During the European economic and financial crisis, German commentators and commentaries managed to present a positive – albeit skewed – view of German economic and fiscal policy as a role-model for the whole of Europe. But a more fundamental and the longer-term consideration of Europe’s future is seldom on the agenda of public discussion and considerations. This comes at a time when we need nothing as urgently as an optimistic, darling and bold – whilst also realistic – vision for the future of the European project. Such a vision is, however, only possible with the necessary (political) will, courage to change and with renewed ways of thinking, new mentalities and institutions. Against this background, the aim of the interdisciplinary project group “European Economic and Fiscal Policy” is to contribute to a new institutional architecture for European economic and monetary union, and, in doing so, to lend new direction to the discourse on Europe after the Euro-zone crisis.
On the 15th of October 2015, the German Foreign Minister, Dr. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, spoke about the state of European politics at an evening reception organised by Das Progressive Zentrum and the Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung. Opening words of welcome were spoken by Dr. Roland Schmidt, Director of the Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung, and by Dominic Schwickert, Director of Das Progressive Zentrum. In his keynote address, Steinmeier outlined that Europe is faced with monumental challenges.
The Euro-zone crisis and the protracted, month-long negotiations about a new Greek bailout have brought to the fore deep cracks in the European integration project. It also bought to light difference between Europe’s progressive parties. Now Europe seems to be faced with a choice: more Europe and closer integration, or a reversion to nation states and national interests? Faced with this choice, the parliamentary group of the SPD invited Social Democrat parliamentarians from across the EU to Berlin for the first inter-parliamentary conference, entitled “Towards a Progressive Europe”. Das Progressive Zentrum organised the conference on behalf of the group.
The relationship between Greece and Germany has often been described as a game of chicken. Two teenagers in a car are heading towards each other. In a head on confrontation, the first to swerve would lose. If neither of them swerves, they both die. The only way to win is to tie yourself to an immovable position. That is why the newly elected Syriza government hammers on about its political mandate, on which it has to deliver.
On March 3, Anke Hassel and Henrik Enderlein – both professors at the Hertie School of Governance and members of our Circle of Friends – together with Hermann E. Ott – Senior Advisor at the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy, and former Green member of the German Bundestag – discussed the possible consequences of low or even no growth to the national economies of the industrialized world. László Andor, Mercator Senior Fellow at the Hertie School and former EU Commissioner, provided the keynote for the panel debate.
Germany has recently been criticised for its current account surplus, urged to spend on investment to reflate Europe’s markets. However, domestic demand has been growing lately and additional investments would only have a marginal impact on export growth in countries where this is needed most. Europe must face the truth: it seems unlikely that Germany will back a ‘large pan-Eurozone fiscal stimulus’.