Merkel's strategies on euro zone crisis reveal 'courtesan to the rich'

Oskar Lafontaine: "We are saving the rich. It's madness"

Oskar Lafontaine: "We are saving the rich. It's madness"

Sat, Mar 9, 2013, 00:00

Germany’s left-wing firebrand Oskar Lafontaine has said Chancellor Angela Merkel’s euro zone crisis tactics had exposed her as a “courtesan to the rich”.

Seven months before federal elections, Mr Lafontaine’s Left Party, a long-time critic of Berlin’s euro zone rescue strategy, finds itself jostling with new political arrivals hoping to capitalise on crisis fatigue among German voters.

A new party, Alternative for Germany, is readying a bailout-critical programme for the September poll. Bavaria’s Free Voters party, meanwhile, is hoping to go national with a similar anti-euro manifesto.

Political analysts give the new arrivals only marginal chances of electoral success in September. But the new arrivals are already generating friction in the political debate by presenting alternative crisis narratives.

Banking interests

“The current so-called rescue policies are exclusively focused on short-term interests, primarily those of the banks,” said economist Prof Bernd Lucke, a leading light in the Alternative for Germany and a former member of Dr Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU).

Rather than cede ground to Prof Lucke on a Thursday night talkshow, Mr Lafontaine, a former finance minister, attacked the euro as “explosive” for European unity.

“Once all was well with the world and we forgave the poor’s debts,” said Mr Lafontaine, describing as “completely wrong” the view that Germany was bailing out Italy or Greece. “Now we are saving the rich,” he said. “It’s madness.”

Prominent stockbroker Dirk Müller joined in the criticism, saying euro zone rescue measures had left Greece facing an economic collapse similar to that of Germany’s inter-war Weimar Republic.

“We have only rescued banks, people are living in misery,” said Mr Müller.

Former economics minister Rainer Brüderle defended Berlin’s strategy, saying the blame for euro zone instability lay in the loss of competitiveness in crisis countries. He suggested that Italy faced a choice between “drastic measures” or exiting the single-currency bloc.

“The decision to adjust to the common currency is one that Italy has to take for itself, it’s not for us to take,” said Mr Brüderle, heading the re-election campaign of Germany’s Free Democrat (FDP) junior coalition partner. “If Italy does not want to do that, they have to take the consequences.”