If European monetary policy is run according to German national interests, huge structural imbalances will accumulate. The Germans will then either have to pay to correct those imbalances, or agree that the euro should not be run primarily according to German national interests. If they are unwilling to do either of those things, the euro can’t survive. It’s hard to tell exactly what Merkel thinks about all this. She is nobody’s idea of a caricature spendthrift, happily chucking money in the direction of the undeserving poor. Whenever the question of bailouts is mentioned, Merkel acts out an elaborate pantomime of reluctance to dish out more cash. It’s hard to tell whether she is really-o, truly-o this reluctant, or whether she’s hamming up her unwillingness for a domestic audience which strongly dislikes the idea of bailing out work-shy Southern Europeans. The fact is, though, that they are going to have to continue to do that, if the euro is going to continue to exist in its current form. Germany has to put the broader European interest on the same level as its own national interest, or the euro is toast. This, if you think about it from a broad historical perspective, is quite a reversal. During the 20th century, the greatest danger to European stability was Germany’s sense of its special destiny. During the 21st century, the greatest danger to European stability is Germany’s reluctance to accept its special destiny. If the German taxpayer manages, however grudgingly, to accept that it’s her duty to shoulder the burden, the euro will muddle through. But it won’t be pretty.
John Lanchester in LRB: