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Under pressure? eschipul via Flickr

Column Want a debt deal? Then let’s pressure the German MPs opposing it

The future of the euro crisis lies in the hands of small groups of politicians abroad, writes Eamon Ryan. Let’s hope our own leaders recognise this.

WE ARE REACHING the critical point in the resolution or otherwise of the European crisis. What happens to the euro and by dint of that, what happens in the world economy will depend on a small group of German, Finnish and Dutch parliamentarians who have to decide whether they really want to maintain the single currency or whether it is not politically possible for them to defend the cost of doing so.

They either go ahead with some of the innovative funding mechanisms that the European Central Bank is now considering, or they let the European Union economic system fall apart. It is that big a deal. It is that simple a choice. We will either see a victory for nationalist sentiment which rises in fearful times like this or else we will see a historic movement towards greater cooperation, which is what I think we need.

You could ask the people which choice has the greater public support, but it is hard to think how you would frame the question let alone carry out a referendum in a practical and timely way. It will be the job of their democratic representatives to decide where the majority view lies.

Four years ago I was confident that the European system would in the end deal with the crisis. Today I am not so sure. We have had too many parties saying they would stand by the single currency and then give a side briefing to favoured newspapers suggesting perhaps we could just let a little country go.

We have had too many ineffective European Council meetings and too much reliance on intergovernmental decision making. We have had two years when the Greek state was allowed to hang. While political witch doctors in so called creditor countries held their noses and wondered how they could be sure austerity measures would be put in place, while whatever economic life was left in Athens was choked to death.

Debt deal

If as I believe the resolution of this euro crisis will require some form of greater integration then it would be better for those parties who accept that way to show some example by starting to agree policy positions on a pan European basis. The Green parties across Europe have already been doing so and we have engaged in regular discussions with the German Greens on a common position on a new debt deal for Ireland.

Since last November the Greens in the Bundestag have called publicly for some form of mutual assistance to resolve the banking difficulties in Ireland and Spain. They have taken the politically difficult decision to vote with the Government on a series of programmes providing financial support to other European countries. Such cross-party support should have given the German Government the room it needed to stabilise the euro, but the opportunity was wasted due to a lack of decisive action from the Christian Democrats and a lack of shame on the part of the Liberals, who seem to have forgotten that it was an obsession with their free market economics that got everyone into trouble in the first place.

A further concern now is that the Social democrats (SPD) seem to be playing a nationalist card as elections draw near. On Thursday the 19th of July last their leader Frank-Walter Steinmeier made it clear that his party does not support the sort of banking measures that the Irish Government is looking for. In a debate on the allocation of funding to support Spanish banks he said:

The rescue of banks with the help of the ESM must not become a permanent solution. There will be no direct way from the rescue package for Spanish banks to a permanent recapitalisation of distressed banks, not with the Social Democrats.

Fourteen of his Party members voted against the support measures for Spain and he said that MPs in his ranks were “totally unconvinced” about such deals. He asked: “How many rescue packages are we actually going to need?” and stated “It cannot go on like this.”

It would be a tragedy if after four years of a broad blue-green-red coalition in the German parliament on the need to support European Union rescue and stability mechanisms, such a consensus fell apart when it comes to the crunch.

Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore are in a strong political position because they have the backing of every political party and every member of the Dail as they engage in negotiations with their European colleagues on particular new arrangements for Ireland. They will have to decide what is the best way to play their hand.

But I think it might be time to name and shame their Social and Christian Democrat colleagues who seems to have no regard for the fifty years of peaceful prosperity that the European Union has brought and seem willing – as Joschka Fischer fears – to bring Europe to ruin for the third time in a hundred years.

Eamon Ryan is the leader of the Green Party. You can follow him on Twitter at @EamonRyan.

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