Ms. Europe or Frau Germania?

BERLIN – Just what is the matter with Angela Merkel? Only a short while ago, she was celebrated as “Ms. Europe”; now, she increasingly gives the impression of being Frau Germania. Instead of providing resolute leadership in the global financial and economic crisis, the European Union’s largest economy is withdrawing into its shell.

Germany has always been the motor of European integration, in accordance with its political and economic interests. Every post-World War II government has always been willing to harness Germany’s financial strength to further that aim, i.e., to foot the bill for Europe.

The motto was simple: Germany gives and profits in turn. Should Germany spurn the first part of this formula, the European project would suffer serious damage – and so will German national interests. Yet this is the direction in which Chancellor Merkel seems to be heading.

Indeed, in the wake of the Greek crisis, Merkel spoke publicly of the need to be able to exclude eurozone members that do not play by the rules. Does she seriously believe that the euro and the EU would survive such punitive action? Instead of ideas for strengthening the solidarity and stability of the eurozone, absurd proposals are floated in Berlin.