Germany’s Will to Compromise

BERLIN – “Confront, then compromise” could well become Germany’s mantra for successful European Union negotiations. Germany is willing to bail out member states in exchange for tougher fiscal austerity and a suspension of voting rights, but Chancellor Angela Merkel’s demand for permanent crisis-resolution mechanisms, together with changes to the Lisbon Treaty, and her open warning to speculators who may be jeopardizing eurozone stability, has had wide consequences.

Within Germany, Merkel’s demands have calmed the electorate, which was unhappy with the Greek bail-out. They have also silenced the Social Democrat-led opposition, which has no better alternative to offer the country. Moreover, the Chancellor’s vehemence has reminded the EU as to who really holds the cards within the Union, while at the same time providing a reasonable solution for crisis management.

When the economic crisis opened up the Pandora’s Box of the EU’s fiscal woes, Germany stepped up to the mark and helped to bail out Greece. Far from appearing a paragon of political solidarity, however, the German government’s support for Greece was marked by reluctance and reprimands, which quickly sparked fears of a member state exiting the eurozone.

The Greek debt crisis underlined the important lesson that negotiation is central to the EU’s existence. Germany, moreover, has emerged from the whole episode acutely aware of its role in negotiating solutions to pan-European problems.