The European project is splitting apart at the very core

Sunday, February 19, 2012
By Paul Martin

A gulf is growing between France and Germany over the future of the eurozone.

By Christopher Booker

Behind all the spin, smoke and fury of recent days, we see unfolding the greatest crisis in the history of the “European project”. What is emerging is a fundamental split which threatens to inflict on it by far the most serious reverse in its 62-year history. It is apt that this conflict should centre on what was always designed to be the supreme symbol of the drive to full European integration, the euro.

As Greece plunges into meltdown – its economy shrinking by more than a fifth, Athens burning, 200,000 businesses already closed or on the brink, unemployment approaching 25 per cent – it is clear that the EU is separating into two irreconcilable camps. On one hand, the defenders of the orthodoxy, led by the Commission and supported by France (which is exposed to a Greek default more than any other country), is battling to hold the line with another massive bail-out. They know that for Greece to leave the euro would be an unprecedented defeat for integration, with almost unimaginable consequences as other overborrowed countries follow suit. To avert this they are prepared to work as closely as possible with the puppet prime minister the EU has imposed on Athens to do its bidding.

On the other hand, it becomes increasingly clear that Germany, supported by Holland and Finland, has had enough. They see no point in throwing colossal sums of money into what Germany’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, calls “the bottomless pit” of Greek debt. It is they who have wanted to pile ever more impossible demands on Greece to hurry on a default. If other debtor countries such as Portugal, Italy and Spain follow suit and leave the euro that they should never have been allowed to join – so be it.

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