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The European Union flag with Berlin's Brandenburg Gate visible through the fabric
Should the EU's power trump that of member nations?Image: AP

More Europe? Or less?

October 2, 2011

Chancellor Merkel's allies can't agree whether the ongoing eurozone debt crisis demands more European integration. Some want a wider role for the EU while others argue it's a terrible time to give more power to Brussels.


With the eurozone's sovereign debt crisis calling into question the effectiveness of Europe-wide debt rules and threatening the unity of the 27-member bloc, Germany's conservative allies are bickering over whether the answer lies is more or less European integration.

Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble of Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right Christian Democrats (CDU) is unequivocal.

Euros spilling out of a jar
The debt crisis has hurt the euro and has many wondering about the future of the EUImage: fotolia/HLPhoto

"The answer to the crisis can only be more Europe," Schäuble wrote in an op-ed in the weekly newspaper Welt am Sonntag.

"If we hadn't been a part of the European Union, the peaceful reunification of Germany would have been so much more difficult, if not impossible," he said, a day ahead of the 21st anniversary of the coming back together of West Germany and East Germany.

Schäuble's comments echoed Merkel's position as well as those of French President Nicolas Sarkozy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. Barroso said he sees the need for stronger EU institutions above the level of individual nations.

Skepticism in Europe

The idea is less popular with some members of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the CDU's Bavarian sister party.

"Anyone who concludes from the debt crisis that centralized Europe needs to be strengthened is headed in the wrong direction," Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich of the CSU was quoted by the news magazine Der Spiegel as saying.

German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich
Friedrich says now is not the time for a stronger EuropeImage: dapd

What Friedrich described as the growing skepticism of the EU in Europe "cannot be met with the further disempowerment of the national parliaments and governments that the people have elected."

Georg Nüsslein, the spokesman for the CSU's parliamentary group, was even more pointed.

"I can no longer recognize what the finance minister is doing," Nüsslein was quoted by Spiegel as saying. "If Schäuble is trying to realize his European dreams amidst this crisis, then he's not doing his job properly."

A political union

Schäuble, however, is holding fast to that European dream.

"Without limited but target steps toward a deepening of European institutions, we will lose our ability to act as Europe over time," he wrote.

The eurozone's shared monetary policy must now be expanded in a political direction, he said, adding that the changes must be made carefully.

"At the end of this process is the political union of Europe."

Schäuble's comments were in stark contrast to another CSU leader who suggested Greece may be better off leaving the eurozone.

Alexander Dobrindt told public radio station Deutschlandfunk that a Greek exit from the euro would be a last resort measure and that Athens would find it easier to recover outside the currency union.

"I believe it is a solution, if one wants to bring Greece back into a economically stable competitive condition, that this would be done outside the eurozone," he said.

Merkel and Schäuble have both spoken out against Greece leaving the 17-member eurozone.

The EU has its roots in economic partnerships established by European countries in the wake of World War II. Over time it has gained more members and more powers as neighboring countries have sought further integration and cooperation.

Many decisions still requite approval by member governments and legislatures, including the current plan to expand the eurozone's rescue fund. Germany's parliament gave the green light last week, despite worries that dissent among Merkel's governing coalition might derail the vote.

Author: Holly Fox (dpa, Reuters)

Editor: Sean Sinico

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