In just a few days EU leaders meet in Hungary for the March 2011 EU summit to discuss a multitude of pressing issues, amongst which concern the Libyan unrest and the ongoing Eurozone recession. Forecasted for discussion by Germany’s deputy finance minister Joerg Assmunsen, will be financial lending programs like the European Financial Stability Facility, which currently require a review on interest rates to assist countries to return to capital markets. In the wake of the disaster-stricken Japanese market, it goes without saying that European currency would do well to make gain of the volatility of the Yen. Inevitably, Head of the European Central Bank Jean-Claude Trichet will be one of the key influential figures factoring further economic movement for Europe’s 2011 financial agenda. This is a crucial time for Europe and it would certainly seem that Germany, historically Europe’s financial control centre, holds the keys to the entire continent’s future. And if one person could tilt the decision one way or another, it is Angela Merkel.
Over decades of economic and political change in Europe, Germany has played a centrifugal role in keeping Europe together in spite of it’s differences. The overwhelming fear of a cannibalistic single Euro currency underlies so much of recent European history and for those who have pressed against it, Germany has, until now, actively ensured that economic independence remained an effective counterweight to the introduction of the Euro. The trouble now comes as only 17 of the original 27 leaders will be meeting for the summit, bringing (once again) accuracy of representation into question. One of the most controversial topics the 17 will be discussing is the proposal of a streamlined tax rate, an idea supported by both Sarkozy and Merkel. If these talks are found to be the root cause and foundation of a future unified economic governing body, it could spell trouble for the very countries Germany sought to protect over the Maastricht Treaty.
Germany currently has several cards in it’s hand. As Europe’s cultural, political and economical thermometer, the world looks upon Germany as the forecaster for both unanimous and dissenting shifts in European momentum. It currently stands as the central spokesperson for the failure of 21st century ‘multiculturalism’, a country famous for it’s pragmatic approach. It refuses to bail out weaker countries afflicted by the recession, such as Greece and Portugal. However, on closer inspection it would appear that Germany is also holding a hidden card. One has to question why Merkel has not taken a firmer stand against a summit that does not include representation for all 27 EU countries. Her position of advocacy appears to go against everything Germany has sought to achieve up until now. Britain, whose royal history with Germany has cousined the two countries for centuries, should carefully start to wonder about the actions of it’s bedfellows. Of all countries disadvantaged by a unified economic governing body, Britain stands in the most awkward place, having the most to lose and the most conflicted position to remedy. As the world waits to hear the final outcome of the summit, countries like Britain and Denmark would be well advised to come up with something more substantial than to plan more future vetoes. Irrespective of the opinion of Germany’s voters, Merkel may well wake up too late, something Denmark nor Britain cannot afford to wait around to find out.