German Chancellor Angela Merkel has declared her love for Europe, but warned that more “homework” is needed to fix the eurozone.
“Over the past two-to-three years a great deal was achieved in Europe, but we are still not at the end of the road, we still have a stretch to go. The road is the right one, even if for many it’s a great challenge,” Merkel told foreign journalists in Berlin on Monday (17 December).
She added that conceptual errors in the eurozone still have to be fixed, noting that back in 1989 the then European Commission president Jacques Delors asked for more economic co-ordination and supervision of the rules underpinning monetary union.
Here, too, Europe is slowly moving ahead, Merkel said.
After approving stricter budgetary discipline in the so-called fiscal compact – a German demand to agree to the eurozone bailout fund (the ESM) – EU leaders recently agreed to set up a new tool to improve economic co-ordination: contracts between governments and the EU commission on reforms for improving competitiveness which are to be rewarded with funds from a “pot for euro countries.”
Banking supervision – to be completed with direct access for banks to the eurozone bailout fund – is also in the making and due to be “fully functional by March 2014.”
Asked if Europe is more of a pragmatic issue to her than a matter of the heart as it was for historic figures like Konrad Adenauer or Helmut Kohl, Merkel – a scientist and the first woman to run modern Germany – said: “People have different personalities, but caring and love for Europe are not something I am lacking.”
“I am a complete personality, my heart is constantly needed for my reason to think things out. Heart and mind, everything belongs together. Everyone has their own image about how us politicians deal with the tasks still ahead of us in Europe, but this is the one single topic that has preoccupied me the most since [German] reunification,” she noted.
The same goes for Greece, she said.
She noted that ever since February 2010 when Greece became the first eurozone member to ask for a bailout, up until its most recent EU payment was agreed last week: “I can say I have never thought about Greece so much in my entire life. And this is not possible without a certain inner involvement.”
“Europe is so connected that Greece, Spain, Portugal and Germany cannot be held separately, we are all in the same boat. My entire personality is devoted to this, because I want Europe to be successful, especially when it comes to globalisation,” she added.
Merkel pointed to realities that she said many people forget: that Europe represents seven percent of the world population, 25 percent of world GDP and about 40-50 percent of the total social expenditure in the world.
“If in 1980 we were the ones deciding in the world, it’s not going to be automatically the same in 2030, we will have to work for it,” she said.
“If one day we’ll have so much debt that nobody will trust us to ever pay it back, then we’ll be in a very difficult situation. And I don’t want us to become dependent on other parts of the world, but to determine our own future,” she added.
She urged governments to keep on cutting spending to “make our social systems more compatible in the EU.”
Youth unemployment, soaring in countries like Spain and Greece, can also not be tackled “through programmes funded by the state,” Merkel argued.
“I want Europe’s youth to be in a better position than now, I am convinced we can do it, but only if we do our homework,” she said.