Eurozone crisis

No-one wants a German budget commissar

The idea of pinning the second Greek bail-out on the acceptance by Athens of supervision by a European budget commissioner, a German proposal unveiled on the eve of the January 30 European Council meeting, is nothing less than a violation of state sovereignty, according to the European press.

Published on 30 January 2012 at 15:02

"A shadow will weigh on the European Council today in Brussels," writes Portuguese daily Público. "The shadow of a German proposal according to which the Greek government would be placed under the direct control of a ‘budget commissioner’ with decision-making powers". This poses a problem, the paper says, because –


… it’s one thing to see sovereignty limited by special circumstances, as was the case recently in Portugal or Greece. It”s another to see political sovereignty treated as a minor problem.

Yet, as noted in French daily Le Monde, if the German proposal, revealed by the Financial Times, should be approved by the Member States at the European Council, then Greece –

… must also commit, in its budget, to ‘use State revenues first and foremost to pay off the debt service,’ that is to reimburse the interest on the borrowed funds. Finally, this renouncement of sovereignty, according to the document, would be ‘fully’ written into Greek national legislation, ‘preferably through an amendment to the Constitution’.

In Athens, the proposal is raising hackles. “Nein, nein, nein”, headlines Greek daily Ta Nea sending a triple refusal to the demands of the German Chancellor regarding the sovereignty of the country; the loss of the thirteenth and fourteenth month of pay; and the minimum wage. The paper calls on –


… the government, political parties and labour unions [to] establish a strong negotiating front to face off with the country’s creditors and auditors. To speak with a single voice, we must all put aside personal ambitions, party goals, rivalries between groups as well as electoral considerations. None of this will be worth anything if the struggle for national salvation is lost in the end.

In another Greek daily, To Ethnos, leader writer Georges Delastik protests against the German proposal which –

… cannot be considered as coming from a friendly country. The document recommends conditions dictated by a conqueror to an enslaved population and must be treated by the Greek people as a hostile attack by a state that wants to destroy Greek sovereignty just like the German Nazi attack of April 1941. […] A German [Nazi officer] will decide to close schools and hospitals; and to no longer pay public employee salaries or pensions for several months. Contemptible, the Germans are preparing the path to lead the Greeks to famine, literally. […] this document unveils the ugly side of the Eurozone and of the EU in the 21st Century.

In any case, says Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, this proposal is "a diversion for domestic use" because no commissioner can resolve the crisis. Drawing on the example of Othon I, the Bavarian prince who was made King of Greece from 1832 to 1862, the paper notes that –


We could debate that if the Greeks lived under Othon they might have an economic development comparable to that of Bavaria. But they would be as little debt-free as Bavaria is today. Because, as long as aid is flowing, even if all that is promised is not delivered, no commissioner coming from Brussels or Berlin will be able to repair the administration in Athens. It’s enough to look at equalisation funding in Germany. The city of Berlin consumes, alone, the same millions as Bavaria without the federal government being able to push Berliners into changing one iota of their ‘sexy’, credit-fuelled lives. And this will continue as long as those who take outnumber those who give. It’s the same thing in the EU. Only the truncheon of market interest rates or the credible threat of an ouster from the euro can force change.

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