What has changed more than anything else has been German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s willingness to put her country’s financial resources — and pride — on the line to help save the euro currency union.
The backlash from some quarters — including inside her own party — has been fierce, yet for Merkel there appears to be no turning back. At stake is the concept of European unity that has been at the heart of German foreign policy since the end of World War II.
“There has been a very clear criticism of Merkel’s government that she always addressed European policies from the national perspective, but in my opinion she’s not doing that, at least not in the last few months,” said Julia Langbein, a political scientist at Berlin’s Free University. “She’s attempting to keep this European project going and not to let the euro go down, despite tough political criticism.”
Most recently, Merkel has stood behind an ambitious plan by the European Central Bank to buy unlimited amounts of government bonds to help lower borrowing costs for countries struggling to manage their debts. As Europe’s biggest economy, Germany has more at stake than anyone else if countries default on their bonds and the ECB is forced to take losses.
By contrast, the reactions to the ECB plan from some German media and politicians, and the head of the country’s central bank — who fears runaway inflation will follow — were strongly negative.
Rainer Bruederle, the parliamentary leader of Merkel’s Free Democrats coalition partners, said it was “fatal to keep buying up new bonds from indebted countries.”