Jacob Heilbrunn

The Greatness of Angela Merkel

Poor Angela Merkel. She keeps getting bashed as the incarnation of all that is wrong with the German approach to Europe. The New York Times, for example, explains in an editorial that her approach is "piecemeal" and driving the European Union to destruction.

This is nonsense. As Josef Joffe points out in an essay in the Financial Times, the über-Keynesians, as he terms them, forget that Europe has already been pumping massive amounts of money into the southern states, and it accomplished little. To lay all the blame on Frau Merkel's doorstep may be emotionally satisfying, but it will do nothing to solve the current crisis.

As Joffe notes, it is not true that Germany has simly profited from having an export market in Europe. The euro began at less than a dollar versus the greenback but has risen considerably since then. It took economic reforms, painful ones, to transform Germany back into the economic powerhouse of Europe. Those reforms, incidentally, were instituted by a socialist chancellor named Gerhard Schroeder.

Sure, the Greeks and Spainiards would like nothing better than for Germany to pour every last euro it possesses into their economies. But Merkel knows she must answer to German voters. They have no interest in in mortgaging their own pensions for the sake of southern Europe. Or the Germans may conclude that Europe is not too big to fail. A controversial new book currently on display in German bookshops is called Europe Does Not Need the Euro. Maybe Europe does. But Germany, by contrast, does not. The Continent could be about to find out the answer.