Helmut Kohl blames Gerhard Schröder for euro woes
In new book, Germany’s ‘unity chancellor’ says successor made two ‘disgraceful’ decisions
Former German chancellor Helmut Kohl and his wife Maike Richter-Kohl at the presentation of his new book Aus Sorge Um Europa (Out of Concern For Europe) in Frankfurt. Photograph: Hannelore Foerster/Getty Images
German ex-chancellor Helmut Kohl has placed the blame for the euro crisis at the door of his successor, Social Democrat (SPD) leader Gerhard Schröder.
Dr Kohl, the so-called “unity chancellor”, suggests Mr Schröder opened the door to the euro crisis with two “disgraceful” decisions: allowing Greece into the euro zone prematurely, and conspiring with Paris a decade ago to water down the euro rulebook.
“The causes of the crisis and current European hangover do not lie in the euro’s oft-mentioned ‘construction weaknesses’,” writes Dr Kohl in a new book, Out of Concern for Europe. “What was lacking was fidelity to the existing European treaties and agreements, a lack of responsibility and sincerity as well as a shortage of empathy and understanding.”
The result, he says, was that Europe was “in danger of losing what was achieved in the 20th century”. Dr Kohl concedes the world was a more complex place than during his 16 years in office until 1998, but said the EU’s fortunes had not been helped by Germany’s “half-hearted” approach to Europe since 1998.
“Accepting Greece into the euro area should not have been approved given the concrete situation at the time, which could not have been hidden from anyone who looked closer,” he writes. “I am aware that it’s not easy to resist pressure from a country in such a situation. But if I had been chancellor, German agreement would not have been forthcoming in this matter and I would have exerted influence on Brussels and my European colleagues.”
Without mentioning Chancellor Angela Merkel by name, Dr Kohl says he viewed her “help in return for self-help” reform strategy as the best remedial solution.
Betrayal of EuropeMr Schröder’s second “betrayal” of the European project, writes Dr Kohl, was the Franco-German decision to water down the Maastricht deficit rules. In 2005, under pressure from Berlin and Paris, the European Commission altered how it calculated budget deficits – ostensibly to allow both capitals carry out structural reforms in economic downturns. Mr Schröder’s disregard for the stability and growth pact Germany demanded a decade earlier was, Dr Kohl suggests, an invitation for other countries to run up unsustainable levels of debt.
“Without this unfortunate development, the entire situation surrounding the euro area debt problem, and the questions about the stability of the euro and Europe would be different,” he writes, “because other countries would have taken the debt situation more seriously.”