Schäuble On German Endgame Plans: Can't Let A European Crisis Go To Waste

Tyler Durden's picture

That the most important man in Europe is actually a woman is now understood by everyone. Yet behind even Merkel, sits another man: German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble, who is truly the devious mastermind behind the European endspiel, in charge of playing it in a way that benefits Germany uber alles. Which is why what Schäuble says, unlike anything uttered by Europe's "beggar" states, is actually important. Today, he speaks with Spiegel magazine and discusses, among many other things, the topic that is the most sensitive for the rest of Europe, and which must be overcome if a united Europe is to work: the abdication of national sovereignty, and implicitly the accession of Germany to the head of the European pyramid. That this will never happen is precisely why the European experiment is ultimately doomed, but of course they can keep trying, and in the process transfer as much wealth as possible to the only beneficiary from an imploding EUR. Wild guess who that is... Because at the end of the day, it appears that Schäuble is just as wily as America's own Rahm Emanuel: "SPIEGEL: With all due respect to your vision, is there truly more willingness today among EU member states to give up sovereignty than there was in the 1990s? Schäuble: The recognition that this is necessary, and the willingness to do so, has certainly grown due to the crisis, and not just in Germany. I would much prefer that we not have so many crises, and particularly not such severe ones. But every crisis also includes the opportunity to recognize what is necessary [regarding European sovereignty]. That's what led to the fiscal pact, in which 25 EU countries pledged to improve their fiscal discipline. And that's also how the new Europe will come about." Is it finally becoming clear to even the most inept financial journalists what the German endgame is?

From Spiegel

SPIEGEL: Minister Schäuble, the European Union is mired the worst crisis in its history with the eurothreatening to break apart. What is at stake?

Schäuble: Our prosperity. The world, with its globalized economy, is changing at a rapid pace. Those who want to keep up cannot go it alone. It only works in collaboration with other European countries and with a European currency. Otherwise we would fall far behind, and that would lead to a substantial loss of prosperity and societal security.

SPIEGEL: Would the EU survive the collapse of the monetary union?

Schäuble: There is certainly the risk that, in the event of a collapse of the euro -- which, by the way, I don't believe is going to happen -- much of what we have achieved and become fond of would be called into question, from the common domestic market to freedom of travel in Europe. But a collapse of the EU would be absurd. The world is moving closer together, and we're talking about the possibility of each country in Europe going its own way? This cannot, must not and will not happen!

SPIEGEL: Was it a mistake to introduce the euro?

Schäuble: No. The monetary union was the logical consequence of the advancing economic integration of Europe.

SPIEGEL: Nevertheless, the euro is a miscarriage. The necessary political union was absent.

Schäuble: To call it a miscarriage is nonsense. But it's clear that we wanted a political union at the time, but it wasn't possible. Germany would have been prepared to relinquish powers to Brussels, because it was only through Europe that we received a new chance after World War II. But other countries had trouble with the concept, because of special traditions, for example, or because they had only recently regained their national autonomy after the fall of the Iron Curtain. As such, we faced a fundamental question: Do we introduce the euro without having the necessary political union, and do we assume that the euro will bring us closer together, or do we abandon the idea?

SPIEGEL: And in that situation you preferred to take the risk.

Schäuble: If we had always said would only take steps toward integration if they would immediately work 100 percent, we would never have advanced by so much as a meter. That's why we wanted to introduce the euro first and then quickly make the decisions needed for a political union. Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker was right when he said, at the time, that the euro would prove to be the father of future European developments.

SPIEGEL: In the meantime, however, the common currency has begun unleashing destructive forces more than anything else.

Schäuble: Now you're exaggerating. Europe has always worked on the basis of two principles: What isn't possible at first will happen over time, and what doesn't work will be corrected over time. That's why perfect solutions take so long in Europe. And that's why we are now improving the architecture of the monetary union.

SPIEGEL: It almost sounds as if you had longed for the crisis so that you could finally correct the birth defects of the euro.

Schäuble: Well, it isn't quite that bad, especially since I don't have a propensity for despair or even resignation. But the more people see what's at stake, the more they are willing to draw the right consequences.

SPIEGEL: What are the consequences that Europe now has to draw?

Schäuble: We need more and not less Europe.

SPIEGEL: You are clearly an advocate of the bicycle theory: Those who don't move fall over.

Schäuble: Yes, of course.

SPIEGEL: But you also seem to suggest that the design is unstable.

Schäuble: Excuse me, but the desire for improvement is a basic condition of human existence. In "Faust," Goethe writes: "If the swift moment I entreat: Tarry a while! You are so fair! Then forge the shackles to my feet, Then I will gladly perish there!" That's how it is.

SPIEGEL: The call for more Europe has become almost as much a classic as "Faust."

Schäuble: Perhaps, but that doesn't mean it's wrong. Unfortunately, Europe is complicated, and its structures are such that they inspire only limited confidence in citizens and the financial markets.

SPIEGEL: How do you intend to correct this deficit?

Schäuble: So far, member states have almost always had the final say in Europe. This cannot continue. In key political areas, we have to transfer more powers to Brussels, so that each nation state cannot block decisions.

SPIEGEL: You want nothing less that a United States of Europe.

Schäuble: Even though the term is used repeatedly, it doesn't make it any better. No, the Europe of the future will not be a federal state based on the model of the United States of America or the Federal Republic of Germany. It will have its own structure. It's an extremely exciting venture.

SPIEGEL: It sounds more like a new experiment, not unlike the introduction of the euro. And yet you want to transfer as much power as possible to Europe?

Schäuble: No, we must not and cannot ever make decisions in Europe that apply uniformly to all. Europe's strength is precisely its diversity. But there are things in a monetary union that are done more effectively at the European level.

SPIEGEL: What, for example?

Schäuble: The most important thing is that we create a fiscal union, one in which the nation states give up their jurisdiction in terms of fiscal policy. In addition, the problems of the Spanish financial institutions reveal, once again, that Europe would be better off with a bank union. We need a European supervisory authority, at least over the major lenders, which can then influence the banks directly. Then we can also save them with joint funds.

SPIEGEL: For months, Germany has been under pressure to agree to joint government bonds, the so-called euro bonds. It would certainly be seen as a confidence-building measure if you complied with the wishes of the other European countries.

Schäuble: As long as we don't have a fiscal union, we cannot assume joint liability for debts.

SPIEGEL: Why are you so uncompromising on this issue?

Schäuble: Because you can't separate the responsibility for decisions and the liability. This applies to almost all areas, but especially to money. Someone who has the ability to spend money at someone else's expense will do so. You do it, and so do I. The markets know that. And that's why they too would not find euro bonds convincing in the end.

SPIEGEL: What would a fiscal union have to look like so that Germany could accept euro bonds?

Schäuble: In an optimal scenario, there would be a European finance minister, who would have a veto against national budgets and would have to approve levels of new borrowing. It would be up the individual countries to decide how to spend the approved funds, that is, how to answer the question: "Should we spend more money on families or on road construction?"

SPIEGEL: And you seriously believe that this could work?

Schäuble: It's been working for a long time in competition policy. When the current Italian prime minister, Mario Monti, was the EU competition commissioner, he successfully tangled with major international corporations like Microsoft. A European finance minister would, should it become necessary, be forced to take on Italy, for example.

SPIEGEL: Or with Germany. Let's assume the finance minister in Brussels rejected your budget. People here would be incredibly outraged.

Schäuble: There is certainly the risk that there would be national reactions, and that's why all of this requires intensive discussion. But one thing is also clear: Those who want a strong Europe also have to be willing to surrender decisions to Brussels. But even then parliamentary responsibilities are needed.

SPIEGEL: Aside from fiscal policy, are there other areas that ought to be transferred to the European level?

Schäuble: In times of globalization, it's imperative that economic policy be part of it. Besides, there are still too many national competencies in foreign and security policy. Europe should speak more effectively and clearly with one voice in the world.

SPIEGEL: You propose the transfer of many national competencies. What happens to democratic legitimation?

Schäuble: Some things would have to change in that respect, too, because nowadays everyone has a say: the European Commission, the Council of Ministers, which consists of the national representatives, and the European Parliament. This is hard to figure out, even for political buffs. First the Commission has to develop into a real government. To that end, it ought to be elected directly, either by the parliament or through the direct election of a Commission president. I favor the second option.

SPIEGEL: What gives you the hope that a directly elected president would unite and not divide Europe?

Schäuble: The direct election would be preceded by a large-scale mobilization, and it would electrify all citizens from Portugal to Finland.

SPIEGEL: A directly elected president would be strong, but would only be monitored by a weak parliament.

Schäuble: No, the European Parliament has to be strengthened, of course. That's why it must finally be given to the power to enact bills. It's an anachronism that only the Commission has played this role until now.

SPIEGEL: In other words, there would be a directly elected president with his government and a parliament. What would happen to the member states, which currently make up the Council of Ministers and the European Council?

Schäuble: It would be best to have a body representing the countries that's based on the model of the German Bundesrat or the US Senate, with each country dispatching a certain number of representatives to this body. Of course, all laws would require a majority in the body, as well as in the parliament.

SPIEGEL: There is a two-speed Europe. On one side we have the EU, with its 27 members, and on the other the group of the 17 euro countries. Do all structures have to be duplicated?

Schäuble: We should try to achieve all of this for the entire EU. Germany has always stood for an EU of the 27 countries. But in light of Britain's continued resistance to further integration steps, as we saw with the fiscal pact, there are limits to my optimism in this regard. It's quite possible that we will have to create the new institutions for the euro zone first. But it's also clear that this would be an open club. Every member state of the EU would be more than welcome to participate. We certainly don't want to divide Europe.

SPIEGEL: With all due respect to your vision, is there truly more willingness today among EU member states to give up sovereignty than there was in the 1990s?

Schäuble: The recognition that this is necessary, and the willingness to do so, has certainly grown due to the crisis, and not just in Germany. I would much prefer that we not have so many crises, and particularly not such severe ones. But every crisis also includes the opportunity to recognize what is necessary. That's what led to the fiscal pact, in which 25 EU countries pledged to improve their fiscal discipline. And that's also how the new Europe will come about.

SPIEGEL: In your euphoria, you overlook the fact that most people in Southern Europe tend to see Brussels as a threat.

Schäuble: I'd be careful with statements like that. In the most recent election in Greece, more citizens voted for parties that support the course that was agreed to with Europe than in the first election.

SPIEGEL: Although voter turnout was lower.

Schäuble: That may be. Of course, a lot of people in Europe are worried about the future. But as far as I can see, the vast majority of Germans and people in other countries are pro-European. Aside from relatively small movements, there are no nationalist tendencies.

SPIEGEL: In Germany, the Federal Constitutional Court has imposed tight restrictions on the further relinquishment of sovereignty. Given the German constitution, how much more European integration is possible?

Schäuble: If the things that I've just outlined were in fact implemented and we reached the conclusion that the limits of the constitution had been reached, the Constitutional Court would be correct in saying: There's no problem with transferring more rights to Brussels, but the German people will have to make that decision.

SPIEGEL: Are you saying that we will soon have a referendum in Germany?

Schäuble: I don't know when that will happen, and I doubt anyone does. But I assume that it'll happen sooner than I would have thought a few months ago. At the EU summit at the end of this week, the heads of four European institutions plan to present concrete proposals for greater integration. We'll see what happens after that.

SPIEGEL: You believe that the Germans will vote on a new constitution within the next five years?

Schäuble: A few months ago, I would have said: In five years? Never! But now I'm not so sure. Do you want to know why?

SPIEGEL: Yes, please.

Schäuble: Many in Germany said that (former US President) Ronald Reagan was crazy when he stood at the Brandenburg Gate in 1987 and said: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" And then it happened two years later. At the time, I too didn't believe that German partition would soon come to an end. In the spring of 1989, I had just become the new interior minister in Bonn. The new US ambassador introduced himself to me and predicted that the Wall could come down in the next three years. I replied: "I would have doubted that a few months ago, but now I would say that with a little luck, it'll happen in the next 10 years." And how long did it really take? Less than half a year.

SPIEGEL: Minister Schäuble, thank you for this interview.

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slaughterer's picture

The world against Germany.  Where have I seen that before?

GeneMarchbanks's picture

The pretend 'world' of against a pretend Germany.

Harlequin001's picture

So. let me get this right. Before we had monetary union we had individual currencies which moved against each other as a consequence of fiscal and monetary policy but no mega crisis. Now we have monetary union and the biggest financial crisis we've ever known which can only get, and is getting worse by the day/hour/minute.

When does the penny drop for these people that the biggest crisis we've ever known might, just might be a consequence of monetary union itself?

or perhaps it's just me...

When you find a puppy sitting next to a pile of pooh, it's a fair bet who the guilty party is...

Ghordius's picture

sure, because the crisis is originated in the monetary union? what you are refering to is that before, when a government was broke it defaulted partially by devaluing, as the UK did by 30% (and rising). this is the other side of that penny.

Harlequin001's picture

Absolutely, instead of devaluing gradually and continually, we now have a financial cliff, which is rising by the minute.

At some point, we all have to jump...

SPIEGEL: Minister Schäuble, the European Union is mired the worst crisis in its history with the eurothreatening to break apart. What is at stake?

Schäuble: Our prosperity. The world, with its globalized economy, is changing at a rapid pace. Those who want to keep up cannot go it alone. It only works in collaboration with other European countries and with a European currency. Otherwise we would fall far behind, and that would lead to a substantial loss of prosperity and societal security.

By embarking on a 40 year credit binge, all that we've done is to bring forward what we would have earned over that period in the same way that we would have done by spending on a credit card. The credit is still available, in fact it is endless but we cannot now make the payments on assets that are now worn out. We have no wealth to replace them now because of the servicing costs of our debts; that is not prosperity.

What we have done is replace what wealth and savings we once had with debts we can't now repay, and with assets we hold but cannot now collect on. How does this jerk think that closer union will prevent this very basic mathematics from resolving itself? How long does he think it will be before the world begins to realise that ' the world cannot go it alone without the euro' is bullshit and revolt? What they've done is to make all the world a terrorist at some future point; it's only a matter of time...

GetZeeGold's picture

 

 

All I know is the endgame......takes forever.

 

agent default's picture

Yes, because a common currency shifts pressure from the exchange rate, to the sovereign debt.  That's why currency unions fail in the end.

Peter Pan's picture

Europe will fail in this mighty experiment because what binds it more than anything else is an extreme level of debt. All these Herculean efforts are nothing more than an effort to stop the debt pyramid from collapsing. No doubt Dr Frankenstein would approve of their efforts to breathe live into a cadaver. Unfortunately failure was baked into the cake from the beginning and now that the cake has been burnt they are trying to change the ingredients.

Colombian Gringo's picture

Perhaps we should ask Obama to become President of the EU. That way, at least America will be saved.

bdc63's picture

... it would also go a long way towards fulfilling the next step of biblical end-times prophecy ... Egypt's elections over the weekend certainly took us a GIANT step closer ...

vast-dom's picture

Ty: "[..] implicitly the accession of Germany to the head of the European pyramid. That this will never happen is precisely why the European experiment is ultimately doomed[...]"

It looks like on many levels it has already happened. After all, in the end all wars are ultimately and exclusively about economics.

Confused's picture

Bingo! The puppet masters all benefit, while the common people of all nations suffer the consequences.

Ghordius's picture

I wrote several times here on ZH: don't underestimate Wolfgang Schäuble.

The only negative part is that he ackowledges that the financial markets are full of people that simply don't understand the EU and how it's structured. That we would have to give up some parts of our national sovereignties because some traders in London & NY do not understand how this works is a bit demeaning (even for a continent used to this things)... they listen to their Financial's propaganda anyway...

GeneMarchbanks's picture

Schauble is like the the Fiddy cent of finance ministers. No fear, man. He eats bullets for breakfast.

Ghordius's picture

I still dislike his plan, and the election of one prez is something I like even less... oh, let's hope it's just a "poisoned pill" offering to get the others to paddle faster...

Cast Iron Skillet's picture

I like the plan. Remember that Germany would be abdicating national sovereignty, too - and it will be really tough for Schäuble / Merkel to convince the German public to go along for the ride.

The danger is that more nationalistic leaders in Germany succeed in blocking the plan and moving Germany away from the idea of European unity. In that case, you would likely see Germany and other countries exiting the Euro, closing their borders, and beginning to protect themselves from each other. And then ... it all just gets worse.

Spastica Rex's picture

Increased centralization and the wise stewardship of bold and decisive global leaders should fix everything.

I sound like MDB.

Nussi34's picture

It is very unlikely that this will go through without all votes being counted equally. Currently the votes of German voters are underweight.

noses's picture

Knives. Not bullets. Or didn't you know why he's sitting in a wheelchair?

supermaxedout's picture

Bullets. Knived was another German politician, Oskar Lafontaine. 

GeneMarchbanks's picture

wealth as possible to the only beneficiary from an imploding EUR.

+1.2505 or so.

It's like March of the Penguins, so long as you stick to that hypnotic made-for-narration voice of Morgan Freeman you don't realize that you just watched a bunch of random Penguin video without any real context or story.

 

q99x2's picture

United States of Europe. They have got to be crazy. Why would they want to destroy Europe like that.

Bob's picture

We need a European supervisory authority, at least over the major lenders, which can then influence the banks directly. Then we can also save them with joint funds.

Naahhh, it can't be mainly about "saving" banks, can it?

Oh, yeah, it's about people, too: We won't have to shut down free travel across Europe if we get what we "need."

PaperBear's picture

The current level of centralisation has failed so the argument goes we need more centralisation. Wrong, we need decentralisation.

reload's picture

But the snouts on the EU gravy train dont see it that way. No, they are trying to build an empire, already opening EU Embassies all over the world. Even Barbados is getting one, with 48 gravy train riding staff. Now, an alliance of NATIONS sharing a currency (awful idea) and trading freely in goods and services simply does not behave like that.

odatruf's picture

As much as I agree with him, Herr Schäuble ought to be careful when talking about final and perfect solutions.

gmrpeabody's picture

A point, seemingly, missed by most....

bigwavedave's picture

SPIEGEL: And you seriously believe that this could work?

 

Seems the German press / people are just not going along with the politicos at all eh? 

slaughterer's picture

Schauble sounds like Ernst Jünger here:  "The direct election would be preceded by a large-scale mobilization, and it would electrify all citizens from Portugal to Finland."  I cannot believe politicians can get away with this rhetoric without backlash. 

Catullus's picture

One Europe: Built on Lies and Propaganda.  They came together for "fiscal discipline" with books that in no way represented reality. They claimed they were bailing out countries when they were really bailing out owners of government bonds.  They demanded concessions from people (meaning their tax dollars) because they were "forced" to bailout the system. When leaders of countries were removed, they installed the very people who lied their way into the union to begin with.

There is no Europe.  There's no such thing as a "European" and there never will be.

Hayabusa's picture

Catullus is correct.  If you read the preceding article closely you will see Germany's goal is not less, but more consolidation of power via globalization.  Sure... orchastrate things so that countries go broke, then ask them for their souls "is there truly more willingness today among EU member states to give up sovereignty."  Schauble has a grand plan to further unite the titanic... those on the titanic are getting scared and subsequently more willing to "play ball" than they were in the past.  The trouble is people, their leaders, and countries will resist giving up their freedoms to those who purport to "save them."  Schauble's hidden agenda is not even hidden... he and a core group are simply vying for more unilateral power over the EU members... the stronger economies controlling the weaker, scared, economies who capitulate only when they feel they have no other choice.

LeisureSmith's picture

Dr.Strangeschauble, i wish he would wear leather gloves and Kissinger glasses. Mein Fraulein i can......

LawsofPhysics's picture

The world is past peak growth (at least with the current energy technology), deal with it.  Moreover all the "customers" are flat broke and everyone now wants to be a "producer" and a net exporter.  If it is indeed a world economy, who is the world exporting to?  Mars?   FAIL!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

If the countries of the E.Z. can not default and restart (as they could with their own currancies), then there is no path through purgatory and catharsis, game fucking over.  There will always be bullshit, all the Euro has done is make the pile bigger than ever.  Moreover, the rule of laws and contracts  has been cast out and there have been no real consequences  for bad behavior at all levels.  Lagarde says "pay your taxes", while paying none herself.

Fuck all this shit, burn it all down and begin anew.  At least then compensation will find its way back to people and policies that are actually worth a shit.  Fucking bring it.

Vince Clortho's picture

In the final solution, there will be the Central Planner Elite, and the Worker slaves.  No countries. No real entities to trade with.  Just transportation of resources and finished products.

  The "economy" will consist of the workers producing whatever the Central Planners require to live an extravagant lifestyle.

The Workers will require nothing above subsistence.  Some slop to keep you alive and a dorm bed to rest in after your 12 hour shift. 

LawsofPhysics's picture

Bullshit, maybe for pussies like yourself.

gmrpeabody's picture

Laws..., it's not like you to miss the sarc/humor.

Ivanovich's picture

Meanwhile, Schäuble is shorting the hell out of the market, because he knows what comes next.

TrulyBelieving's picture

Schauble=central planning.  When will people ever learn that more power in the hands of fewer men is a recipe for disaster. Just show me one example in all of history where central planners have improved the life of anyone, except themself and cronies?

gmrpeabody's picture

What about all the highly successful Czars appointed by President Obama, the Energy Czar, the Education Czar, the Fatty Foods Czar, the Rectal Examination Czar...., er.. huh.., oh, wait.

Jason T's picture

he notes Faust.. and in Faust, the emporer makes a deal with the devil to print money.  only the devil would come up with such an idea as printing money.

optimator's picture

Germany purchased their eastern  half from the old Soviet.  Perhaps they should simply purchase the rest of Europe, country by country.  It would be cheaper than the last way they tried forming a European union in 1939.

ZeroPoint's picture

The answer to failed central planning is......more central planning.

kralizec's picture

Yup.

"We need more and not less Europe."

Big can never be big enough!

/

gmrpeabody's picture

Longer, harder, more frequent planning!

Planning lasting more than four hours should be reported to your doctor!

mrktwtch2's picture

i think the germans are shorting the euro..and are going to go all in when they announce they are out..then the euro will drop to 89 in 3 days and they will make more money on the short euro than they will lose by bringing back the dmark..