Constanze Stelzenmüller, visiting lecturer at Mount Holyoke College, addresses European economic crisis
Constanze Stelzenmüller, a German political scientist, speaks Wednesday at Mount Holyoke College. Purchase photo reprints »
SOUTH HADLEY — Political scientist and world security expert Constanze Stelzenmüller believes that Europe’s golden era is far from over and that it will weather the storm of its current crisis.
However, it can only achieve this if it continues on its path of enforcing an integrated European Union.
“Contrary to most predictions, Europe’s single currency the euro has not disappeared, nor have countries such as Greece left the eurozone,” said Stelzenmüller, a Harvard-educated scholar who gave a talk Wednesday night at Gamble Auditorium at Mount Holyoke College.
She said European policymakers have convinced the markets that they will do everything in their power to save the euro, and suggested that other countries might join the 17-member eurozone.
Stelzenmüller, the senior transatlantic fellow with the German Marshall Fund of the United States in Berlin, is on a weeklong visit to Mount Holyoke College as the 2012 Carol Hoffman Collins Global Scholar in Residence. In addition to the public lecture, Stelzenmüller visited and spoke to classes ranging from journalism to economics to history and to geography.
Stelzenmüller said three conditions have changed the game in Europe.
Firstly, in September, the European Central Bank agreed to buy an unlimited quantity of bonds from any member state that agreed to the bailout plan.
Secondly, the European Stability Mechanism, an international organization established to provide financial assistance to members of the eurozone in financial difficulty, came into effect last week.
Finally, German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Athens last week, signaling to the rest of the world that Germany did not want a “Grexit” or a Greek bailout.
Stelzenmüller maintained these three events are not short-term fixes. She said they showcase the transformations that the EU has undergone and the compromises that have been made in the last two years.
For example, the creation of the European Stability Mechanism wipes out the “no-bailout” clause, which made it illegal for one member of the eurozone to assume the debts of another.
“We are looking at nothing less than a new era of architectural reforms through Europe’s front doors meaning treaty changes and the EU summit,” she said. The EU summit, she said, “will be a bellwether of how serious Europeans are about rising to meet the challenge.”
Stelzenmüller also addressed Germany’s role in helping the European Union out of its crisis.
She said that despite popular belief that Germany is a European superpower, it cannot be thought of as the America of Europe. Unlike America, whose political leverage and economic success are on par with each other, Germany has less political leverage than its economic size might suggest.
“Germany is not America and Europe is not NATO,” she said. “It remains a midsized power that is good at some things and bad at others.”
This means that Germany cannot force countries to adopt its terms, she contended, and that stabilizing the euro and reforming the EU won’t lead to a Germanized Europe.
Nonetheless, Germany’s history, geographic position and the success of its economy bring with it a responsibility that Stelzenmüller said she believes took the German government a long time to acknowledge.
“I wish that Merkel had acknowledged earlier that no country in Europe has profited as much from the euro as Germany, and that German banks in hovering up the bad bonds spewed out by Spain, Ireland and Portugal, and Greece in their reckless private and public debt-making ventures, share the moral blame for the disaster in much the same way as the man who pushes the alcoholic to have another drink,” she said.
“And of course I wish that Merkel had gone into Greece last year rather than last week.”