Translated by Ciaran Cronin (with acknowledgments to Eric Rosencrantz at presseurop.eu).
These are fateful times. The West and Russia celebrated the anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany on May 8 and 9, respectively. Here in Germany these are also officially known as "days of liberation." This year the armed forces of the Allied coalition against Germany (also including a Polish unit) marched together in the victory parade. Angela Merkel stood directly beside Vladimir Putin on Red Square. Her presence reaffirmed the spirit of a "new" Germany: the postwar generations have not forgotten that they were also liberated by the Russian Army—and that the Red Army in the process suffered the heaviest casualties.
The chancellor had flown in from Brussels, where, in an entirely different capacity, she had witnessed a defeat of a completely different kind. The picture of that press conference, in which the EU heads of government announced their decision to establish a joint rescue fund for the ailing euro, betrays the fretfulness not of the "new" but of present-day Germany. The grating photo captures the stony faces of Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy—worn-out heads of government who had nothing left to say to each other. Is it destined to become the iconographic document of the demise of a vision that shaped postwar European history for more than half a century?
In Moscow, Merkel stood in the shadow of the tradition of the old Federal Republic. But in Brussels on May 8, she had behind her the weeks of struggle of a hard-nosed lobbyist for the national interests of the economic powerhouse of the European Union. Appealing to the model of German fiscal discipline, she had blocked a timely joint intervention by the EU to shore up Greece’s creditworthiness against speculation aimed at triggering a state bankruptcy. Ineffectual declarations of intent had frustrated concerted preventive action—on the mistaken assumption that Greece was an isolated case.
Not until the most recent slump in the stock market did the chancellor relent meekly, her resistance broken down by the collective psychological massage administered by the presidents of the United States, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank. Out of fear of the weapons of mass destruction wielded by the tabloid press, she seemed to have lost sight of the destructive force of the weapons of mass destruction wielded by the financial markets. She would hear nothing of a eurozone, about which the president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, would declare in the days that followed: if you don’t want a unified economic policy, you’ll also have to forget about the monetary union.
The momentousness of the Brussels decision of May 8 is now dawning on all concerned. The Anglicizing metaphors prevalent in Germany, in which we are ceaselessly deploying "rescue parachutes" and cobbling together "rescue packages," should not conceal the fact that the hastily agreed-upon emergency measures to save the euro will have different consequences from any previous bailout. Because the Commission is now taking out loans on the market for the European Union as a whole, this "crisis mechanism" is a "Community Instrument" that changes the basis on which the European Union operates.