Opinion: Back to square one | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 27.02.2012
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Germany

Opinion: Back to square one

The German parliament agrees on another rescue package for Greece, but, says DW's Sabine Kinkartz, few people believe that it will be enough to rescue the country.

May 7, 2010 and February 27, 2012: two dates less than two years apart. On both those dates the German parliament discussed Greece and voted for rescue packages, saving the Mediterranean country from bankruptcy.

Back in 2010, most of the members were divided between hope and fear, but this time the overwhelming mood was resignation.

Politics has come full circle, and is now in the same place it was when it started in 2010. Two wasted years, many billions of euros which could simply have been thrown out of the window, an abyss in front of us and the awareness that there's no alternative. That can only be frustrating. Greece will go on needing money, plenty of it: billions of euros. And who knows: a third, perhaps even a fourth or fifth rescue package.

Sabine Kinkartz

Deutsche Welle's Sabine Kinkartz

Permanent help needed

In hindsight, it's clear now that the 2010 target was unreachable: Greece was supposed to be able to stand on its own feet by 2014.

But the current target - to get the mountain of Greek debt down to bearable levels by 2020 - is just as impossible. How can a country pick itself up if it has no economic strength and no means - a country in which virtually nothing functions as it should?

How can structures be created in a matter of years that would normally take decades? The bitter truth is that the times can only get worse for Greece, not better.

According to German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, Greece would have more chance to regenerate if it left the currency union. Everyone in the government knows that, even if no one is allowed to say it out loud. Which begs the question: how can you justify a rescue package for a country you've given up hope on?

Dishonest debate

The chancellor herself is no longer able to hide her real feelings. In parliament, she tried to radiate confidence, but much of her speech rang hollow. The only thing that seemed credible was her statement that no one could know what the consequences of an uncontrolled Greek insolvency would be for Germany.

"As chancellor, I have to take risks, but I can't do anything dangerous: my oath of office forbids me," she insisted.

One could read that statement to mean that Berlin would let Athens down as soon as it became clear that it would be safe for Germany and the rest of Europe to do so. That could be the case when the permanent rescue mechanism, the ESM, is in place. That could provide enough money to protect Portugal, Italy and Spain from the effects of a Greek implosion.

If we decide we don't want that, then we will have to get used to the fact that Greece will remain in Europe's intensive care unit and will remain dependent on cash injections.

Greece will remain a country which can't keep up with the rest of the eurozone on its own, and will thus have to be supported. When the currency union was founded, there were enough Cassandra voices warning against allowing Greece on board. The politicians ignored them. Now they have to face up to the consequences of that decision.

Author: Sabine Kinkartz / mll
Editor: Ben Knight