravans of people that led to both Brexit and Trump. Merkel took this upon herself and she only did it days after she had ordered the illegal closure of Greek banks.

Politico: How Merkel broke the EU

The Times wrote:The German chancellor has long been the darling of the pro-European media. In November 2015 The Economist called her “the indispensable European”. A month later the Financial Times named her its “person of the year”. Time magazine proclaimed her “chancellor of the free world”. I could go on.

These were extraordinary misjudgments. For the plaudits were raining down on a woman who had, just months before, made the single biggest error in the history of the postwar German republic.

On German television in July 2015, Merkel had reduced a young Palestinian refugee to tears by explaining that her family might have to face deportation. “There are thousands and thousands of people in Palestinian refugee camps,” the chancellor explained. “If we now say, ‘You can all come’ . . . we just cannot manage that.” The waterworks worked. Six weeks later, Merkel opened the gates of Germany and declared: “We can manage that.”


June-July 2015 was the month Merkel closed down the Greek banks and then went on to create this refugee drama(that she also backtracked on when it was politically convenient) series to remove the images of the closed banks from the media.

EU countries were not crying in the room with Obama, Merkel was.

Merkel was literally crying when she was asked by all of Europe and the US to agree 3 years too late that "the ECB must do what it takes". Crying with tears to refuse to do the very basic thing a Central Bank is supposed to do.

As the author of the article correctly pointed out:

But given the blizzard of superlatives over recent days - bordering on hagiography - some dissent is in order. Personality must be separated from policies.


The simple fact of the matter is that Merkel has been treating the EU as her own personal fiefdom, she exacerbated even David Cameron, she destroyed all EU centrist politicians that had the audacity to address her and all the centrists were then replaced by extremists. She did all that wittingly and knowingly, she spat on the legacy of those who did the exact opposite thing to Germany because they knew that pushing for impossible things will only get the extremists in charge. Her antics directly led to Trump and Brexit and both were exacerbated by the caravan images that noone could defend. She put the extremists in charge everywhere because she refused to discuss anything at any point and we are talking about minor things that make sense, like the ECB being a lender of last resort, the UK handing out income benefits as it sees fit, Europe imposing sanctions on those(Russia, Turkey) who explicitly attack Europe, having a common immigration policy that makes sense. These are not tall or hard asks. She turned them into political dramas and at every step of the way she fought with religious tenacity against the logical, the obvious and most importantly, the inevitable.

She eventually folded in everything while leaving behind a trail of wreckage and the question needs to be asked, why did she do all that? What was the point of it anyway?

Now the ultra-far right is the official opposition in Germany. The UK is not part of the EU anymore. German companies are under US sanctions by Joe Biden. She has signed a Chinese trade deal nobody wants in Europe and which has been criticised by the European Parliament and her primary concern is whether Turkey will take delivery of German stealth submarines so Erdogan can threaten EU countries with even greater tenacity; once again in direct opposition to the European parliament. :roll:

Merkel has presided over all this and now we are all supposed to either praise her to high heavens or simply never mention anything that undermines her.

Germany is not even talked about enough on any media. And this general idea about Germany being the "poor innocent victim of circumstance" is approaching hagiography level of worship indeed.

Germany regrets US sanctions-18/01/2021

-------------------------------

JohnRawls wrote:@ingliz @noemon

You both have hardened positions on the EU usually but in this instance Ingliz is correct that blaming the Germans is weird.


Both you and ingliz refuse to address the arguments of the article and are both engaging in ad-hom strawmen. Calling me "hardened on the EU", while aping ingliz's insults to get out of addressing these matters is a new low for you John.

Next, you will be calling me a Brexiteer because I do not call Merkel, "Mutti".

Pro-EU articles by noemon:

viewtopic.php?f=28&t=179740&p=15149274

viewtopic.php?f=28&t=179749&p=15148619

viewtopic.php?f=28&t=179739&p=15147774

I can show you at least 50 pro-EU threads and another 50 criticising the British Brexiteers that I have made in this forum, can you show me 1 single criticism against Merkel that you or ingliz have ever made in this forum?

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